How to Select the Right HVAC Training Class near Fairbanks Alaska
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to choose an HVAC trade school near Fairbanks AK. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the right one to obtain the training that you need? Many prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Even though these are relevant concerns, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and a/c specialist does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Fairbanks AK HVAC technicians to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are many acknowledged certifications within the trade that are available. Below are some of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and can 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms 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 obtain certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Courses
There are a number of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, often completed in as little as six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Fairbanks AK.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the right credential program will be based on what your long term career objectives are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Fairbanks AK, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Attending an HVAC school online is one possibility in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended online, this option may be a more practical solution for many Fairbanks AK students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional choices. Even driving expenses from Fairbanks and study supplies can be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Questions For HVAC Training Classes
As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you want to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Fairbanks AK area and all over the United States to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a list of important qualifications when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC vocational programs in the Fairbanks AK area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Make certain that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping make certain that you get an excellent education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to qualify 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 low completion rate might signify that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It might also mean that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may produce 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Fairbanks AK HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC trade programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship 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 reviewing have referring partnerships with local Fairbanks AK HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Fairbanks AK HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Fairbanks AK residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, check that the schools you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Choosing the right HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other things to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to 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 instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Fairbanks AK.