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

Sierra Vista Arizona home A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Sierra Vista AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other details that you need to research 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 within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Sierra Vista Arizona Heating and Cooling Technician servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Sierra Vista AZ HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the field that are available. Following are a few 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 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 professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to earn 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 working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Classes

Sierra Vista Arizona home heating pump

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually achieved in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Sierra Vista AZ.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money 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 field in Sierra Vista AZ, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one option to obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number also provide 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 online, this option may be a more practical solution for many Sierra Vista AZ students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Sierra Vista and study materials can be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Schools

Sierra Vista Arizona Heating and Cooling technician installing water heater

After you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Sierra Vista AZ area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Sierra Vista AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it can assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. 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 looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It may also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can produce 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 trade, but also that it has the network of Sierra Vista AZ HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Sierra Vista AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently 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 AZ HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Sierra Vista AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to attend 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 receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Sierra Vista AZ, verify that the programs you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Sierra Vista Heating and Cooling Courses In Your Area

Get Your HVAC Training and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered in this article, you should select 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 things to look for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour 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. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Sierra Vista AZ.