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How to Choose the Right HVAC College near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Opelika AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? Many future students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details 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 additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Opelika Alabama HVAC Contractor repairing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Opelika AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the trade that are available. Following are some of the important ones.

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

Because licensing could be required in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

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There are a number of choices available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually accomplished in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Opelika AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing 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 gaining some experience in the field in Opelika AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Attending an HVAC program online is one option in getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also offer 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 alternative may be a more practical solution for many Opelika AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Opelika and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your busy schedule.

Questions For HVAC Training Classes

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As soon as you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you want to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Opelika AL area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Opelika AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify 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 percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might suggest that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It might also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly 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 result in 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 a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Opelika AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Opelika AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Opelika AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Opelika AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Opelika AL, check that the programs you are comparing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Learn More About Opelika HVAC Training Near You

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Choosing the ideal HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to search for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour 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. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Opelika AL.