How to Select the Right HVAC Degree Program near Flagstaff Arizona
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Flagstaff AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to get the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant 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 completion 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 in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
HVAC 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 central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Flagstaff AZ HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam 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 exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you select an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically achieved in as little as 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs may 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 credential offered near Flagstaff AZ.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to complete, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Flagstaff AZ, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more practical solution for some Flagstaff AZ students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Flagstaff and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Schools
Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Flagstaff AZ area and across the USA to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Flagstaff AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It could also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train 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 graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Flagstaff AZ HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor 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 supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Flagstaff AZ HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Flagstaff AZ home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with some of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise 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 attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Flagstaff AZ, check that the schools you are considering provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, check 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
Selecting the right HVAC training program is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should 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. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Flagstaff AZ.