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How to Pick the Best Heating and Cooling School Near Fountain Hills Arizona

Fountain Hills Arizona commercial hvac contractor servicing furnacesOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Fountain Hills AZ. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Some of the other details 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. Those and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Fountain Hills Arizona home air conditioning condensers

There are a number of options offered for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often achieved in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Fountain Hills Az.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to finish, some degrees feature 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 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.

Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, together with 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 gaining some experience in the field in Fountain Hills AZ, subsequently returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Fountain Hills Arizona central heating registerAttending an HVAC school online is one option to getting your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended via the internet, this option may be a more convenient solution for many Fountain Hills AZ students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even travelling expenses from Fountain Hills and study materials can be reduced, helping to make schooling more economical. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic schedule.

HVAC Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an alternative means for Fountain Hills AZ HVAC technicians to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several acknowledged certifications within the industry that are available. Following are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle 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 select an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Fountain Hills Arizona hvac tech installing hot water heater

After you have chosen the type of degree or certificate that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Fountain Hills AZ area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first 2 variables you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC trade programs in the Fountain Hills AZ area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you obtain a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It might also indicate that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the industry, but also that it has the network of Fountain Hills AZ HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC training programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Fountain Hills AZ HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Fountain Hills AZ HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Fountain Hills AZ home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult 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 teachers and students. Speak to some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Fountain Hills 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 offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Fountain Hills HVAC Vocational Schools

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have covered in this post, you should choose an HVAC training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to look for are sufficient practical training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. 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 appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Fountain Hills AZ.


 

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