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

Selma Alabama residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Selma AL. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the price 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. Just some of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Pro

Selma Alabama Heating and Cooling Tech inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Selma AL HVAC techs to establish that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple respected certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained 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. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs

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There are several options available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more extensive 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 very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically 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 suited more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study 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 commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Selma AL, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative in getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Selma AL students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Selma and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.

Questions For HVAC Schools

Selma Alabama Heating and Cooling tech replacing water heater

Once you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Selma AL area and across the United States to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical programs in the Selma AL area have earned 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 an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate may suggest that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It may also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct 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 alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Selma AL HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Selma AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Selma AL HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must 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 relocation costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

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

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Selma AL, verify that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Selma HVAC Trade Schools In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down 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 technician in Selma AL.