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How to Choose the Right HVAC Training Class near Pelham Alabama

Pelham Alabama home A/C condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Pelham AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you require? Many future students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few 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 discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Technician

Pelham Alabama HVAC Technician fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Pelham AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be required in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Pelham Alabama residential heating pump

There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, often achieved in as little as 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Pelham AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for 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 appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Pelham AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one approach to obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical 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 participated in online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Pelham AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Pelham and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools 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 more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Pelham Alabama Heating and Cooling tech replacing water heater

After you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Pelham AL area and all over the USA to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first 2 variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Pelham AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a quality education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the teachers were not competent 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 broader directory of alumni, which can 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 a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Pelham AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Pelham AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Pelham AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Pelham AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much individualized 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 experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

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 Pelham AL, check that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Pelham Heating and Cooling Training Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Selecting the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have addressed 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 trade. Other things to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Pelham AL.