How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling College near Tucson Arizona
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Tucson AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other factors 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 in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor 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 technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Tucson AZ HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly proficient and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency exam and can 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive examination 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 exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, 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 imperative that you select an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are a variety of options offered for HVAC training 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 amount of time, typically completed in just six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Tucson AZ.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared 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.
Choosing the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Tucson AZ, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all 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 in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Tucson AZ students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Tucson and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
As soon as you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you want to acquire, either online or on campus, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Tucson AZ area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical schools in the Tucson AZ area have received 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 instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire an excellent education, it can help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It may also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may produce 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 additionally that it has the network of Tucson AZ HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Tucson AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying practical training, but it also provides job 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 instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Tucson AZ HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Tucson AZ residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized 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 big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Tucson AZ, check that the schools you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling field. As we have covered in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to look for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect 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. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Tucson AZ.