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

Prichard Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Prichard AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the right one to obtain the training that you require? 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 necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other things that you need to look into 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 addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Prichard Alabama HVAC Technician servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Prichard AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are offered. Following 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 competency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

Prichard Alabama residential heat pump

There are a number of options offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often achieved 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 applicable 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. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Prichard AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to finish, many degrees incorporate 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 conventional 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 right credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Prichard AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure 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 approach in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Prichard AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Prichard and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes

Prichard Alabama HVAC tech installing water heater

Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Prichard AL area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Prichard AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get an excellent education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It may also mean that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may produce 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Prichard AL HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Prichard AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed 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 tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Prichard AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Prichard AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to some of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Prichard AL, confirm that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Prichard HVAC Courses Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Picking the right HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to select 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 features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect 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. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Prichard AL.