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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Huntsville Alabama

Huntsville Alabama home A/C condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Huntsville AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the ideal one to get the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors that you need to look into 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 discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Contractor

Huntsville Alabama HVAC Technician fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Huntsville AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Following 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 proficiency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes

Huntsville Alabama residential heating pump

There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, often accomplished in just six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify 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 for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Huntsville AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to complete, many degrees feature 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 conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Huntsville AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Huntsville AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Huntsville and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your busy lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes

Huntsville Alabama Heating and Cooling contractor servicing water heater

As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Huntsville AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two variables you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Huntsville AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states require that the HVAC training program 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 percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It might also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Huntsville AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Huntsville AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Huntsville AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Huntsville AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Huntsville AL, verify that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Huntsville HVAC Courses In Your Area

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the ideal HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out 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, ask about scheduling options and whether evening 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 right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Huntsville AL.