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How to Find the Right HVAC Certification Course near San Tan Valley Arizona

San Tan Valley Arizona home air conditioning condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC vocational school near San Tan Valley AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to get the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Tech

San Tan Valley Arizona HVAC Contractor repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for San Tan Valley AZ HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Following are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be required in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

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There are a number of options available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually completed in as little as six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near San Tan Valley AZ.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to complete, some degrees incorporate 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in San Tan Valley AZ, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for many San Tan Valley AZ students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from San Tan Valley and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

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After you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you desire to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the San Tan Valley AZ area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical schools in the San Tan Valley AZ area have acquired 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 an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get a quality education, it can assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It might also indicate that the teachers were not competent to train 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 alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of San Tan Valley AZ HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local San Tan Valley AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local San Tan Valley AZ HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your San Tan Valley AZ home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near San Tan Valley AZ, check that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. 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 due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About San Tan Valley HVAC Courses Near You

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Selecting the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in San Tan Valley AZ.