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How to Find the Right HVAC Program near Talladega Alabama

Talladega Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Talladega AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Some future students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things 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 other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Talladega Alabama HVAC Contractor fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Talladega AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Following 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 exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be required in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

Talladega Alabama home heater

There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically accomplished in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Talladega AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential 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 extensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 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 ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Talladega AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Choosing an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also provide 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 attended online, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Talladega AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Talladega and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Talladega Alabama HVAC tech installing water heater

After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Talladega AL area and across the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Talladega AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate may indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also mean that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list 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 an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Talladega AL HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Talladega AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Talladega AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Talladega AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Talladega AL, verify that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Talladega HVAC Training Programs In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Picking the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed 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 excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down 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 technician in Talladega AL.