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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Trade School Near Gardendale Alabama

Gardendale Alabama commercial hvac technician servicing furnacesNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Gardendale AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the best one to get the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other details 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 additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Gardendale Alabama home A/C condensers

There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually accomplished in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Gardendale Al.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 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 geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Gardendale AL, subsequently 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 Schools

Gardendale Alabama forced air heat registerChoosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Gardendale AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Gardendale and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make schooling 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 Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Gardendale AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

What to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Programs

Gardendale Alabama hvac technician repairing water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you wish to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Gardendale AL area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Gardendale AL area have attained 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 an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm 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 make certain that you get an excellent education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order 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 of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Gardendale AL HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Gardendale AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure 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 currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Gardendale AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Gardendale AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Gardendale AL, check that the programs you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make 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, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Gardendale HVAC Schools

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC school course is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose an HVAC training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Gardendale AL.


 

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