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How to Choose the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Mobile Alabama

Mobile Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Mobile AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the best one to receive the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details 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 criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Mobile Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor repairing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business 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 skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Mobile AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Below are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be earned 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 examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Classes

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There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often accomplished in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Mobile AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, some 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 standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Mobile AL, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one approach to obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate 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 remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Mobile AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Mobile and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

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As soon as you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Mobile AL area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Mobile AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently 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 Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also mean that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use 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 field, but also that it has the network of Mobile AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Mobile AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Mobile AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Mobile AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition charges 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 some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Mobile AL, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows 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 Mobile Heating and Cooling Trade Schools Near You

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Choosing the ideal HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have addressed in this article, you need to choose 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 lots of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit 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 instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Mobile AL.