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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Class near Oro Valley Arizona

Oro Valley Arizona home A/C condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Oro Valley AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the best one to receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their decision based solely 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. A few of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Pro

Oro Valley Arizona Heating and Cooling Contractor inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly 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, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Oro Valley AZ HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Oro Valley Arizona residential heating pump

There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often accomplished in as little as 6 months, although some programs 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 edge for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Oro Valley AZ.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to complete, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Oro Valley AZ, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility in obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for many Oro Valley AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Oro Valley and study materials may be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Schools

Oro Valley Arizona HVAC tech servicing water heater

As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Oro Valley AZ area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Oro Valley 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 a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify 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 complete the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It may also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may result in 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 a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Oro Valley AZ HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC technical programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs 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 comparing have working partnerships with local Oro Valley AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Oro Valley AZ HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Oro Valley AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger 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 students and teachers. Speak to a few of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Oro Valley AZ, confirm that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Oro Valley Heating and Cooling Schools Near You

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Finding the ideal HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Oro Valley AZ.