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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Tucson Arizona

Tucson Arizona residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Tucson AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you select the right one to receive the training that you require? A number of future students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Professional

Tucson Arizona Heating and Cooling Contractor servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently 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, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Tucson AZ HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. 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 proficiency 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 professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Tucson Arizona home heat pump

There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually completed in just 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each credential offered near Tucson AZ.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to finish, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Tucson AZ, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Training Online

Attending an HVAC program online is one approach in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Tucson AZ students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Tucson and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions For HVAC Certification Courses

Tucson Arizona Heating and Cooling technician repairing water heater

After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you would like to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Tucson AZ area and across the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade schools in the Tucson AZ area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you acquire an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it 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 program. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It might also suggest that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to employ 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Tucson AZ HVAC employers to assist students obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Tucson AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Tucson AZ HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Tucson AZ home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much personalized training 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 see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Tucson AZ, check that the schools you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Find Out More About Tucson HVAC Courses Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Choosing the ideal HVAC school program is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate 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 state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget 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 proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Tucson AZ.