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How to Select the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Oxford Alabama

Oxford Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Oxford AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other things 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 other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Oxford Alabama HVAC Tech servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Oxford AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the significant ones.

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

Because licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare 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 examinations.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

Oxford Alabama home heater

There are a variety of alternatives offered 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 period of time, typically achieved in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Oxford AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees feature 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 mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Oxford AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility to getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Oxford AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional choices. Even travelling expenses from Oxford and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Trade Schools

Oxford Alabama HVAC tech installing water heater

After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you wish to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Oxford AL area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial 2 variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC trade schools in the Oxford AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it can assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable 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 Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may produce 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Oxford AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Oxford AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Oxford AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Oxford AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much one-on-one instruction 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 witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak 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.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Oxford AL, check that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Oxford HVAC Schools Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Finding the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you should pick 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 factors to search for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, 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 too. If you ask the right 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 right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Oxford AL.