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How to Select the Right HVAC Program near Douglas Arizona

Douglas Arizona home air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Douglas AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to obtain the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details 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 criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Tech

Douglas Arizona HVAC Contractor servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Douglas AZ HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the field that are offered. Here are some 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 competency examination 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 professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional 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 important that you select an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

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There are a variety of options offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often completed in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Douglas AZ.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to finish, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, along with 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 acquiring some experience in the trade in Douglas AZ, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain 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 to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Douglas AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Douglas and study supplies 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 commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your busy lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Douglas Arizona HVAC contractor repairing water heater

When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Douglas AZ area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Douglas AZ area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate 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 looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It may also signify that the instructors were not competent to train 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 alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to utilize 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 also that it has the network of Douglas AZ HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Douglas AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local 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 working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Douglas AZ HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Douglas AZ home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to 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 training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise 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 meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Douglas AZ, check that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Douglas HVAC Schools In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Choosing the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling 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 community. Other features to look for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Douglas AZ.