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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Montgomery Alabama

Montgomery Alabama home air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Montgomery AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the right one to obtain the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Pro

Montgomery Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Montgomery AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many respected certifications within the field that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and can 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory 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.

Considering that licensing could be required in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Montgomery Alabama home heating pump

There are several options available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Montgomery AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to complete, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Montgomery AL, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one option to getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Montgomery AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even travelling expenses from Montgomery 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 job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

Questions For HVAC Certification Classes

Montgomery Alabama HVAC technician repairing water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you would like to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Montgomery AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Montgomery AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a superior education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Montgomery AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.

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

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained 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, check with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Montgomery AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Montgomery AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Montgomery AL, verify that the programs you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Montgomery HVAC Training In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification

Choosing the right HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered 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 profession. Other factors to search for are plenty of hands-on 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 faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Montgomery AL.