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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Surprise Arizona

Surprise Arizona residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to find an HVAC technical school near Surprise AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the best one to obtain the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things 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. Those and other criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Pro

Surprise Arizona Heating and Cooling Technician repairing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Surprise AZ HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many 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 acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and can 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Surprise Arizona home heater

There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically completed in just six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Surprise AZ.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, many 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 standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught 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 objectives are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Surprise AZ, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Classes

Attending an HVAC program online is one option to attaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most 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 as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended via the internet, this option may be a more practical solution for some Surprise AZ students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Surprise and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes

Surprise Arizona HVAC tech servicing water heater

When you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Surprise AZ area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Surprise AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It could also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher 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 affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Surprise AZ HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Surprise AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Surprise AZ HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Surprise AZ home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with a few of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

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

Learn More About Surprise Heating and Cooling Training In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Selecting the right HVAC training course is a critical first step 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 certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to search for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk 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 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 checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Surprise AZ.