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How to Find the Right HVAC Training Program near Mountain Brook Alabama

Mountain Brook Alabama residential A/C condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Mountain Brook AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the right one to receive the training that you require? Many future students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors 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 discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Contractor

Mountain Brook Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Mountain Brook AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Mountain Brook Alabama home heating pump

There are several alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, typically completed in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related 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 brief summary of each option offered near Mountain Brook AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to finish, some degrees feature 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 call for 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.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Mountain Brook AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Attending an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended online, this option may be a more practical solution for some Mountain Brook AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Mountain Brook and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Mountain Brook Alabama HVAC contractor repairing water heater

After you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Mountain Brook AL area and across the United States to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Mountain Brook AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning 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 course. A low completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ 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 field, but also that it has the network of Mountain Brook AL HVAC employers to help graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC technical programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Mountain Brook AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician 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 can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Mountain Brook AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training 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 see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Mountain Brook AL, verify that the programs you are considering provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, 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 HVAC Training Classes In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have covered in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to look for are sufficient practical 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. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices 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 proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Mountain Brook AL.