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How to Pick the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Oxford Alabama

Oxford Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Oxford AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Many potential students will make their selection based solely 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 investigate. Some of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Oxford Alabama HVAC Contractor repairing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Oxford AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Here are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Oxford Alabama residential heat pump

There are several options available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually completed in as little as six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially 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 extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Oxford AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to complete, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Oxford AL, subsequently returning to earn 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 Online Classes

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility in attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended online, this option may be a more practical solution for many Oxford AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Oxford and study materials may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Oxford Alabama Heating and Cooling tech repairing water heater

Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Oxford AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifiers 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 need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical schools in the Oxford AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get a quality education, it can help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved 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 low completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also mean that the instructors were not qualified 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 more extensive list of graduates, which can produce 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Oxford AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or employment.

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 inside their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Oxford AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Oxford AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Oxford AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Oxford AL, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Oxford Heating and Cooling Training Classes Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Choosing the ideal HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Oxford AL.