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How to Choose the Right HVAC Program near Benton Arkansas

Benton Arkansas residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, 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 receive the training that you require? A number of potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. 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 additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Contractor

Benton Arkansas HVAC Technician fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Benton AR HVAC specialists to establish that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are many acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Here 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 exam and can be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Benton Arkansas residential heating pump

There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually accomplished in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Benton AR.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish 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 and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 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 towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your future career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Benton AR, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one possibility to attaining your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Benton AR students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Benton and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Benton Arkansas Heating and Cooling tech replacing water heater

After you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Benton AR area and across the USA to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first 2 factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC trade programs in the Benton AR area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can earn 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 organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain a quality education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the course and dropped out. It could also suggest that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but additionally that it has the network of Benton AR HVAC employers to assist graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational 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 referring relationships with local Benton AR HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Benton AR HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, 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, 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 personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with some of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Benton AR, verify that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Benton HVAC Trade Schools Near You

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are ample 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 tour the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Benton AR.