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How to Choose the Right HVAC Certification Training near Hoover Alabama

Hoover Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Hoover AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the best one to obtain the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Hoover Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central 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 requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Hoover AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several respected 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 techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

Hoover Alabama home heating pump

There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually accomplished in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Hoover AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two years to finish, some degrees include 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Hoover AL, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative in getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Hoover AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Hoover and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Hoover Alabama Heating and Cooling technician installing water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Hoover AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Hoover AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It might also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Hoover AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Hoover AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Hoover AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Hoover AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Hoover AL, verify that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Hoover HVAC Courses In Your Area

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Selecting the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Hoover AL.