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How to Find the Right HVAC Program near Mountain Brook Alabama

Mountain Brook Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Mountain Brook AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Many potential students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors 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. These and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Mountain Brook Alabama HVAC Technician repairing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Mountain Brook AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Here are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned 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. 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 as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Mountain Brook Alabama home heater

There are several choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically accomplished in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most 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 comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Mountain Brook AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and money 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 field in Mountain Brook AL, eventually returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in on the web, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Mountain Brook AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Mountain Brook and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Mountain Brook Alabama Heating and Cooling tech installing water heater

Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Mountain Brook AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC trade programs in the Mountain Brook AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It may also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to use 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 field, but also that it has the network of Mountain Brook AL HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational 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 companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Mountain Brook AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Mountain Brook AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Mountain Brook AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Mountain Brook AL, verify that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Mountain Brook HVAC Trade Schools Near You

Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC school course is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are lots of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating 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 dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Mountain Brook AL.