How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling School near Flagstaff Arizona
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Flagstaff AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? Many potential students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation 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 in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Flagstaff AZ HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Here are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience in addition to 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 work with refrigerants. There are three 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 area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's essential that you enroll in 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 readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training 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 least period of time, usually completed in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Flagstaff AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Flagstaff AZ, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one option to obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in online, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Flagstaff AZ students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Flagstaff and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Flagstaff AZ area and across the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Flagstaff AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might signify that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Flagstaff AZ HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught along 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 HVAC businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Flagstaff AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools 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, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Flagstaff AZ HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Flagstaff AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Flagstaff AZ, verify that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Finding the ideal HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour 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. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices 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.