How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Maricopa Arizona
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Maricopa AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Maricopa AZ HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are several choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, typically achieved in as little as 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Maricopa AZ.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to complete, a number of degrees include 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 call for 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 learn how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, along with 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, eventually returning to acquire 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 Training Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number 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 online, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many 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 minimized, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Training Classes
When you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Maricopa AZ area and across the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade schools in the Maricopa AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a superior education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states require 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 lower completion rate might signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It may also indicate that the instructors were not competent to instruct 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 directory of graduates, which may produce 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Maricopa AZ HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Maricopa AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. 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. Otherwise, ask a local Maricopa AZ HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Maricopa AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Maricopa AZ, verify that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying 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 excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to search for are plenty of 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 inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines 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 commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Maricopa AZ.