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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course near Trussville Alabama

Trussville Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC trade school near Trussville AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other factors 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 covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Trussville Alabama HVAC Tech inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Trussville AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the field that are available. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. 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. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be required in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

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There are several options offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often achieved in just six 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 relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Trussville AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to complete, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Trussville AL, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Attending an HVAC program online is one possibility to obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Trussville AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Trussville and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous 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, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes

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Once you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Trussville AL area and throughout the United States to select from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Trussville AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get a superior education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning 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 lower completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It may also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Trussville AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Trussville AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Trussville AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Trussville AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with 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 are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Trussville AL, check that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Trussville Heating and Cooling Training In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC training course is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Trussville AL.