How to Enroll In the Right Heating and Cooling College near Fairbanks Alaska
Now that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner technician, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near Fairbanks AK. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to obtain the training that you require? Many future students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other factors 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 in this article. But before we explore how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Contractor
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Fairbanks AK HVAC specialists to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Following are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency examination and may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you choose readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Training Programs
There are a variety of options available for HVAC training in a trade or technical school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often accomplished in just 6 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 can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each credential offered near Fairbanks AK.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking 2 years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, together with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Fairbanks AK, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach in obtaining your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be attended online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Fairbanks AK students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even commuting expenses from Fairbanks and study supplies may be minimized, helping to make schooling more economical. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it easier to fit school into your active lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Trade Schools
After you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Fairbanks AK area and throughout the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial two variables you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Fairbanks AK area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you acquire a quality education, it can assist in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited in order to be approved 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 percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A lower completion rate might indicate that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It might also suggest 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 directory of alumni, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Fairbanks AK HVAC employers to help graduates secure apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Numerous HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC contractors or trade unions. Check if the schools you are considering have working relationships with local Fairbanks AK HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Fairbanks AK HVAC contractor if they can give you some suggestions. Also keep in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Fairbanks AK home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to some of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the instructors and find out what their level of expertise 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 meet your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, verify that the schools you are considering provide those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, ask what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Picking the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning field. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other factors to look for are lots of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether 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 proper 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 informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Fairbanks AK.