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How to Pick the Right Heating and Cooling Training Class near Fairbanks Alaska

Fairbanks Alaska residential air conditioning condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to find an HVAC vocational school near Fairbanks AK. But with so many to pick from, how do you decide on the right one to receive the training that you need? Some potential students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant considerations, they are not the only ones to investigate. Some of the other factors that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to select an HVAC training program, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Fairbanks Alaska HVAC Contractor fixing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not required, but an optional means for Fairbanks AK HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the trade that are available. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a proficiency exam and may be received 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 examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Training Programs

Fairbanks Alaska home heating pump

There are several choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often completed in as little as six months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Fairbanks AK.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more comprehensive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically requiring 2 years to complete, many degrees feature 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 conventional four 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 right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the trade in Fairbanks AK, later going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Courses Online

Choosing an HVAC school online is one possibility to obtaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. A number also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Fairbanks AK students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. 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 commitments have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Fairbanks Alaska Heating and Cooling contractor installing water heater

When you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to attain, either on campus or online, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Fairbanks AK area and throughout the United States to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school comparisons. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first two variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Numerous HVAC trade programs in the Fairbanks AK area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of graduates, which may result in more contacts for the school to use 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 Fairbanks AK HVAC employers to assist students acquire apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC training programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are considering have referring relationships with local Fairbanks AK HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Fairbanks AK HVAC contractor if they can provide some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Fairbanks AK home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there can be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging 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 witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their feedback relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with some of the instructors and learn what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing 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 offer those options. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Fairbanks HVAC Courses Near You

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification

Selecting the ideal HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC trade. Other features to look for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Fairbanks AK.