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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Oxford Alabama

Oxford Alabama home air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Oxford AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the right one to get the training that you need? 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. While these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Oxford Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade 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 generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Oxford AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Here are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and may 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 as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be required in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Oxford Alabama residential heat pump

There are several options offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually achieved in just six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Oxford AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, many degrees incorporate 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 traditional 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.

Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Oxford AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative in attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also sponsor 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 via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Oxford AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Oxford and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

Oxford Alabama HVAC contractor servicing water heater

When you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Oxford AL area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Oxford AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Also, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It may also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of Oxford AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Oxford AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Oxford AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Oxford AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to some of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Oxford AL, confirm that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Learn More About Oxford HVAC Schools Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Selecting the right HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore 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. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Oxford AL.