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How to Find the Right HVAC Certification Training near Vestavia Hills Alabama

Vestavia Hills Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Vestavia Hills AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? Some potential students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation completion 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 choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Vestavia Hills Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Vestavia Hills AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Following are some 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 competency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with 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 intend to obtain certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes

Vestavia Hills Alabama residential heat pump

There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically achieved in just six months, although 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 might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Vestavia Hills AL.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Vestavia Hills AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Choosing an HVAC program online is one option to obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in on the web, this option may be a more practical solution for some Vestavia Hills AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Vestavia Hills and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments 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 lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

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After you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you desire to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of 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 finish the program. A low completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It could also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list 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 affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Vestavia Hills AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Vestavia Hills AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend 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 receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, check that the schools you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Vestavia Hills Heating and Cooling Training Programs Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are lots of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Vestavia Hills AL.