How to Choose the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Florence Arizona
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Florence AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other details 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. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry 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 professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Florence AZ HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the field that are available. Following are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency 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 field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience in addition to a passing score 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 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a variety of choices available 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 amount of time, usually accomplished in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Florence AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees include 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Florence AZ, subsequently going back to acquire 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 Training
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one option to attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Florence AZ students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Florence and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many 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 HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Schools
Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Florence AZ area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Florence AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may 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 and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training course 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It may also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive 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 can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Florence AZ HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Florence AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure 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 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 Florence AZ HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Florence AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the instructors 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 schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Florence AZ, check that the programs you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school program is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. 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 features to search for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Florence AZ.