How to Select the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Maricopa Arizona
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Maricopa AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you require? A number of future students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just 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. Those and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly 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, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Maricopa AZ HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the field that are available. Here are a few of the important 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 earned 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 exam 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 exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you select an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically completed in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Maricopa AZ.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored 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 study how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Maricopa AZ, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Maricopa AZ students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Maricopa and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Maricopa AZ area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first two factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Maricopa 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. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you get a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate could suggest that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Maricopa AZ HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC training programs are taught together 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 companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Maricopa AZ HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained 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, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Maricopa AZ HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Maricopa AZ home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Maricopa AZ, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Enrolling in the ideal HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance 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 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 contractor in Maricopa AZ.