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How to Pick the Right HVAC Program near Surprise Arizona

Surprise Arizona home A/C condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Surprise AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the right one to obtain the training that you need? A number of future students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other details that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Professional

Surprise Arizona Heating and Cooling Tech inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Surprise AZ HVAC techs to establish that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the field 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 earned by passing a competency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be required in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

Surprise Arizona residential heating pump

There are several options available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, typically achieved in just six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each credential offered near Surprise AZ.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to finish, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Surprise AZ, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended online, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Surprise AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Surprise and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Schools

Surprise Arizona HVAC contractor installing water heater

As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you desire to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Surprise AZ area and all over the Country to select from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Surprise AZ area have received 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 an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a quality education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it 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 of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It could also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory 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 affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Surprise AZ HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training 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 companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Surprise AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies 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 state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Surprise AZ HVAC contracting company if they can provide some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Surprise AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to some of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Surprise AZ, check that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Surprise HVAC Trade Schools Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Picking the right HVAC school course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed 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 community. Other features to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing 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 professional in Surprise AZ.