How to Find the Right HVAC Degree Program near Sierra Vista Arizona
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Sierra Vista AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the ideal one to get the training that you require? Many potential students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few 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 other criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Sierra Vista AZ HVAC techs to prove that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the trade that are available. Following are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination 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 field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are several options offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often completed in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Sierra Vista AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to finish, many 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Sierra Vista AZ, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Attending an HVAC school online is one option to getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Sierra Vista AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Sierra Vista and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your active schedule.
Questions For HVAC Trade Schools
When you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Sierra Vista AZ area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Sierra Vista AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it 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 percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate might suggest that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It might also mean 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 alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize 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 additionally that it has the network of Sierra Vista AZ HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught along 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 contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Sierra Vista AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school 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 presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Sierra Vista AZ HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Sierra Vista AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk to a few of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Sierra Vista AZ, confirm that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC training program is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are lots of practical training and modern 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 teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate 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 informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Sierra Vista AZ.