How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling College near Selma Alabama
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Selma AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the best one to obtain the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other details 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. These and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Selma AL HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are a few of the important 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 may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as 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 examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists 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 may be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are a variety of options offered for HVAC training 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 lesser period of time, typically achieved in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below 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 professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment 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 requiring two years to complete, some 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 as well as 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 cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, along 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 field in Selma AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one option to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Selma AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Selma and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Selma AL area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Selma AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a superior education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It might also suggest 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 may result in 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of Selma AL HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Selma AL HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed 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 specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Selma AL HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Selma AL residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Selma AL, verify that the programs you are considering provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Choosing the right HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are ample hands-on 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 inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Selma AL.