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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Training Class near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near Northport AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you require? Many future students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other things 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 other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Technician

Northport Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Northport AL HVAC techs to prove that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and can be acquired 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 exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Northport Alabama home heat pump

There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, often achieved in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each option offered near Northport AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, 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 or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Northport AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Attending an HVAC program online is one approach to obtaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for some Northport AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Northport and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Northport Alabama Heating and Cooling tech replacing water heater

Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Northport AL area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Northport AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of 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 percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Northport AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC trade 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 within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Northport AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Northport AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Northport 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 receive as much one-on-one 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 large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing 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 comparing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Northport HVAC Training Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Finding the ideal HVAC training course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening 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 proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Northport AL.