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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling School near Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska residential A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near Anchorage AK. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to obtain the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their choice based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just 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. These and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

Becoming an HVAC Specialist

Anchorage Alaska Heating and Cooling Technician fixing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Anchorage AK HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are multiple recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Below 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 competency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing could be required in your area, and you may also desire to earn 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 working with refrigerants, make sure that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree Schools

Anchorage Alaska home heater

There are a number of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often accomplished in as little as 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short description of each option offered near Anchorage AK.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more exhaustive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally 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 call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to being taught 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 future career objectives are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Anchorage AK, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Classes Online

Choosing an HVAC school online is one alternative to attaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in online, this alternative may be a more accessible solution for some Anchorage AK students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Anchorage and study materials may be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career 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 active lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools

Anchorage Alaska Heating and Cooling contractor replacing water heater

As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Anchorage AK area and throughout the USA to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial 2 variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Anchorage AK area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a quality education, it can assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved 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 of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It might also signify that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Anchorage AK HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Anchorage AK HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Confirm that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Anchorage AK HVAC contractor if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Anchorage AK home. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you get as much one-on-one instruction 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 see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the teachers 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 schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Anchorage AK, check that the programs you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Anchorage HVAC Training In Your Area

Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Enrolling in the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are plenty of practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk 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 or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Anchorage AK.