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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Selma Alabama

Selma Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Selma AL. But with so many to select from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few 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. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Professional

Selma Alabama Heating and Cooling Contractor servicing A/C condenserHVAC 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 skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Selma AL HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. 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 achieved by passing a competency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Selma Alabama residential heater

There are several alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically achieved in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Selma AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, 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 learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Selma AL, eventually 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 Classes

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach to attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Selma AL students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Selma and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Selma Alabama HVAC contractor replacing water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Selma AL area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Selma AL area have acquired 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 relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate may signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It might also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to instruct 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 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 a good reputation within the field, but additionally 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 along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade 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 considering have referring partnerships with local Selma AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Selma AL HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Selma AL residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Selma AL, confirm that the schools you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Selma HVAC Training Programs In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Choosing the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to look for are sufficient hands-on 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. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Selma AL.