How to Select the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Payson Arizona
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Payson AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the best one to obtain the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Payson AZ HVAC techs to prove that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency exam 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 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. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are a number of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often achieved in as little as 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 related to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Payson AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking two years to finish, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 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 right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Payson AZ, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for some Payson AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Payson and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Payson AZ area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first 2 variables you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Payson AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It could also mean that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Payson AZ HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Payson AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already 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 Payson AZ HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Payson AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Payson AZ, confirm that the programs you are comparing 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 due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Selecting the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore 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. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Payson AZ.