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How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Fairbanks Alaska

Fairbanks Alaska home air conditioning condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Fairbanks AK. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the ideal one to receive the training that you need? Many potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other things 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 addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we tackle how to pick an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and cooling specialist does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Tech

Fairbanks Alaska HVAC Tech servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Fairbanks AK HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the field that are available. Below are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency examination and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers 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 in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes

Fairbanks Alaska residential heat pump

There are a variety of options offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the least period of time, typically accomplished in just six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each credential offered near Fairbanks AK.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring two years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the right credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Fairbanks AK, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Attending an HVAC school online is one option in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in online, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Fairbanks AK students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even driving expenses from Fairbanks and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Fairbanks Alaska HVAC technician installing water heater

Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Fairbanks AK area and throughout the Country to select from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC vocational programs in the Fairbanks AK area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make sure that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it can assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Also, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It may also indicate that the instructors were not competent to train the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, 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 confirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Fairbanks AK HVAC employers to assist grads acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Fairbanks AK HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Fairbanks AK HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Fairbanks AK home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Talk to some of the students and get their opinions regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, verify that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Fairbanks Heating and Cooling Training Classes Near You

Get Your HVAC Degree and Certification

Finding the ideal HVAC training course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other things to look for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC professional in Fairbanks AK.