How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Certificate Program near Anchorage Alaska
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC trade school near Anchorage AK. But with so many to choose from, how do you select the right one to get the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Anchorage AK HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Here are some 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 exam 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 professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience along with 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 technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are a variety of options offered for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least amount of time, usually completed in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Anchorage AK.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Anchorage AK, eventually going back to acquire 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 Courses Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one alternative in obtaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended online, this option may be a more practical solution for some Anchorage AK students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even travelling expenses from Anchorage and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.
What to Ask HVAC Schools
After you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you wish to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are a large number of HVAC trade schools in the Anchorage AK area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two factors you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Anchorage AK area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you obtain a quality education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are considering 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 could indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of graduates, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Anchorage AK HVAC employers to help grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Anchorage AK HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment 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, check with the HVAC tech you are working with concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Anchorage AK HVAC contractor if they can provide some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Anchorage AK residence. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Speak with some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Anchorage AK, check that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Finding the ideal HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening 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 checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Anchorage AK.