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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Training Class near Mountain Brook Alabama

Mountain Brook Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Mountain Brook AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to get the training that you need? A number of future students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details that you need to investigate 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 covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Professional

Mountain Brook Alabama HVAC Technician inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Mountain Brook AL HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Following are a few 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 proficiency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

Mountain Brook Alabama residential heat pump

There are several alternatives available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually accomplished in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each credential offered near Mountain Brook AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Mountain Brook AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Mountain Brook AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Mountain Brook and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Schools

Mountain Brook Alabama HVAC tech installing water heater

When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Mountain Brook AL area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Mountain Brook AL area have received 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, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate could suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Mountain Brook AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training 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 within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Mountain Brook AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Mountain Brook AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to 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 moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with some of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Mountain Brook AL, verify that the programs you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Mountain Brook Heating and Cooling Courses In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Finding the ideal HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to search for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether night 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 detailed 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 appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Mountain Brook AL.