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How to Find the Right HVAC Training Class near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Tuscaloosa AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the best one to receive the training that you need? Some potential students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things 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 criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Tuscaloosa Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Tuscaloosa AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Following are a few of the significant 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 may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

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There are several choices available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually accomplished in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Tuscaloosa AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to complete, many degrees feature 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 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Tuscaloosa AL, eventually returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number 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 attended via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Tuscaloosa AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Tuscaloosa and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Schools

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When you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two variables you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Tuscaloosa AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved 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 of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also suggest that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to utilize 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Tuscaloosa AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Tuscaloosa AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Tuscaloosa AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, confirm that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Tuscaloosa HVAC Training Programs Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally 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 training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Tuscaloosa AL.