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How to Find the Right HVAC College near Pelham Alabama

Pelham Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Pelham AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? A number of future students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details 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. These and other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Pelham Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors 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, however each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Pelham AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.

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

Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's important that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Schools

Pelham Alabama home heat pump

There are several choices available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually completed 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 related to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Pelham AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 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.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Pelham AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all 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 as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Pelham AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Pelham and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your busy lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Trade Schools

Pelham Alabama Heating and Cooling tech replacing water heater

When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you want to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Pelham AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Pelham AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain an excellent education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It might also signify that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Pelham AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Pelham AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Pelham AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Pelham AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher 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 bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with a few of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify 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 schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Learn More About Pelham HVAC Schools Near You

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have addressed in this article, you should select 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 factors to search for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Pelham AL.