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

Hueytown Alabama home A/C condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to find an HVAC technical school near Hueytown AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to receive the training that you require? Many potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Hueytown Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Hueytown AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Below 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 exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers 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 along with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

Hueytown Alabama residential heating pump

There are a variety of choices available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, typically completed in as little as six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train 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 edge in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Hueytown AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to finish, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards 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 air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Hueytown AL, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative to obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for some Hueytown AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Hueytown and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Hueytown Alabama HVAC tech replacing water heater

When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Hueytown AL area and across the United States to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Hueytown AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains 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, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Hueytown AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught together 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 companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Hueytown AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Hueytown AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Hueytown AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Hueytown AL, confirm that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Hueytown Heating and Cooling Courses Near You

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Choosing the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask 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 appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Hueytown AL.