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How to Choose the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Sierra Vista Arizona

Sierra Vista Arizona residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to look for an HVAC technical school near Sierra Vista AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you need? Some potential 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 relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation completion 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 in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Professional

Sierra Vista Arizona Heating and Cooling Tech inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Sierra Vista AZ HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Here are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Courses

Sierra Vista Arizona residential heating pump

There are several options available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically achieved in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Sierra Vista AZ.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to finish, some degrees include 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 conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Sierra Vista AZ, later going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also offer 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 online, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Sierra Vista AZ students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even driving expenses from Sierra Vista and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Sierra Vista Arizona Heating and Cooling tech replacing water heater

Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Sierra Vista AZ area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Sierra Vista AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain a quality education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It could also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Sierra Vista AZ HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Sierra Vista AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Sierra Vista AZ HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, 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, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Sierra Vista AZ, confirm that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Sierra Vista HVAC Schools Near You

Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Selecting the right HVAC training course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are plenty of hands-on training and modern 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 current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, ask about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out 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 dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Sierra Vista AZ.