How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Course near Prescott Arizona
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Prescott AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you need? Some future students will make their decision based entirely on the price 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. Some of the other factors 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. Those and other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Prescott AZ HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Below 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 competency examination 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 professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Prescott AZ.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to complete, some degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards 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 mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Prescott AZ, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Attending an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Prescott AZ students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Prescott and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Prescott AZ area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Prescott AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire a superior education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could suggest that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's similarly 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 result in more contacts for the school to employ 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Prescott AZ HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Prescott AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Prescott AZ HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Prescott AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging 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 students and instructors. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Prescott AZ, check that the programs you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Learn More About Prescott Heating and Cooling Training Programs In Your Area
Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Choosing the ideal HVAC training 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 select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to look for are sufficient 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 talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Prescott AZ.