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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Flagstaff Arizona

Flagstaff Arizona home A/C condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Flagstaff AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the best one to receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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 additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Technician

Flagstaff Arizona Heating and Cooling Contractor repairing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Flagstaff AZ HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Flagstaff Arizona home heater

There are several options offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, typically achieved in just six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Flagstaff AZ.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. 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 background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to finish, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored 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 cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Flagstaff AZ, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Attending an HVAC school online is one possibility in getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number 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 attended online, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Flagstaff AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Flagstaff and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic schedule.

Questions For HVAC Training Programs

Flagstaff Arizona HVAC tech servicing water heater

Once you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Flagstaff AZ area and across the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical schools in the Flagstaff AZ area have acquired 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 relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify 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 of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the teachers 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 directory of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Flagstaff AZ HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Flagstaff AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional 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 tech you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Flagstaff AZ HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Flagstaff AZ residence. Remember 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 one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Flagstaff AZ, check that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Flagstaff HVAC Schools Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You should 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 instruction and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Flagstaff AZ.