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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling College near Prichard Alabama

Prichard Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Prichard AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you need? Many future students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Pro

Prichard Alabama HVAC Tech servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Prichard AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized 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 proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Prichard Alabama home heating pump

There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually achieved in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Prichard AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 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.

Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Prichard AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility in attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Prichard AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Prichard and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Prichard Alabama HVAC technician servicing water heater

When you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Prichard AL area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical 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 as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it 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 finish the course. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It could also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, 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 affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Prichard AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Prichard AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date 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 regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Prichard AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Prichard AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with some of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Prichard AL, check that the programs you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Prichard Heating and Cooling Schools Near You

Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Enrolling in the right HVAC training program is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Prichard AL.