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How to Find the Right HVAC Certificate Program near Tempe Arizona

Tempe Arizona home air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Tempe AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Tempe Arizona Heating and Cooling Technician inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Tempe AZ HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses

Tempe Arizona home heating pump

There are a variety of options offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically achieved in just six 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 programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Tempe AZ.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually 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 require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 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.

Selecting the right credential program will be dependent 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 gaining some experience in the trade in Tempe AZ, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative in getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in on the web, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Tempe AZ students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Tempe and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. 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 little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes

Tempe Arizona Heating and Cooling technician servicing water heater

As soon as you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Tempe AZ area and across the United States to select from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial two factors you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC trade programs in the Tempe AZ area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate may suggest that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also indicate that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Tempe AZ HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC vocational programs are taught along 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 Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Tempe AZ HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm 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 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 looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Tempe AZ HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Tempe AZ home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Tempe AZ, confirm that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Tempe Heating and Cooling Training Programs Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Selecting the ideal HVAC training course is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and 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 exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to look for are ample hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper 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 educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Tempe AZ.