How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling School Near Flagstaff Arizona
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Flagstaff AZ. But with so many to select from, how do you select the best one to receive the training that you require? A number of future students will make their choice based solely on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. 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 other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are a number of options offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade 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 accomplished in as little as six months, however some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Flagstaff Az.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to complete, a number of 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 traditional 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 ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Flagstaff AZ, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Enrolling in an HVAC school online is one approach to getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also provide 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 via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Flagstaff AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional options. Even driving expenses from Flagstaff and study materials may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Earning professional certification is not required, but an optional way for Flagstaff AZ HVAC techs to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available 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 need to have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be required in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
What to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Flagstaff AZ area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical schools in the Flagstaff AZ area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you get an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Cooling 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 program. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and quit. It could also mean that the teachers 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 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 a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Flagstaff AZ HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship 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 working partnerships with local Flagstaff AZ HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Flagstaff AZ HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Flagstaff AZ residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in 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 one-on-one 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 observe how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak 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 experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Flagstaff AZ, check that the programs you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate
Selecting the right HVAC school course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this post, you need to select an HVAC technical school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to search for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing 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 commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC technician in Flagstaff AZ.