How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling School near Mesa Arizona
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Mesa AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the right one to receive the training that you need? A number of future students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few 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 other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Mesa AZ HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency 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 professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are several alternatives available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often completed in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Mesa AZ.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to finish, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to learning 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 long term career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Mesa AZ, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Mesa AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Mesa and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
When you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Mesa AZ area and throughout the USA to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial 2 aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Mesa AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate could signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It might also mean that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Mesa AZ HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Mesa AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed 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 technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Mesa AZ HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Mesa AZ home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Mesa AZ, check that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, be 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, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Choosing the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed 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 trade. Other things to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing 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 ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Mesa AZ.