How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near San Luis Arizona
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to look for an HVAC vocational school near San Luis AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the right one to receive the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other details 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 benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly 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, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for San Luis AZ HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam 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 field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a variety of choices offered 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 minimum amount of time, often achieved in as little as six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near San Luis AZ.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to finish, some degrees include 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 standard 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 ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, along with 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 acquiring some experience in the trade in San Luis AZ, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to obtaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for some San Luis AZ students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from San Luis and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes
Once you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you want to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the San Luis AZ area and throughout the United States to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade schools in the San Luis AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it can help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It might also signify that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have high 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 will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of San Luis AZ HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools 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 working partnerships with local San Luis AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable 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. Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local San Luis AZ HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your San Luis AZ home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with several of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near San Luis AZ, verify that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Selecting the right HVAC training program is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to search for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in San Luis AZ.