How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling College near Tempe Arizona
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Tempe AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the best one to get 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 residence. While these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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 additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
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, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Tempe AZ HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be required in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's important that you select an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are several options offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, typically achieved in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Tempe AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to finish, some 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Tempe AZ, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one alternative to getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. A number 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 via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Tempe AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Tempe and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you wish to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Tempe AZ area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Tempe AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you acquire a quality education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also mean that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, 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 validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Tempe AZ HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC training programs are taught along 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 companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Tempe AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school 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, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Tempe AZ HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Tempe AZ home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and teachers. Talk with a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Tempe AZ, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Finding the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk 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 whether or not evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Tempe AZ.