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

Madison Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Madison AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the right one to obtain the training that you require? Some future students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other things that you need to research are the graduation 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 examine how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Professional

Madison Alabama HVAC Tech repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Madison AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the field that are available. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 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 as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs

Madison Alabama residential heating pump

There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often accomplished in as little as 6 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 appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Madison AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees incorporate 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the right 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 even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Madison AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach to attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended online, this option may be a more practical solution for many Madison AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Madison and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools 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 online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes

Madison Alabama HVAC contractor installing water heater

After 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 no doubt aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Madison AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of key qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Madison AL area have attained 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 an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Also, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering 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 may suggest that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It may also signify 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 more extensive directory of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Madison AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Madison AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Madison AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Madison AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in 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 important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Madison AL, check that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Madison Heating and Cooling Training In Your Area

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have covered 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 community. Other features to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit 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. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Madison AL.