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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Hoover Alabama

Hoover Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Hoover AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the ideal one to get the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other factors 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. These and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Hoover Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Hoover AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

Hoover Alabama residential heat pump

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually achieved in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Hoover AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Hoover AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Attending an HVAC school online is one approach to attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Hoover AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Hoover and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Hoover Alabama Heating and Cooling contractor repairing water heater

When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you wish to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Hoover AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational programs in the Hoover AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you acquire a quality education, it can assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It might also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct 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 graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Hoover AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Hoover AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Hoover AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Hoover AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with a few of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Hoover AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Hoover Heating and Cooling Trade Schools In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training program is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down 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 technician in Hoover AL.