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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling School near Huntsville Alabama

Huntsville Alabama residential A/C condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Huntsville AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you require? Many 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 concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. 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 criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Professional

Huntsville Alabama HVAC Tech fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Huntsville AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with 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 might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Courses

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There are a number of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often achieved in as little as 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Huntsville AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to finish, some 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 standard 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, along with 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 Huntsville AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach to obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Huntsville AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Huntsville and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Training Classes

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When you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Huntsville AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Huntsville AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a quality education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved 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 percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It might also mean that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Huntsville AL HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Huntsville AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain 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 specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Huntsville AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to 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, in addition to relocation costs there can 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 challenging 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. Talk with a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Huntsville AL, verify that the programs you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Huntsville HVAC Training Programs Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to search for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore 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 or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating 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 technician in Huntsville AL.