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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Hoover Alabama

Hoover Alabama home air conditioning condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Hoover AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the best one to receive the training that you need? A number of future students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some 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 benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Hoover Alabama HVAC Technician fixing air conditioning 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, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Hoover AL HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the trade that are available. Following are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be required in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Hoover Alabama residential heating pump

There are a number of alternatives available 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 lesser period of time, often completed in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Hoover AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to complete, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Hoover AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in on the web, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Hoover AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Hoover and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Hoover Alabama HVAC technician repairing water heater

As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Hoover AL area and across the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Hoover AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It may also mean that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can mean 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 a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Hoover AL HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Hoover AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Hoover AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Hoover AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to some of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Hoover AL, check that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Hoover HVAC Trade Schools Near You

Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification

Finding the right HVAC school course is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect 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 available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines 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 dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Hoover AL.