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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Class near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama residential A/C condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Northport AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Tech

Northport Alabama HVAC Contractor fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Northport AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple respected certifications within the field that are offered. Below are some of the significant 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 earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Classes

Northport Alabama residential heat pump

There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Northport AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees include 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 mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Northport AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Attending an HVAC school online is one option in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Northport AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Northport and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes

Northport Alabama Heating and Cooling technician installing water heater

As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Northport AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Northport 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 a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently 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 Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Northport AL HVAC employers to help graduates acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous 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 inside their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Northport AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Northport AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Northport AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to several of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Northport AL, verify that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Northport HVAC Training Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Choosing the right HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist 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 contractor in Northport AL.