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How to Find the Right HVAC Program near Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska residential A/C condensersOnce you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner professional, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Anchorage AK. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the ideal one to get the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their choice based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Technician

Anchorage Alaska HVAC Contractor fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Acquiring professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Anchorage AK HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the field that are offered. Following are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be required in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's imperative that you choose an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Anchorage Alaska residential heater

There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, typically achieved in just 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each option offered near Anchorage AK.

  • Certificate. Generally 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 job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive understanding of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring 2 years to finish, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, as well as 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 getting some experience in the field in Anchorage AK, later going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make certain to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Schools Online

Attending an HVAC school online is one option in obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in practical training. Some also provide 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 on the web, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Anchorage AK students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Anchorage and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic schedule.

Questions For HVAC Training Classes

Anchorage Alaska HVAC technician replacing water heater

When you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you want to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Anchorage AK area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifiers when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will most likely be the first two aspects you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Anchorage AK area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you receive a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of 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 portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might suggest that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It might also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can produce 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 an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Anchorage AK HVAC employers to help students acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Anchorage AK HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to form 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 state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Anchorage AK HVAC company if they can give you some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Anchorage AK residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging 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 experience the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to several of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Anchorage AK, check that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Anchorage HVAC Training Programs In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Finding the ideal HVAC school course is a crucial beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating & cooling trade. As we have discussed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling choices and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Anchorage AK.