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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Pelham Alabama

Pelham Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Pelham AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the best one to get the training that you require? Many potential students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other things 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 benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Pelham Alabama HVAC Technician servicing 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, 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, however each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Pelham AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple 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 might be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Pelham Alabama home heating pump

There are a variety of options available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each credential offered near Pelham AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to complete, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Pelham AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Attending 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. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Pelham AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Pelham and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education 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 minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Pelham Alabama HVAC technician servicing water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Pelham AL area and throughout the USA to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Pelham AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a quality education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It might also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Pelham AL HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Pelham AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Pelham AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Pelham AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in 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 desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some 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. Finally, speak with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Pelham AL, verify that the schools you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Find Out More About Pelham Heating and Cooling Training Programs In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning field. 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 exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour 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. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined 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 ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Pelham AL.