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

Gadsden Alabama home A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Gadsden AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While 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 other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Technician

Gadsden Alabama Heating and Cooling Technician repairing A/C condenserHVAC 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 air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Gadsden AL HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency exam and may 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 must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Gadsden Alabama home heat pump

There are several options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, though 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 may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each credential offered near Gadsden AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to complete, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Gadsden AL, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative in attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number 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 on the web, this option may be a more practical solution for many Gadsden AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Gadsden and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes

Gadsden Alabama Heating and Cooling contractor servicing water heater

Once you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Gadsden AL area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Gadsden AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved 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 percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It could also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can 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 field, but also that it has the network of Gadsden AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Gadsden AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Gadsden AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Gadsden AL home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized 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 see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with some of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Gadsden AL, confirm that the programs you are considering 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, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Gadsden Heating and Cooling Training Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Finding the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Gadsden AL.