How to Select the Right HVAC School near Tucson Arizona
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to find an HVAC technical school near Tucson AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to obtain the training that you need? A number of future students will make their decision based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be discussed 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 specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Tucson AZ HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Following are some of the significant 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 can be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three 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 mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are a number of options offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, typically achieved in just six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Tucson AZ.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally 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 tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Tucson AZ, subsequently returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one option in getting your education and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Tucson AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Tucson and study materials can be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
Questions For HVAC Training Classes
After you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you wish to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Tucson AZ area and all over the United States to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school assessments. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Tucson AZ area have attained 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 approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Also, some states mandate 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 could suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to use 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 trade, but additionally that it has the network of Tucson AZ HVAC employers to help grads secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Tucson AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area 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 working with in the field. If you are presently 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. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school must be within driving 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 charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Tucson AZ, verify that the programs you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person 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 instruction and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate 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 appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Tucson AZ.