How to Select the Right HVAC Certification Course near Tempe Arizona
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Tempe AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you select the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? A number of future students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other details that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Tempe AZ HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and can be acquired 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 required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically achieved in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Tempe AZ.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more detailed knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Tempe 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 Courses Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility to attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Tempe AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Tempe and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And numerous 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 HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Schools
Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Tempe AZ area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is extremely important 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 variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Tempe AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate could signify that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It may also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to utilize 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 field, but also that it has the network of Tempe AZ HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Tempe AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed 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, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Tempe AZ HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Tempe AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Tempe AZ, verify that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Selecting the right HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally 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 training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Tempe AZ.