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How to Select the Right HVAC College near Millbrook Alabama

Millbrook Alabama residential A/C condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Millbrook AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the best one to receive the training that you require? Many potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details 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. Those and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Millbrook Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Millbrook AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are many respected certifications within the trade that are available. Following are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and may be received 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 required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be required in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes

Millbrook Alabama residential heater

There are several choices available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically completed in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Millbrook AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to finish, 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 or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to mastering 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 based on what your long term career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Millbrook AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Attending an HVAC program online is one approach in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Millbrook AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Millbrook and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions For HVAC Schools

Millbrook Alabama Heating and Cooling tech repairing water heater

Once you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Millbrook AL area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Millbrook AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high 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 employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Millbrook AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Millbrook AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus 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 under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Millbrook AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Millbrook AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Millbrook AL, check that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Millbrook HVAC Courses Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed 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 look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Millbrook AL.