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How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling School near Vestavia Hills Alabama

Vestavia Hills Alabama residential A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Vestavia Hills AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other things that you need to research are the graduation 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 discuss how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Professional

Vestavia Hills Alabama HVAC Contractor servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Vestavia Hills AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle 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 area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Schools

Vestavia Hills Alabama residential heating pump

There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually completed in as little as 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Vestavia Hills AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive knowledge of heating & cooling 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 geared more towards 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 mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Vestavia Hills AL, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Schools Online

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also offer 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 on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Vestavia Hills AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Vestavia Hills and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Vestavia Hills Alabama Heating and Cooling technician servicing water heater

After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Vestavia Hills AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate may indicate that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It may also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may mean 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 an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Vestavia Hills AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional 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, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Vestavia Hills AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with some of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, check that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Vestavia Hills Heating and Cooling Training Classes In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to look for are ample 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 talk 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 choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Vestavia Hills AL.