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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Tuscaloosa AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few of the other factors that you need to research 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 discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Pro

Tuscaloosa Alabama HVAC Technician inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Tuscaloosa AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple respected certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned 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 professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be required in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Classes

Tuscaloosa Alabama residential heater

There are a number of options offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually achieved in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Tuscaloosa AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to complete, some 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 require 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.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Tuscaloosa AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Schools Online

Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Tuscaloosa AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Tuscaloosa and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Tuscaloosa Alabama HVAC contractor installing water heater

After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you want to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive 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 school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order 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 course. A low completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Tuscaloosa AL HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Tuscaloosa AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive 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 experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, verify that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Tuscaloosa HVAC Training In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification

Choosing the right HVAC school course is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Tuscaloosa AL.