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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Class near Hoover Alabama

Hoover Alabama home air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Hoover AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to obtain the training that you need? Many potential students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other details that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Professional

Hoover Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Hoover AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Hoover Alabama residential heat pump

There are several options available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, often completed in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Hoover AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Hoover AL, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Hoover AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Hoover and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Hoover Alabama HVAC tech installing water heater

When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Hoover AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Hoover AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It could also suggest that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Hoover AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Hoover AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Hoover AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Hoover AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Hoover AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Hoover HVAC Training Classes In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to look for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Hoover AL.