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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Rio Rico Arizona

Rio Rico Arizona residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Rio Rico AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you select 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 near the school is to their home. Although these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some 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 additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC technical school, 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

Rio Rico Arizona Heating and Cooling Technician fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary way for Rio Rico AZ HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Here are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned 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. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 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 required for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Rio Rico Arizona home heat pump

There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically completed in as little as six months, although 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 may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Rio Rico AZ.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. 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 complete, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for 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 mastering 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 long term career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Rio Rico AZ, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on 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 can be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Rio Rico AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Rio Rico and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your active lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes

Rio Rico Arizona HVAC contractor repairing water heater

As soon as you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Rio Rico AZ area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical schools in the Rio Rico AZ area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved 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 complete the course. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may produce 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 a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Rio Rico AZ HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Rio Rico AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed 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, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Rio Rico AZ HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Rio Rico AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with a few of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and find out 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 reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Rio Rico AZ, confirm that the programs you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers 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.

Learn More About Rio Rico HVAC Training Programs In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Picking the right HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to search for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing 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 dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Rio Rico AZ.