How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program Near Selma Alabama
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Selma AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the right one to receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other factors 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. Those and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a variety of choices 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 lesser period of time, usually accomplished in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each credential offered near Selma Al.
- Certificate. Generally 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 job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to complete, a number of degrees feature 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, together with the time and financial resources 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 trade in Selma 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 considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Attending an HVAC school online is one approach to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete 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 approach may be a more practical solution for many Selma AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Selma and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Selma AL HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available 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 in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three 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 area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you select an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
Questions For HVAC Certification Courses
Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Selma AL area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Selma AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it can help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It could also mean that the teachers 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 directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to use 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 additionally that it has the network of Selma AL HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical 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 relationships with local Selma AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date 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. If not, ask a local Selma AL HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Selma AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Selma AL, confirm that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose an Heating and Cooling trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak 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 evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Selma AL.