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How to Pick the Right HVAC Certification Course near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama home air conditioning condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Northport AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the best one to get the training that you require? Some potential students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Northport Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry 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 mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Northport AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Following are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

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There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically achieved in as little as 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Northport AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to complete, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even 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 cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Northport AL, later going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Attending an HVAC school online is one possibility in attaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost 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 rest of the classes can be attended online, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Northport AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Northport and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

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After you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Northport AL area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Northport AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states require 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 reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also mean that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Northport AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Northport AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Northport AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Northport AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications 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 in the evening or on weekends near Northport AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure 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, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Northport HVAC Courses Near You

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the ideal HVAC school program is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose 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 things to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Northport AL.