How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Drexel Heights Arizona
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Drexel Heights AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to receive the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other factors 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. Those and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Drexel Heights AZ HVAC techs to establish that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are offered. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be required in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are several options offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically accomplished in just six months, though 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 can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Drexel Heights AZ.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees incorporate 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 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.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Drexel Heights AZ, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative to attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also offer 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 attended on the web, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Drexel Heights AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Drexel Heights and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online schools 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 less complicated to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Schools
When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Drexel Heights AZ area and all over the United States to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Drexel Heights AZ area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get a superior education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Also, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can result in 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 trade, but also that it has the network of Drexel Heights AZ HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction 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 Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Drexel Heights AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Drexel Heights AZ HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Drexel Heights AZ home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with a few of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify 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 Drexel Heights AZ, check that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Training and Certification
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating 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 commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Drexel Heights AZ.