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How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Program near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa Alabama residential A/C condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Tuscaloosa AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the right one to get the training that you require? Some future students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Tuscaloosa Alabama HVAC Technician servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Tuscaloosa AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the trade 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 earned by passing a competency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

Tuscaloosa Alabama residential heater

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC instruction 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 minimum period of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Tuscaloosa AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to finish, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Tuscaloosa AL, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Choosing an HVAC program online is one option to obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require 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 can be attended on the web, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Tuscaloosa AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Tuscaloosa and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your active schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Tuscaloosa Alabama HVAC tech installing water heater

Once you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area have received 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 a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it 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 program. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified 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 broader directory of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize 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 Tuscaloosa AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained 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, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Tuscaloosa AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, check that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Tuscaloosa HVAC Trade Schools In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered 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 guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Tuscaloosa AL.