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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Peoria Arizona

Peoria Arizona home air conditioning condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Peoria AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the right one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Peoria Arizona Heating and Cooling Tech fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central 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 prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Peoria AZ HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple respected certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are some 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 exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Peoria Arizona residential heating pump

There are a number of options offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often completed in as little as six months, however some courses 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 training programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Peoria AZ.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to finish, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require 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 long term career objectives are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Peoria AZ, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Peoria AZ students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Peoria and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes

Peoria Arizona Heating and Cooling technician installing water heater

As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Peoria AZ area and across the United States to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Peoria AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a superior education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A lower completion rate could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can result in 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Peoria AZ HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Peoria AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Peoria AZ HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Peoria AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to 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 monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Peoria AZ, check that the schools you are considering offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Peoria Heating and Cooling Programs Near You

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Peoria AZ.