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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling School near Sun City West Arizona

Sun City West Arizona residential A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to find an HVAC trade school near Sun City West AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the best one to get the training that you require? Some potential students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other things that you need to investigate 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 in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Pro

Sun City West Arizona HVAC Contractor inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Sun City West AZ HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are some 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 proficiency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Sun City West Arizona home heat pump

There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, often completed in just 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Sun City West AZ.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Sun City West AZ, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative to attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Many also sponsor 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 via the internet, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Sun City West AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Sun City West and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your busy lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Sun City West Arizona Heating and Cooling technician replacing water heater

Once you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Sun City West AZ area and all over the United States to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the initial two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Sun City West AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get a superior education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate could indicate that students were dissatisfied 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 list of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Sun City West AZ HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Sun City West AZ HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Sun City West AZ HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Sun City West AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk to a few of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm 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 Sun City West AZ, check that the schools you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Sun City West HVAC Schools In Your Area

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Picking the ideal HVAC school course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed 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 profession. Other features to search for are lots of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Sun City West AZ.