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

Pelham Alabama home air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Pelham AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the ideal one to get the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Pro

Pelham Alabama HVAC Technician servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Pelham AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many 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 acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be required in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Pelham Alabama residential heat pump

There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually completed in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train 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 deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each option offered near Pelham AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 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 ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Pelham AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one option to attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in via the internet, 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 traditional choices. Even travelling expenses from Pelham and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Schools

Pelham Alabama Heating and Cooling tech servicing water heater

After you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Pelham AL area and across the United States to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Pelham AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also signify that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Pelham AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Pelham AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Pelham AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Pelham AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

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

Learn More About Pelham Heating and Cooling Programs In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Selecting the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate 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 proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Pelham AL.