How to Find the Right HVAC Degree Program near San Tan Valley Arizona
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near San Tan Valley AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the ideal one to get the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant considerations, 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. Those and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for San Tan Valley AZ HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple respected certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple 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 mandated in your location, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Schools
There are several options offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically accomplished in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near San Tan Valley AZ.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to complete, a number of degrees feature 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in San Tan Valley AZ, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure 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 getting your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly 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 instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in on the web, this approach 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 traditional options. Even travelling expenses from San Tan Valley and study supplies may be minimized, 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 busy lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the San Tan Valley AZ area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade programs in the San Tan Valley AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify 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 of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It may also mean that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ 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 assist graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local San Tan Valley AZ HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local San Tan Valley AZ HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your San Tan Valley AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much one-on-one 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 big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near San Tan Valley AZ, check that the programs you are comparing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in San Tan Valley AZ.