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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Gadsden Alabama

Gadsden Alabama home A/C condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to find an HVAC technical school near Gadsden AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? A number of future students will make their decision based entirely 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. Those and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Technician

Gadsden Alabama HVAC Tech fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Gadsden AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are many acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. 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 earned 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 exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs

Gadsden Alabama residential heating pump

There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically completed in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Gadsden AL.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for 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.

Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Gadsden AL, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one option in attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost 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 as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Gadsden AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Gadsden and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments 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 busy lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes

Gadsden Alabama Heating and Cooling technician servicing water heater

As soon as you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Gadsden AL area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Gadsden AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also mean that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Gadsden AL HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship 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. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Gadsden AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Gadsden AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Gadsden AL home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can 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 couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Gadsden AL, verify that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Learn More About Gadsden Heating and Cooling Schools In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the right HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have addressed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to search for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Gadsden AL.