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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Oxford Alabama

Oxford Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Oxford AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one to obtain the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things 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. Those and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Oxford Alabama HVAC Technician servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Oxford AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many respected certifications within the field that are available. Here are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained 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. 2 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 exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle 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 might be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Oxford Alabama residential heater

There are a variety of choices available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, often achieved in just six months, although some programs 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 training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Oxford AL.

  • Certificate. Normally 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 delivers a more extensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards 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 mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Oxford AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Choosing an HVAC program online is one option to attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended on the web, this option may be a more practical solution for some Oxford AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Oxford and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Oxford Alabama HVAC tech installing water heater

Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Oxford AL area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Oxford 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 an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain an excellent education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, 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 reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Oxford AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Oxford AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school 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 specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Oxford AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Oxford AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with some of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Oxford AL, confirm that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Oxford Heating and Cooling Courses Near You

Get Your HVAC Training and Certification

Choosing the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to look for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Oxford AL.