How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling School near Fairbanks Alaska
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC trade school near Fairbanks AK. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to receive the training that you need? Some future students will make their choice based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other factors 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 other criteria will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
How to Become an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Attaining professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Fairbanks AK HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of recognized certifications within the industry that are available. Here are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination 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 required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Courses
There are several options offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, although 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 programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each option offered near Fairbanks AK.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually taking two years to complete, some degrees include 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 being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Fairbanks AK, eventually returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Training Online
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility to obtaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Some 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 may be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Fairbanks AK students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Fairbanks and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make schooling more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your active schedule.
Questions For HVAC Schools
As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Fairbanks AK area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial 2 factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Fairbanks AK area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you get a superior education, it can assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to be approved for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC 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 may suggest that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It might also mean that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Fairbanks AK HVAC employers to assist grads secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. A large number of HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Fairbanks AK HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes job 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 using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Fairbanks AK HVAC contracting company if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Fairbanks AK residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with some of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family issues.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Choosing the ideal HVAC school program is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to search for are ample practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Fairbanks AK.