How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Sun City West Arizona
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Sun City West AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the ideal one to get the training that you require? Some future students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other factors 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 other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business 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 professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Sun City West AZ HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with 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 exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically achieved in just 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Sun City West AZ.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to finish, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning 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, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Sun City West AZ, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one approach in obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also sponsor 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 via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Sun City West AZ students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Sun City West and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
After you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Sun City West AZ area and all over the Country to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Sun City West AZ area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate might signify that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can result in 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 Sun City West AZ HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Sun City West AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Sun City West AZ HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Sun City West AZ home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction 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 see how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Sun City West AZ, check that the programs you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification
Enrolling in the right HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Sun City West AZ.