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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Program Near Catalina Arizona

Catalina Arizona commercial hvac technician installing furnacesNow that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling professional, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Catalina AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you need? A number of future students will make their selection based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other factors that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Catalina Arizona residential air conditioning condensers

There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often achieved in as little as six months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each credential offered near Catalina Az.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally requiring two years to finish, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Catalina AZ, subsequently going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Catalina Arizona central heating registerAttending an HVAC school online is one approach to getting your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes can be attended online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Catalina AZ students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Catalina and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.

Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly mandated to be licensed, though each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Catalina AZ HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are many respected certifications within the trade that are offered. Following are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with 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 examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Catalina Arizona hvac tech installing water heater

After you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Catalina AZ area and throughout the Country to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Catalina AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you receive an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, many states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved 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 of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and quit. It may also signify that the instructors were not competent 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 broader list of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Catalina AZ HVAC employers to help students secure apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC trade 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 within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Catalina AZ HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently 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 Catalina AZ HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Catalina AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees 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 experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Catalina AZ, confirm that the schools you are reviewing provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, 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 because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Catalina HVAC Schools

Earn Your HVAC Degree or Certificate

Choosing the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling field. As we have addressed in this article, you should select an Heating and Cooling school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are ample practical training and modern 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 instruction and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Catalina AZ.


 

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