HVAC Trade Schools and Training Programs
Having skills, tools, and knowing techniques of the trade is only half of the HVAC work.
The other half includes demonstrating your skills to people you’ve never met.
Whether it’s a potential client or employer, to demonstrate your skills, you need certified training.
But not all certificates are of equal value.
What To Look For In An HVAC School
Like with other schools, there are some factors to consider before starting your search.
Think about your needs.
- What is the outcome you’re hoping for?
- Will it work best for you to study full-time or are your working and need to find a part-time program?
- Would you like your program to lead you directly into licensure?
- Do you already hold a license and want to expand your skillset?
After you know the answers to these questions, you will be prepared to browse through available programs.
The next thing you need to determine is whether a program is “good”.
A program must have the following four things to be worth consideration:
This is the first thing you should consider when choosing a program.
If a program doesn’t have accreditation, you risk investing money and time into a certificate that won’t be accepted by professionals.
An unaccredited school may not have the proper training facilities.
The faculty may be not properly trained.
In the worst-case scenario, it may be a for-profit school, which will put you in junk classes and hand you a fake diploma.
Always find out if a school has accreditation, especially if it’s not obvious right away.
You want to look for one of the two things – HVAC Excellence accreditation or regional accreditation.
In the ideal situation, the program should have both.
With the regional accreditation, a school is allowed to issue recognized diplomas or degrees.
HVAC Excellence is a program that certifies HVAC programs following national guidelines.
Whether the education you’re pursuing is classroom-based or apprentice-style, the program should work with the tools you’ll be learning about.
Make sure your classes include as much real work as possible.
Learning a wide range of skills in the classroom is essential too.
If you are working only on one type of unit the whole time, you’re not getting the necessary education.
The Path to Success
This is one of the vital parts of the process.
Trade schools aren’t just about coming and getting knowledge.
They should be a useful stepping stone into a real-life job.
Before you pick a school and enroll, find out what type of career-matching services they have.
Ensure that the program will prepare you for the state licensing exam, which isn’t held through the school.
Also, find out if the program connects you with local jobs or apprenticeship programs.
Ask the faculty or administrators how many graduates obtained the licensing successfully.
Also, find out if they transitioned from the program to jobs right away.
Cost should also be taken into consideration.
Even if the cost is high, most programs provide some type of financial aid.
It can be a loan, scholarship, or federal aid.
The program should have qualified staff that can help you find the best way to pay for your program.
In the long run, the program will pay off if it will prepare you well for the HVAC job.
Be sure that the cost they are asking you to pay corresponds with your expectations of what you will get from the program.
The Best HVAC Schools in the USA
To help you get a better understanding of a great HVAC program, we have covered the information about three of the best HVAC schools in the States.
If you live near them or willing to relocate, you should consider one of these programs.
These programs offer the best hands-on classroom training and have talented faculty.
If these schools are far from you, you can consider them as a template for what to look for in a school that’s close to you to meet your needs.
Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology – HVAC&R Program
Benjamin Franklin IT is a not-for-profit trade school located outside of Boston, MA.
The school is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.
The program teacher general HVAC procedures and also deeply covers working with refrigerant chemicals.
That’s why it’s called HVAC-R.
The program takes nine months, with a total of 800 hours of in-class experience.
The program has a flexible schedule, featuring day and night classes and weekend workshops.
So, if you are trying to fit work and school in your schedule, this program can be a great fit.
As of 2017, the cost of the program was around $16,500 per year on average (after financial aid packages).
Graduates of the program are well-prepared for the EPA certifications with options for OSHA safety certification and R-410 certification.
The program is a great choice because it focuses on hands-on experience.
Every class features a lecture and lab components.
Classes range from “Safety, Tools & Shop Practices” to “Commercial & Industrial AC.”
Every class has a specific result designed to prepare you to succeed in the field.
The school has top-tier facilities, run under the guidance of Hampden Engineer trainers.
North Michigan University – HVACR Program
NMU is based in Marquette, MI, and offers an HVAC & Refrigeration program.
Unlike the BFIT, this program is a two-year certificate.
It provides hands-on experience with metal layout, electrical components, and testing equipment.
The program is intensive and provides 44 credits in total.
It’s almost twice as much as the BFIT program provides (28 credits) and includes a lot of hands-on experience.
The program costs $14,500 for in-state tuition and $22,500, for out-of-state, before financial aid packages.
The cost also doesn’t include supply costs, and room and board fees.
Financial aid can reduce these costs significantly.
The NMU makes class sizes very small and includes a lot of good one-on-one instructor time during lectures and labs.
Miami Dade College – Air Conditioning, Refrigeration & Heating Systems Technology
Contrary to the other two programs, Miami Dade offers a full associate’s degree in HVAC technology.
The program takes 2-3 years to complete and provides a total of 64 credits.
It also has some online options, so students can better fit classes in their schedules.
Besides the essentials in HVAC, such as “Air Conditioning Fundamentals,” MDC also offers important courses on humanities and communication.
With these requirements, this program is much more well-rounded than BFIT or NMU.
It may seem at first that liberal arts courses such as “Ethics” or “English composition” aren’t important.
But they can make a difference between working as an HVAC tech for years and taking on a management role.
Effective communication and critical thinking can help you succeed over what your skills only can bring you.
MDC tuition is as low as $4,900/term for non-residents and $1,500/term for FL residents.
In total, the cost of the program comes around $7,800.
It’s reported that 90% of graduates finish the program without any debt.
The Best Online HVAC Programs
If the program in a traditional college doesn’t meet your goals, you can benefit from some online options.
Online schools aren’t perfect because the primary factor that makes a program good is the hands-on experience.
You can’t gain it learning fully online.
Online courses may work for your well, however, if you are already enrolled in an apprenticeship or want to gain an extra certificate to improve your HVAC resume.
Online courses may have in-person facilities for gaining experience.
Some online programs are designed only to prepare you for the certification exam.
Ferris State University
Ferris State University is located in Michigan.
It offers a fully-online bachelor’s degree.
The program covers the fundamentals of HVAC&R systems, technologies, and applications.
This is one of the only two schools that offer a Bachelor’s degree in HVAC technology.
Online students are required to complete one week of in-person workshops every year.
It means you will have to travel to campus in Michigan to complete hands-on work, additionally to the online course.
While Ferris State University doesn’t offer full hands-on experience, it still offers some hands-on learning, unlike most online programs.
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
ACCA isn’t a school, but a professional organization connecting HVAC professionals.
ACCA offers training, resources, and job prospects for them.
The membership fee is $39 per month.
After you become a member, you can access many certification courses that will add to your skillset.
The courses include a variety from Refrigerant Handling to certification for training other HVAC techs.
While this is not a full trade school program, these resources can be extremely useful for a well-rounded resume.
ACCA provides a range of resources to those who already hold certifications and those who wish to expand or focus their specialty.
Ashworth College offers a course that will prepare you for the HVAC state certification.
The course provides the materials necessary to pass the state-required certification exam.
This course covers only a bit of the trade, but it’s a great resource for those who are preparing to pass their EPA Section 608 Certification exam.
If you already have some knowledge, this is a brief course that will help you prepare for the exam.
It all comes down to knowing that you need to succeed as an HVAC tech.
Then you need to find the proper resources available to you.
There are multiple educational resources that help you decide on the next steps.
Whether you already have experience or just starting in the field, choosing from degree programs or certificate courses, you can find the best path to meet your needs.
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