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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Phenix City Alabama

Phenix City Alabama home A/C condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Phenix City AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the right one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to research are the graduation 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 within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Contractor

Phenix City Alabama HVAC Tech repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Phenix City AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple respected certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam 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 professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

Phenix City Alabama home heat pump

There are several choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically achieved in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Phenix City AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to finish, many degrees include 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 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.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Phenix City AL, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Schools Online

Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility to getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Phenix City AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Phenix City and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Phenix City Alabama Heating and Cooling tech servicing water heater

After you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Phenix City AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably 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 programs in the Phenix City AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain an excellent education, it can assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It might also signify that the teachers were not qualified 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 alumni, which can produce 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 also that it has the network of Phenix City AL HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Phenix City AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Phenix City AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Phenix City AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can 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 monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few 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 programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Phenix City AL, check that the schools you are considering provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Phenix City Heating and Cooling Trade Schools Near You

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this article, you should choose 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 features to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should check out 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 training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Phenix City AL.