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How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Training Program near Prichard Alabama

Prichard Alabama home air conditioning condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Prichard AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Prichard Alabama HVAC Tech fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Prichard AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and can 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 exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Schools

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There are several alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually accomplished in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Prichard AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two years to complete, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Prichard AL, eventually returning to earn 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 Online Schools

Attending an HVAC school online is one approach in attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also offer 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 on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Prichard AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Prichard and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

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As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Prichard AL area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Prichard AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a superior education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It may 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 directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Prichard AL HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Prichard AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Prichard AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must 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 moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Prichard AL, check that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Prichard HVAC Schools In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Choosing the ideal HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. 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 community. Other things to look for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Prichard AL.