How to Choose the Right HVAC Degree Program near Avondale Arizona
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Avondale AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one to obtain the training that you need? Some future students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Avondale AZ HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and can 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 together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often completed in as little as 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each option offered near Avondale AZ.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Avondale AZ, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Avondale AZ students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Avondale and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs 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 more convenient to fit school into your hectic schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
As soon as you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Avondale AZ area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Avondale AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify 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 finish the program. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It may also indicate that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory 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 affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Avondale AZ HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Avondale AZ HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Avondale AZ HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Avondale AZ home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger 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 teachers and students. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Avondale AZ, confirm that the programs you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Training and Certification
Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered 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 comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Avondale AZ.