How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Prescott Arizona
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Prescott AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the right one to receive 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 home. Although these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Prescott AZ HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Here are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination 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 together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a variety of choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, often accomplished in as little as 6 months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify 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 for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Prescott AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to finish, a number of degrees include 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 traditional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Prescott 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 Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility to attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also offer 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 on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Prescott AZ students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Prescott and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
After you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, 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 AZ area and throughout the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 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 technical programs in the Prescott AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may 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. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify 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 or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It might also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Prescott AZ HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Prescott AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area 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 currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Prescott AZ HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Prescott AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important 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 few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with several of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few 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 are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Prescott AZ, check that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Finding the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to look for are lots of practical training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Prescott AZ.