How to Enroll In an HVAC Training Class near Opelika Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Opelika AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to obtain the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other factors 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 other criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC trade school, let’s take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech in Opelika AL
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for “Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning”. HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Opelika AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination 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 professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it’s imperative that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor’s Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically accomplished in as little as 6 months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Opelika AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to complete, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor’s Degree. The Bachelor’s Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Opelika AL, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach to getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Many also sponsor 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 online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Opelika AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Opelika and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. 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 online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes near Opelika AL
Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Opelika AL area and throughout the USA to select from. That’s why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Opelika AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school’s programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you obtain an excellent education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Also, 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 Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It may also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It’s similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory 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 validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Opelika AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Opelika AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed 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 specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Opelika AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Opelika AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It’s important that you get as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the teachers 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 fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Opelika AL, check that the schools you are comparing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Attending HVAC School near Opelika AL?
Opelika (pronounced |ˌoʊ pəˈlaɪ kə|) is a city in and the county seat of Lee County in the east central part of the State of Alabama. It is a principal city of the Auburn-Opelika Metropolitan Area. According to the 2013 Census Estimate, the population of Opelika was 28,635. The Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA with a population of 150,933 which, along with the Columbus, Georgia metropolitan area and Macon County, Alabama, comprises the greater Greater Columbus, Georgia, a region home to 501,649 residents.
The first white settlers in the area now known as Opelika arrived in the late 1830s and established a community called Lebanon. After the removal of the native Creek (Muscogee) peoples by federal troops in 1836-37, the area became known as "Opelika." This word taken from the Muskogee language means "large swamp". Settlement was sporadic until the late 1840s, when the railroad reached the town. This stimulated development of Opelika as a commercial center.
In 1848, the Montgomery and West Point Railroad Company extended a rail line from Montgomery, Alabama, to Opelika, and in 1851, completed a connection to West Point, Georgia, thus connecting Opelika with Atlanta, Georgia. This line was the only direct rail route between New Orleans and the Eastern Seaboard. It rapidly became one of the primary trade lines for shipments of raw cotton from Southern plantations to the North. The Montgomery and West Point was soon joined by a rail connection to Columbus, Georgia, in 1855, and a connection to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1869. Almost overnight, Opelika became a regional hub for commerce.
Enroll in the Right HVAC Training Classes near Opelika AL
Choosing the right HVAC training program is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you should pick a trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are ample 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 speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don’t forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you’ll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Opelika AL.
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