How to Pick the Right HVAC Certification Training near Benton Arkansas
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Benton AR. But with so many to select from, how do you select the right one to get the training that you require? Some potential students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other details 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 additional benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC vocational 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 Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Benton AR HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and can be earned 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 required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, 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 intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick 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 preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Training Programs
There are a number of choices offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically accomplished in just six months, though 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 training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish 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 provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to finish, many degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Benton AR, later going back to acquire 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 Courses Online
Attending an HVAC school online is one possibility to getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be participated in online, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Benton AR students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Benton and study materials can be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your active schedule.
What to Ask HVAC Training Programs
As soon as you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Benton AR area and across the Country to select from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial 2 factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Benton AR area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a quality education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC 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 course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also indicate that the instructors were not competent 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 more extensive list of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Benton AR HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Benton AR HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus 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 already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Benton AR HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also keep in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Benton AR home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger 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 teachers and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Benton AR, check that the schools you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Finding the right HVAC training course is a critical first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Benton AR.