How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Selma Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Selma AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few 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 additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Selma AL HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Below 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 can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to 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 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be required in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are several alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Selma AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees include 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 learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, along 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 getting some experience in the trade in Selma AL, later going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility to attaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended on the web, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Selma AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even travelling expenses from Selma and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Selma AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is extremely important 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 initial two variables you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade schools in the Selma AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a superior education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, 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 Air Conditioning schools you are looking at 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 might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also mean that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Selma AL HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Selma AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area 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 on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Selma AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Selma AL residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Selma AL, check that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Training and Certification
Enrolling in the right HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore 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 or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Selma AL.