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How to Find the Right HVAC Certification Class near Benton Arkansas

Benton Arkansas home air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Benton AR. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the right one to get the training that you require? Many potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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. These and additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Contractor

Benton Arkansas HVAC Technician servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary way for Benton AR HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Following are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses

Benton Arkansas residential heat pump

There are a number of choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually achieved in just 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Benton AR.

  • Certificate. Generally 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 trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive 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 for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Benton AR, later returning to acquire 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 Online Training

Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Benton AR students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Benton and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Benton Arkansas Heating and Cooling tech installing water heater

After you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Benton AR area and all over the USA to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Benton AR area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you obtain an excellent education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, 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 Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing 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 may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It could also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize 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 additionally that it has the network of Benton AR HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Benton AR HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Benton AR HVAC company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Benton AR residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Benton AR, verify that the programs you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be 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.

Find Out More About Benton Heating and Cooling Training Classes In Your Area

Get Your Heating and Cooling Training and Certification

Enrolling in the right HVAC school course is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have addressed 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 trade. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Benton AR.