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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Oro Valley Arizona

Oro Valley Arizona residential A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Oro Valley AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the best one to obtain the training that you require? Some potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Oro Valley Arizona Heating and Cooling Tech inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Oro Valley AZ HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to 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 exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Schools

Oro Valley Arizona residential heat pump

There are several options offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually achieved in as little as 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Oro Valley AZ.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two years to finish, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even 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 financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Oro Valley AZ, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Choosing an HVAC school online is one alternative to obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for 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 remainder of the classes can be participated in on the web, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Oro Valley AZ students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less costly than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Oro Valley and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Oro Valley Arizona Heating and Cooling technician repairing water heater

Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Oro Valley AZ area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Oro Valley AZ area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It might also signify that the teachers were not competent to instruct 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 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 will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Oro Valley AZ HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many 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 inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Oro Valley AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Oro Valley AZ HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Oro Valley AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Oro Valley AZ, verify that the schools you are considering provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Oro Valley HVAC Schools Near You

Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Choosing the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to look for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Oro Valley AZ.