How to Select the Right HVAC School near Benton Arkansas
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Benton AR. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the best one to receive the training that you need? A number of future students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other factors that you need to investigate 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 within this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Benton AR HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized 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 techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency examination 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 as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also intend to acquire certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a number of alternatives available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, usually accomplished in as little as six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Benton AR.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial 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 detailed understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring 2 years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your future career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Benton AR, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative to attaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended on the web, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for many Benton AR students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Benton and study materials may be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
After you have picked the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Benton AR area and across the USA to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you should research 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 may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It might also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can produce 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of Benton AR HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC training programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Benton AR HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm 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 presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Benton AR HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Benton AR home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be higher 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 bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the teachers and find out 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 assessing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Benton AR, check that the schools you are looking at offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Picking the right HVAC training course is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. 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 trade. Other factors to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally 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 training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. 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 educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Benton AR.