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

Vestavia Hills Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Vestavia Hills AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the best one to get the training that you need? A number of future students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other things that you need to investigate 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 discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Tech

Vestavia Hills Alabama HVAC Technician fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively 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 mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Vestavia Hills AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many respected certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade 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 Certificate and Degree Classes

Vestavia Hills Alabama home heat pump

There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, often achieved in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each option offered near Vestavia Hills AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, some 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Vestavia Hills AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility to obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this alternative 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 less expensive than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Vestavia Hills and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Vestavia Hills Alabama Heating and Cooling technician replacing water heater

When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area and throughout the United States to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial 2 variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Vestavia Hills AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance 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. In addition to helping ensure that you get an excellent education, it can assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate may signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also mean that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate 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 grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC technical 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 within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Vestavia Hills AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Vestavia Hills AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Vestavia Hills HVAC Training In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you should pick 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 factors to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines 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 dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Vestavia Hills AL.