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How to Choose the Right HVAC Certification Class near Prattville Alabama

Prattville Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Prattville AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Some future students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors 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 benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Tech

Prattville Alabama HVAC Technician repairing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs 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, however each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Prattville AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and may be earned 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 exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary 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 could be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Prattville Alabama home heater

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually accomplished in just 6 months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each credential offered near Prattville AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to complete, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Prattville AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Prattville AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Prattville and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

Questions For HVAC Training Programs

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As soon as you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Prattville AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Prattville AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate could signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It might also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Prattville AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Prattville AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes 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 trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Prattville AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Prattville AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger 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 students and teachers. Talk with a few of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Prattville AL, check that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Prattville HVAC Training Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose 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 look for are ample hands-on 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 explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for comparing 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 Prattville AL.