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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling College 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 professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Catalina Foothills AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you select the best one to receive the training that you require? Many future students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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 additional criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Contractor

Catalina Foothills Arizona HVAC Technician repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for 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 regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Catalina Foothills AZ HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available 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 as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Courses

Catalina Foothills Arizona residential heating pump

There are several alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically accomplished in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Catalina Foothills AZ.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally 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 suited more towards 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 cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Catalina Foothills AZ, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Catalina Foothills AZ students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Catalina Foothills and study materials may be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Schools

Catalina Foothills Arizona Heating and Cooling technician replacing water heater

When you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Catalina Foothills AZ area and across the USA to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational programs in the Catalina Foothills AZ area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing 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 indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also suggest that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Catalina Foothills AZ HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC training 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 HVAC companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Catalina Foothills AZ HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed 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, check with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Catalina Foothills AZ HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Catalina Foothills AZ home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Catalina Foothills AZ, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, be 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 because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Catalina Foothills HVAC Training Programs Near You

Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Selecting the ideal HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to search for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour 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. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed 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 dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Catalina Foothills AZ.