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How to Find the Right HVAC School near Gilbert Arizona

Gilbert Arizona home A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Gilbert AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the right one to obtain the training that you need? Many potential students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other factors 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. Those and additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Gilbert Arizona HVAC Technician servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Gilbert AZ HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam 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 exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

Gilbert Arizona home heater

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. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, often achieved in just 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may 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 option offered near Gilbert AZ.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Gilbert AZ, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach in obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Gilbert AZ students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Gilbert and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. 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, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Certification Classes

Gilbert Arizona Heating and Cooling technician replacing water heater

As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Gilbert AZ area and throughout the Country to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Gilbert AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you get an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Gilbert AZ HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Gilbert AZ HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Gilbert AZ HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Gilbert AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition charges 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 some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to several of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Gilbert AZ, check that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

Learn More About Gilbert Heating and Cooling Courses Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC training course is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Gilbert AZ.