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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Class near Madison Alabama

Madison Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Madison AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details that you need to look into 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 discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Madison Alabama HVAC Technician inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Madison AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many 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 technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and can 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 exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

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There are a number of options offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Madison AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require 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 ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Madison AL, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option in getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Madison AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Madison and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of 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, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy schedule.

Questions For HVAC Training Classes

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Once you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you would like to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Madison AL area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Madison AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire a superior education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify 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 or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It may also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list 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 confirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Madison AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Madison AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Madison AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Madison AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools 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 Madison AL, check that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Madison Heating and Cooling Courses In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to search for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Madison AL.