How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Tucson Arizona
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to locate an HVAC vocational school near Tucson AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to obtain the training that you require? Some potential students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just 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. These and other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Tucson AZ HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that work with 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 mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually completed in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each credential offered near Tucson AZ.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 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 for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for 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 ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Tucson AZ, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative in getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Tucson AZ students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Tucson and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
When you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Tucson AZ area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of important qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Tucson AZ area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can 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 sure that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it may assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling 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 program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also suggest that the teachers 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 list of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Tucson AZ HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Tucson AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local 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 using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Tucson AZ HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Tucson AZ home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added 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 monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk with a few of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify 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 Tucson AZ, verify that the programs you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Finding the ideal HVAC school course is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have covered 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 community. Other things to look for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Tucson AZ.