How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Gadsden Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near Gadsden AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the right one to receive the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Gadsden AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are a number of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically accomplished in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Gadsden AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular 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 supplies a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to finish, many 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 or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Gadsden AL, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative in attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number 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 via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Gadsden AL students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Gadsden and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
As soon as you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Gadsden AL area and all over the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Gadsden AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states require 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 or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate may suggest that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It could also mean that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Gadsden AL HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC vocational 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 HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Gadsden AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build 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 up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Gadsden AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Gadsden AL home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger 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 teachers and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Gadsden AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Learn More About Gadsden Heating and Cooling Trade Schools Near You
Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Enrolling in the right HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have discussed 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 excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating 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 dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Gadsden AL.