How to Choose the Right HVAC Vocational School Near Gadsden Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Gadsden AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the right one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually achieved in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Gadsden Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to finish, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards 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 air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Gadsden AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach in attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also sponsor 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 attended online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Gadsden AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Gadsden and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Gadsden AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few of the significant 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 acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination 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. 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 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be required in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions For Heating and Cooling Schools
When you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Gadsden AL area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Gadsden AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get an excellent education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling 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 might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may mean 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Gadsden AL HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Gadsden AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Gadsden AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Gadsden AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may 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 challenging 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 students and teachers. Speak to a few of the students and get their comments 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 hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Gadsden AL, check that the programs you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure 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 issues.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the ideal HVAC school course is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select an HVAC vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines 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 dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Gadsden AL.