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How to Select the Right HVAC College near Gilbert Arizona

Gilbert Arizona home air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near Gilbert AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? Some future students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion 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 discuss how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Gilbert Arizona HVAC Tech fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Gilbert AZ HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the field that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained 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 field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Gilbert Arizona home heating pump

There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often completed in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Gilbert AZ.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored 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 learn how to design them.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Gilbert AZ, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one option in obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Gilbert AZ students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Gilbert and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions For HVAC Schools

Gilbert Arizona Heating and Cooling technician installing water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Gilbert AZ area and across the United States to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Gilbert AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a superior education, it can help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order 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 program. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It might also suggest that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Gilbert AZ HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Gilbert AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Gilbert AZ HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Gilbert AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Gilbert AZ, check that the programs you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Gilbert HVAC Schools In Your Area

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning 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 community. Other features to search for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Gilbert AZ.