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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Pelham Alabama

Pelham Alabama home air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Pelham AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other factors that you need to look into 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 discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Pelham Alabama HVAC Tech fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Pelham AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you select an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

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There are several options available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually accomplished 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 applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each option offered near Pelham AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to complete, 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 require 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.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Pelham AL, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Attending an HVAC school online is one option to getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Pelham AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Pelham and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy schedule.

Questions For HVAC Training Programs

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Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you would like to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Pelham AL area and throughout the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Pelham AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive 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. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a superior education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It may also mean that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to employ 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 field, but additionally that it has the network of Pelham AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

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

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Pelham AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Pelham AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few 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 schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Pelham AL, verify that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask 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 Trade Schools In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing 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 dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Pelham AL.