How to Select the Right HVAC College near Maricopa Arizona
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Maricopa AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you select the right one to receive the training that you need? Many 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 relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other factors that you need to investigate 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 examine how to select 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 Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Maricopa AZ HVAC techs to prove that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are many respected certifications within the industry 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 earned by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a variety of choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical 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 6 months, however 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 might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Maricopa AZ.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to finish, 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 standard 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Maricopa AZ, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Maricopa AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Maricopa and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
When you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Maricopa AZ area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial 2 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. A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Maricopa AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also suggest that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may result in 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 an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Maricopa AZ HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Maricopa AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus 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, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Maricopa AZ HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Maricopa AZ home. Remember 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 desirable that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Maricopa AZ, confirm that the programs you are considering provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Finding the right HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have covered in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to search for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our guidelines 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 dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Maricopa AZ.