How to Choose the Right HVAC School near Catalina Foothills Arizona
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Catalina Foothills AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Catalina Foothills AZ HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several respected 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 earned by passing a proficiency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional 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 essential that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are a variety of options available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often completed in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly 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 in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Catalina Foothills AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to complete, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the right 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 acquiring some experience in the trade in Catalina Foothills AZ, later returning to obtain 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 Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility to getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical 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 can be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Catalina Foothills AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Catalina Foothills and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And numerous 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 online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
Once you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Catalina Foothills AZ area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Catalina Foothills AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training course 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 finish the course. A low completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It may also indicate 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 directory of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Catalina Foothills AZ HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Catalina Foothills AZ HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Catalina Foothills AZ HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Catalina Foothills AZ home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Catalina Foothills AZ, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Selecting the ideal HVAC training course is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Catalina Foothills AZ.