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How to Choose the Right HVAC Program near Millbrook Alabama

Millbrook Alabama home air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Millbrook AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one to get the training that you require? A number of future students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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. Those and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Millbrook Alabama HVAC Technician servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Millbrook AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the field that are available. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Millbrook Alabama residential heating pump

There are a variety 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. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually achieved 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 might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Millbrook AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 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 or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, along with 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 getting some experience in the field in Millbrook AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Schools Online

Attending an HVAC program online is one option to getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Millbrook AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Millbrook and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active schedule.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

Millbrook Alabama Heating and Cooling tech replacing water heater

Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Millbrook AL area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Millbrook AL area have attained 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, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It may also indicate that the instructors were not competent to instruct 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 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 validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Millbrook AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

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

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Millbrook AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Millbrook AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

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

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Millbrook AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Millbrook HVAC Programs In Your Area

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Picking the right HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options 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 proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Millbrook AL.