How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Bella Vista Arkansas
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Bella Vista AR. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the right one to obtain the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors 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 other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Professional
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry 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 commonly required to be licensed, though every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for Bella Vista AR HVAC techs to prove that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Following are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and can 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 together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Courses
There are a variety of options offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each credential offered near Bella Vista AR.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring two years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Bella Vista AR, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Choosing an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Bella Vista AR students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Bella Vista and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Classes
Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Bella Vista AR area and all over the United States to select from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first 2 variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Bella Vista AR area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a quality education, it can assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate could signify that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, 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 affirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Bella Vista AR HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Bella Vista AR HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Bella Vista AR HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Bella Vista AR residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Bella Vista AR, verify that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Training and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to search 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 inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed 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 commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Bella Vista AR.