How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Training near Tucson Arizona
Now that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Tucson AZ. But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Tucson AZ HVAC techs to establish that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the field that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be required in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you select 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 decide on prepares 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 technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, typically accomplished in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short explanation of each option offered near Tucson AZ.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge 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 geared 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 being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your future career objectives are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Tucson AZ, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC school online is one option in attaining your training and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many 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 on the web, this option may be a more practical solution for many Tucson AZ students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Tucson and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your busy schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
After you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Tucson AZ area and throughout the United States to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade schools in the Tucson AZ area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a quality education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate 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 percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might signify that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It may also suggest that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to use 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Tucson AZ HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Tucson AZ HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Tucson AZ HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Tucson AZ home. Remember 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 important that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Tucson AZ, verify that the schools you are comparing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore 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. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Tucson AZ.