How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Yuma Arizona
Once you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Yuma AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are important factors to consider, 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. These and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Yuma AZ HVAC technicians to establish that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be required in your location, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each option offered near Yuma AZ.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to complete, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management or even 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 air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Yuma AZ, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Courses Online
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one approach in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also offer 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 attended on the web, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Yuma AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Yuma and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Schools
After you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, 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 Yuma AZ area and throughout the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two variables you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Yuma AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It may also suggest that the instructors were not competent 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 alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Yuma AZ HVAC employers to assist graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Yuma AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Yuma AZ HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Yuma AZ home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Yuma AZ, verify that the programs 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, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Choosing the right HVAC training program is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Yuma AZ.