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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Mesa Arizona

Mesa Arizona home air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Mesa AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. A few 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. These and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Mesa Arizona HVAC Technician inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Mesa AZ HVAC techs to prove that they are highly proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are available. Here are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and can 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 together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

Mesa Arizona residential heat pump

There are several alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically accomplished in just six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Mesa AZ.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to finish, 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Mesa AZ, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Attending an HVAC school online is one option to getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in online, this option may be a more practical solution for many Mesa AZ students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Mesa and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

Mesa Arizona HVAC technician replacing water heater

When you have picked 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 Mesa AZ area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first 2 factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Mesa AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing 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 could indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive 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 can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Mesa AZ HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Mesa AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Mesa AZ HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Mesa AZ home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors and find out 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 evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Mesa AZ, confirm that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Mesa Heating and Cooling Programs Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC training program is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling trade. 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 outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Mesa AZ.