How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Program near Fairbanks Alaska
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Fairbanks AK. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you need? Some prospective students will make their decision based exclusively on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. While these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other benchmarks will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and cooling technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally 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 specialists to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the field that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed 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 multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are several alternatives offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least amount of time, often achieved in as little as 6 months, though some courses 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 programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Fairbanks AK.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally requiring two years to complete, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management or even 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 air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career objectives are, as well as 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 gaining some experience in the field in Fairbanks AK, later returning to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Classes
Enrolling in an HVAC program online is one approach in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Almost 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 in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Fairbanks AK students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Fairbanks and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your busy schedule.
Questions For HVAC Certification Classes
After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Fairbanks AK area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical programs in the Fairbanks AK area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates 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 example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get a quality education, it can help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited programs. Additionally, some 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 reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate might signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It could also mean that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, 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 industry, but also that it has the network of Fairbanks AK HVAC employers to help graduates acquire apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools 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 considering have working partnerships with local Fairbanks AK HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Fairbanks AK HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within driving distance of your Fairbanks AK home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased 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 difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak with several of the students and get their comments concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, confirm that the schools you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.
Earn Your HVAC Degree and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have addressed in this article, you need to select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are lots of hands-on training and modern facilities. You should check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Fairbanks AK.