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How to Find the Right HVAC College near Talladega Alabama

Talladega Alabama residential A/C condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Talladega AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details 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 additional criteria will be addressed 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 cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Pro

Talladega Alabama HVAC Technician servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Talladega AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency 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 together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be required in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

Talladega Alabama residential heater

There are a variety of options offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, usually completed in just 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Talladega AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Talladega AL, eventually returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Talladega AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Talladega and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online schools 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 online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

Talladega Alabama Heating and Cooling technician servicing water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Talladega AL area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical schools in the Talladega 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 pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire a quality education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training course 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 complete the program. A low completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It may also signify that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Talladega AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC technical programs are taught along 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 HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Talladega AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Talladega AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear 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 enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Talladega AL, check that the schools you are considering provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Talladega HVAC Trade Schools Near You

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have addressed 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You should visit 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. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Talladega AL.