How to Enroll In the Right HVAC College near San Tan Valley Arizona
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near San Tan Valley AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the best one to receive the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other factors 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 other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for San Tan Valley AZ HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are several alternatives available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually accomplished in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief explanation of each credential offered near San Tan Valley AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to complete, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in San Tan Valley AZ, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for many San Tan Valley AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from San Tan Valley and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the San Tan Valley AZ area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the San Tan Valley AZ area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you obtain a quality education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Additionally, 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It could also mean that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use 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 field, but also that it has the network of San Tan Valley AZ HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local San Tan Valley AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes 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 using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local San Tan Valley AZ HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your San Tan Valley AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with a few of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with 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 programs you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near San Tan Valley AZ, verify that the programs you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Enrolling in the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose 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 plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate 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 educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in San Tan Valley AZ.