How to Select the Right HVAC Degree Program near Tucson Arizona
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC vocational school near Tucson AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the best one to obtain the training that you need? Some future students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some 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 benchmarks will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Tucson AZ HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Following are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available 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 along with 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 techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC technical 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 readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are several options offered for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically completed in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Tucson AZ.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Tucson AZ, eventually going back to obtain 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 Training
Choosing an HVAC program online is one possibility in attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for many Tucson AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Tucson and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Classes
Once you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Tucson AZ area and all over the USA to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first 2 factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Tucson AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you obtain a superior education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing 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 might indicate that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It may also indicate that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which may result in 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 an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Tucson AZ HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Tucson AZ HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained 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, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Tucson AZ HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Tucson AZ home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in 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 important that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Tucson AZ, verify that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your HVAC Training and Certification
Finding the right HVAC training program is an important first step toward a gratifying 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 degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines 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 commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Tucson AZ.