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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Training Class near Oro Valley Arizona

Oro Valley Arizona residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC trade school near Oro Valley AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are significant 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 criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Contractor

Oro Valley Arizona Heating and Cooling Tech fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade 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, though each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Oro Valley AZ HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the field that are available. Here are a few of the important 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 received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Schools

Oro Valley Arizona residential heater

There are several alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually completed in as little as six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Oro Valley AZ.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two years to finish, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Oro Valley AZ, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in attaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number also sponsor 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 attended on the web, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Oro Valley AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Oro Valley and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments 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 busy schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Oro Valley Arizona HVAC technician repairing water heater

When you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to obtain, either online or on campus, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Oro Valley AZ area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Oro Valley AZ area have acquired 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 relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It might also signify 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 more extensive list of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Oro Valley AZ HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Oro Valley AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Oro Valley AZ HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Oro Valley AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and learn 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 reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Oro Valley AZ, check that the programs you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, 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 HVAC Training Programs In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the ideal HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have addressed in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Oro Valley AZ.