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

Mobile Alabama home air conditioning condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Mobile AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? Many future students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors 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 criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Contractor

Mobile Alabama HVAC Contractor inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Mobile AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry 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 exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination 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 exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be required in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Mobile Alabama home heater

There are a number of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically achieved in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Mobile AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Mobile AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative in obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical 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 approach may be a more practical solution for some Mobile AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Mobile and study materials may 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 job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

Mobile Alabama HVAC tech servicing water heater

When you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Mobile AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Mobile AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some states mandate 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 low completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also indicate that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Mobile AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade 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 comparing have working relationships with local Mobile AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Mobile AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Mobile AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Mobile AL, verify that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Mobile Heating and Cooling Training Near You

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to search for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing 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 contractor in Mobile AL.