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How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Certification Course near Prichard Alabama

Prichard Alabama residential A/C condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Prichard AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the right one to obtain the training that you need? Many future students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. 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. These and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Professional

Prichard Alabama HVAC Tech inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Prichard AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the trade that are available. Here are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's important that you enroll in 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 school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes

Prichard Alabama home heater

There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually achieved in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Prichard AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, some degrees include 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 require 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.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Prichard AL, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach in obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Prichard AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Prichard and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Prichard Alabama Heating and Cooling contractor repairing water heater

When you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Prichard AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Prichard AL area have attained 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 a specific program, such as 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. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a superior education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify 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 low completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It may also suggest that the instructors were not qualified 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 directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize 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 Prichard AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction 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 HVAC contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Prichard AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Prichard AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Prichard AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Prichard AL, check that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Learn More About Prichard Heating and Cooling Training Classes Near You

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing 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 eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Prichard AL.