How to Enroll In the Right HVAC College near Gadsden Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Gadsden AL. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Many potential students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other details that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Gadsden AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the field that are available. Following 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 received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience along 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 specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a number of options offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, often achieved in as little as six months, however some programs 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 programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Gadsden AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 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 suited more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for 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.
Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Gadsden AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach to attaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Gadsden AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Gadsden and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
Questions For HVAC Training Programs
Once you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Gadsden AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade schools in the Gadsden AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire an excellent 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 for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Gadsden AL HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Gadsden AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Gadsden AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Gadsden AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience 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 meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Gadsden AL, confirm that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Choosing the right HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk 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 night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Gadsden AL.