How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling School near Fountain Hills Arizona
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Fountain Hills AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one to get the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some 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 other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Fountain Hills AZ HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Following are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs 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 may be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually completed in as little as six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially 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 comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Fountain Hills AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, many 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources 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 Fountain Hills AZ, subsequently returning to obtain 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 Courses
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for some Fountain Hills AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Fountain Hills and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs
Once you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Fountain Hills AZ area and across the USA to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Fountain Hills AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a quality education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It might also mean that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Fountain Hills AZ HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs 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 working relationships with local Fountain Hills AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Fountain Hills AZ HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Fountain Hills AZ home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Fountain Hills AZ, verify that the schools you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to look for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Fountain Hills AZ.