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How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling College near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Opelika AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Contractor

Opelika Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively 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, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Opelika AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the field that are available. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination 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 professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

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There are a variety of choices available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, typically accomplished in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each credential offered near Opelika AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two years to finish, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for 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 air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, as well as 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 acquiring some experience in the field in Opelika AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one option to attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Opelika AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Opelika and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. 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 online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

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Once you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Opelika AL area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Opelika AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Also, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It may also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Opelika AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC technical programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Opelika AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Opelika AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Opelika AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few 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 schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Opelika AL, check that the programs you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Opelika HVAC Training Programs Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Choosing the right HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter 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 contractor in Opelika AL.