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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama home air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Opelika AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their selection based solely 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 details that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Contractor

Opelika Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business 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 professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Opelika AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

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There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically accomplished in as little as six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive 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 residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring two years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management as well as 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 future career objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Opelika AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach to getting your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Opelika AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Opelika and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities 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 lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Trade Schools

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Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Opelika AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational programs in the Opelika AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to 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 schools. Additionally, some states require 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 looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might signify that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also mean that the instructors 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 broader list of alumni, which may result in 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 a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Opelika AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational 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 referring partnerships with local Opelika AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Opelika AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Opelika AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger 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. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Opelika AL, verify that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Opelika Heating and Cooling Training Programs In Your Area

Get Your HVAC Training and Certification

Finding the right HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Opelika AL.