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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Arizona home air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Phoenix AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Some potential students will make their selection based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Technician

Phoenix Arizona HVAC Tech fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Phoenix AZ HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

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There are several choices offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically completed in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each option offered near Phoenix AZ.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees feature 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Phoenix AZ, eventually going back to acquire 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 Classes

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended online, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Phoenix AZ students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Phoenix and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Phoenix Arizona Heating and Cooling tech replacing water heater

When you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you want to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Phoenix AZ area and across the USA to select from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Phoenix AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable 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 Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It might also indicate that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Phoenix AZ HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Phoenix AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes employment 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 trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Phoenix AZ HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Phoenix AZ home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with some of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Phoenix AZ, check that the schools you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Phoenix Heating and Cooling Trade Schools In Your Area

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Picking the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you should pick 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 features to look for are lots of 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 tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Phoenix AZ.