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How to Select the Right HVAC Certification Class near Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Arizona residential A/C condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Phoenix AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you select the right one to obtain the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things 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 within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Phoenix Arizona Heating and Cooling Contractor servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Phoenix AZ HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and may 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 need to have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Phoenix Arizona residential heater

There are a variety of options available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, although 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 programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Phoenix AZ.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 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 ideal credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Phoenix AZ, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Schools Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach to attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. 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 balance of the classes may be attended online, this option may be a more practical solution for many Phoenix AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional choices. Even travelling expenses from Phoenix and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs 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 easier to fit school into your busy lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Training Classes

Phoenix Arizona Heating and Cooling contractor repairing water heater

As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Phoenix AZ area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Phoenix AZ area have earned 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 pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It may also mean that the teachers 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 broader directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Phoenix AZ HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC technical programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Phoenix AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art 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 looking for. If not, ask a local Phoenix AZ HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Phoenix AZ home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with some of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Phoenix AZ, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Phoenix Heating and Cooling Trade Schools In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Picking the right HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. 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 community. Other features to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Phoenix AZ.