How to Find the Right HVAC College near Gadsden Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action 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 need? Many prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other things that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Gadsden AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Below 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 exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be required in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a number of options offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often achieved in as little as six months, though some programs 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 programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Gadsden AL.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to 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 field in Gadsden AL, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, 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 alternative to attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Gadsden AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Gadsden and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Gadsden AL area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Gadsden AL area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order 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 of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It may also indicate 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 graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Gadsden AL HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Gadsden AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed 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, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Gadsden AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Gadsden AL residence. 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 desirable that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with 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 evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Gadsden AL, verify that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC training program is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. 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 features to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Gadsden AL.