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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Catalina Foothills Arizona

Catalina Foothills Arizona home A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Catalina Foothills AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other details 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. These and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Technician

Catalina Foothills Arizona Heating and Cooling Contractor repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Catalina Foothills AZ HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Here are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

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There are a variety of alternatives available 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 lesser period of time, often achieved in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Catalina Foothills AZ.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees include 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 traditional four 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, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Catalina Foothills AZ, later 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 Online Classes

Attending an HVAC school online is one approach to getting your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Catalina Foothills AZ students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Catalina Foothills and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes

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As soon as you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Catalina Foothills AZ area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Catalina Foothills AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC 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 could indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It may also signify 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 broader list of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will 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 graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Catalina Foothills AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Catalina Foothills AZ HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Catalina Foothills AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Catalina Foothills AZ, verify that the programs you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Catalina Foothills Heating and Cooling Schools In Your Area

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Catalina Foothills AZ.