How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling School near Florence Arizona
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Florence AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the ideal one to get the training that you need? Some future students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation completion 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 within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Florence AZ HVAC techs to establish that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Following are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple 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 additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often achieved in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Florence AZ.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, some 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 traditional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Florence AZ, eventually going back to obtain 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 Online Classes
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one approach to obtaining your education and earning 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 in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended on the web, this option may be a more practical solution for some Florence AZ students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Florence and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
After you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Florence AZ area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Florence AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may signify that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It may also signify that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may produce 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Florence AZ HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Florence AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Florence AZ HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Florence AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Florence AZ, verify that the programs you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Enrolling in the right HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed 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 exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are ample 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 explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for evaluating 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 ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Florence AZ.