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

Sierra Vista Arizona residential A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Sierra Vista AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you select the right one to obtain the training that you need? A number of future students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other details 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. Those and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Tech

Sierra Vista Arizona HVAC Tech repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative way for Sierra Vista AZ HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Following 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 competency examination and may be acquired 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 need to have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Courses

Sierra Vista Arizona home heating pump

There are several choices available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, typically achieved in just six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each credential offered near Sierra Vista AZ.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to complete, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Sierra Vista AZ, eventually returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Schools Online

Choosing an HVAC school online is one alternative to obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Sierra Vista AZ students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Sierra Vista and study materials may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Sierra Vista Arizona Heating and Cooling contractor installing water heater

After you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you want to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Sierra Vista AZ area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Sierra Vista AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, 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 approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the course and dropped out. It may also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Sierra Vista AZ HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Sierra Vista AZ HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Sierra Vista AZ HVAC contracting company if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Sierra Vista AZ home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on 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 with a few of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Sierra Vista AZ, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Sierra Vista Heating and Cooling Programs Near You

Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Picking the right HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are sufficient practical 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 tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper 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 informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Sierra Vista AZ.