How to Enroll In the Best Heating and Cooling Vocational School Near Gadsden Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Gadsden AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the best one to receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details 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. Those and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Gadsden Al.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to complete, a number of 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 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.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Gadsden AL, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one approach in attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Gadsden AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Gadsden and study materials can be reduced, 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 responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Gadsden AL HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the field that are offered. Following are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved 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. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you desire to obtain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Gadsden AL area and throughout the United States to select from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Gadsden AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It could also mean that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Gadsden AL HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Gadsden AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Gadsden AL HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Gadsden AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Gadsden AL, check that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose an Heating and Cooling school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Gadsden AL.