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How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling College near San Tan Valley Arizona

San Tan Valley Arizona home air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near San Tan Valley AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the right one to obtain the training that you need? Some future students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just 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. These and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

San Tan Valley Arizona HVAC Contractor servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for San Tan Valley AZ HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Following are some 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 may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing might be required in your area, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Classes

San Tan Valley Arizona home heater

There are several alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often accomplished in just six months, however 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 programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near San Tan Valley AZ.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

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

HVAC Courses Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most 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 balance of the classes can be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many San Tan Valley AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from San Tan Valley and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes

San Tan Valley Arizona Heating and Cooling tech installing water heater

After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the San Tan Valley AZ area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the first two factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the San Tan Valley AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you get a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate could suggest that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also signify that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which may produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of San Tan Valley AZ HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC technical 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 HVAC businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local San Tan Valley AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local San Tan Valley AZ HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your San Tan Valley AZ home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near San Tan Valley AZ, check that the programs you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About San Tan Valley HVAC Trade Schools Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Enrolling in the right HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose 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 features to search for are ample hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down 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 contractor in San Tan Valley AZ.