How to Select the Right HVAC Training Program near Maricopa Arizona
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Maricopa AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just 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. These and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed skilled 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 contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Maricopa AZ HVAC techs to prove that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the field that are offered. Following are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be required in your location, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually completed in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each credential offered near Maricopa AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 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 conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Maricopa AZ, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach to obtaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical 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 attended on the web, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Maricopa AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Maricopa and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.
Questions For HVAC Training Programs
After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Maricopa AZ area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Maricopa AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire a quality education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved 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 finish the course. A low completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also mean that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Maricopa AZ HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Maricopa AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Maricopa AZ HVAC contracting company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Maricopa AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors 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 Maricopa AZ, confirm that the programs you are considering provide those choices. 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, sickness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Selecting the right HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are lots of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate 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 informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Maricopa AZ.