How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Training Program near Benton Arkansas
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next step is to choose an HVAC technical school near Benton AR. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the best one to receive the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation completion 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 within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, 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 mandatory, but a voluntary way for Benton AR HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are many recognized certifications within the trade 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 earned by passing a proficiency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are several choices available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually accomplished in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Benton AR.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to complete, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 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 long term career aspirations are, as well as the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Benton AR, eventually returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended online, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Benton AR students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Benton and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Questions For HVAC Schools
After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you wish to attain, either online or on campus, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Benton AR area and across the United States to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifiers when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two variables you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Benton AR area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It might also suggest that the instructors were not competent to instruct 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 list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to use 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 students secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC vocational programs are taught along 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 HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Benton AR HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Benton AR HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Additionally keep 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 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 desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Talk with some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Benton AR, verify that the programs you are reviewing provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC training course is a critical beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to search 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 or not evening 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 outlined in our guidelines for evaluating 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 ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Benton AR.