How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Training near Gadsden Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Gadsden AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you need? Many potential students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other factors that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Gadsden AL HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the field that are available. Following are a few 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 as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are a variety of options available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, often completed in as little as six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth 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 very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive background 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 towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Gadsden AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in getting your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Gadsden AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Gadsden and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. 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 online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Gadsden AL area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two variables you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Gadsden AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training program 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will 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 graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Gadsden AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained 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, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Gadsden AL HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Gadsden AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience 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 handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Gadsden AL, confirm 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 offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Finding the ideal HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to select 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 plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Gadsden AL.