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How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Degree Program near Vestavia Hills Alabama

Vestavia Hills Alabama residential A/C condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Vestavia Hills AL. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to receive the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Tech

Vestavia Hills Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Vestavia Hills AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Vestavia Hills Alabama residential heat pump

There are a variety 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. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each credential offered near Vestavia Hills AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught 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, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Vestavia Hills AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Attending an HVAC school online is one option in attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Vestavia Hills AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Vestavia Hills and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. 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 limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

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Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area and across the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Vestavia Hills 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 an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is 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 acquire an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It might also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may 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 a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Vestavia Hills AL HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Vestavia Hills AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

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

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. 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 excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to search for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour 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. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Vestavia Hills AL.