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How to Choose the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Huntsville Alabama

Huntsville Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Huntsville AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Some future students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other details that you need to research 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 addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Pro

Huntsville Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Huntsville AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, 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 working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

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There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often completed in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Huntsville AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, many 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 traditional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Huntsville AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option 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. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Huntsville AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Huntsville and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And numerous 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, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

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Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Huntsville AL area and across the United States to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Huntsville AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are 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 acquire a quality education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing 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 indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It could also indicate that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Huntsville AL HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Huntsville AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Huntsville AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Huntsville AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Huntsville AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Learn More About Huntsville Heating and Cooling Courses In Your Area

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Enrolling in the right HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Huntsville AL.