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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Gadsden Alabama

Gadsden Alabama home A/C condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Gadsden AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the ideal one to get the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other factors that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Technician

Gadsden Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC 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, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Gadsden AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the field that are available. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Gadsden Alabama home heater

There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training 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 minimum amount of time, often completed in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description 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 strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, 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 mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Gadsden AL, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach to obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more practical 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 materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions For HVAC Schools

Gadsden Alabama HVAC technician installing water heater

As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Gadsden AL area and all over the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Gadsden AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive a quality education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling 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 might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It might also mean that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may produce 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 also that it has the network of Gadsden AL HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Gadsden AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Gadsden AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Gadsden AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

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

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Gadsden AL, verify that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Gadsden HVAC Trade Schools Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Choosing the ideal HVAC training course is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down 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 Gadsden AL.