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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling College near Prescott Valley Arizona

Prescott Valley Arizona home A/C condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Prescott Valley AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? Many potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. 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. These and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Tech

Prescott Valley Arizona Heating and Cooling Contractor servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Prescott Valley AZ HVAC techs to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must 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 necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Schools

Prescott Valley Arizona residential heating pump

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically accomplished in as little as 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief summary of each option offered near Prescott Valley AZ.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two years to finish, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 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 appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Prescott Valley AZ, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure 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 to getting your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Prescott Valley AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Prescott Valley and study materials can be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Schools

Prescott Valley Arizona HVAC tech installing water heater

As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you want to acquire, 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 Prescott Valley AZ area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Prescott Valley AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, 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 recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many 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 looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It might also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Prescott Valley AZ HVAC employers to help grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC technical programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Prescott Valley AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Prescott Valley AZ HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Prescott Valley AZ home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one instruction 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 big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to a few 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 experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Prescott Valley AZ, verify that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Prescott Valley Heating and Cooling Training Programs Near You

Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification

Enrolling in the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Prescott Valley AZ.