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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Flagstaff Arizona

Flagstaff Arizona home air conditioning condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Flagstaff AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to receive the training that you require? Many potential students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other factors 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 benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Flagstaff Arizona HVAC Tech inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative way for Flagstaff AZ HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the field that are available. Here are a few 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 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. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed 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. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Flagstaff Arizona home heater

There are a number of options available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, usually accomplished in just six 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 programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Flagstaff AZ.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, many 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. 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 obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Flagstaff AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Flagstaff and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your active schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Flagstaff Arizona HVAC tech servicing water heater

Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Flagstaff AZ area and across the Country to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first two factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want 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 acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify 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 ensure that you acquire an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could suggest that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also mean that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Flagstaff AZ HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Flagstaff AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained 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 with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Flagstaff AZ HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Flagstaff AZ home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Flagstaff AZ, check that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Flagstaff HVAC Trade Schools Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Choosing the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose 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 features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person 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 teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Flagstaff AZ.