How to Enroll In the Right HVAC Degree Program near Selma Alabama
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Selma AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation completion 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 choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Selma AL HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination 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 multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are several choices offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, often completed in as little as 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 might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Selma AL.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to complete, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Selma AL, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for some Selma AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Selma and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs
As soon as you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Selma AL area and across the United States to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Selma AL area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable 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 Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate may signify that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize 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 students secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Selma AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Selma AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, 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 moving costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Selma AL, check that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the ideal HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to search for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing 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 eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Selma AL.