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How to Find the Right HVAC Degree Program near Benton Arkansas

Benton Arkansas home A/C condensersOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Benton AR. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you need? A number of future students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details 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 other benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Technician

Benton Arkansas HVAC Contractor inspecting A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not required, but a voluntary means for Benton AR HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Here are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs

Benton Arkansas residential heating pump

There are a number of options offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often achieved in as little as six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each option offered near Benton AR.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring two years to finish, a number of degrees include 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing 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 approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Benton AR, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Schools Online

Choosing an HVAC school online is one option to getting your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also provide 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 participated in online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Benton AR students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus options. Even driving expenses from Benton and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your active schedule.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Benton Arkansas HVAC technician servicing water heater

As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you would like to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to limit your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Benton AR area and all over the Country to select from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 aspects you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC trade programs in the Benton AR area have acquired 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 a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at 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 could indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also mean that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Benton AR HVAC employers to assist graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC technical programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring relationships with local Benton AR HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Benton AR HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Also keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Benton AR home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Benton AR, check that the schools you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain 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 responsibilities.

Find Out More About Benton Heating and Cooling Courses Near You

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Selecting the right HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have covered 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 things to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk 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 choices and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Benton AR.