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How to Select the Right HVAC Program near Phenix City Alabama

Phenix City Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Phenix City AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Some future students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details that you need to research are the graduation completion 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 explore how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Technician

Phenix City Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Phenix City AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Following are a few of the significant ones.

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

Because licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Phenix City Alabama home heat pump

There are a variety of choices available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often completed in just 6 months, although 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 training programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Phenix City AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to complete, some 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Phenix City AL, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Phenix City AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Phenix City and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. 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, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions For HVAC Schools

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After you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you want to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Phenix City AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Phenix City AL area have received 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 relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify 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. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order 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 or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate could signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It could also mean that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may result in 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Phenix City AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught together 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 HVAC companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Phenix City AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Phenix City AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Phenix City AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Phenix City AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Find Out More About Phenix City HVAC Schools In Your Area

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect 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. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Phenix City AL.