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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Degree Program near Sierra Vista Southeast Arizona

Sierra Vista Southeast Arizona residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Sierra Vista Southeast AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other details 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 criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Sierra Vista Southeast Arizona HVAC Tech repairing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Sierra Vista Southeast AZ HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and may be earned 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 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 required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types 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 intend to obtain certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes

Sierra Vista Southeast Arizona home heat pump

There are a variety of alternatives available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually accomplished in as little as six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Sierra Vista Southeast AZ.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for 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 learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Sierra Vista Southeast AZ, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative in attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical 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 attended online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Sierra Vista Southeast AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Sierra Vista Southeast and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Schools

Sierra Vista Southeast Arizona HVAC tech servicing water heater

When you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Sierra Vista Southeast AZ area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a list of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC vocational schools in the Sierra Vista Southeast AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing 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 indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It might also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Sierra Vista Southeast AZ HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Sierra Vista Southeast AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Sierra Vista Southeast AZ HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Sierra Vista Southeast AZ home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Sierra Vista Southeast AZ, confirm that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, 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, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Sierra Vista Southeast Heating and Cooling Programs In Your Area

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Selecting the ideal HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our checklist for assessing 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 contractor in Sierra Vista Southeast AZ.