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

Fairbanks Alaska home A/C condensersOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Fairbanks AK. But with so many to select from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their selection based entirely on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their home. Although these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few 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. Those and additional criteria will be discussed in more detail later within this article. But before we explore how to choose an HVAC trade school, let's take a look at what a heating and air conditioning professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Fairbanks Alaska Heating and Cooling Technician inspecting air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, though every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional way for Fairbanks AK HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few 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 competency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Because licensing may be mandated in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's important that you select an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you select prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Degree Courses

Fairbanks Alaska residential heating pump

There are a variety of choices available for HVAC training in a vocational or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often achieved in just six months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Fairbanks AK.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually taking 2 years to finish, many 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 conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to 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 trade in Fairbanks AK, eventually going back to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative in getting your training and earning a degree or certificate. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for some Fairbanks AK students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less costly than other traditional options. Even commuting expenses from Fairbanks and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses

Fairbanks Alaska Heating and Cooling contractor replacing water heater

As soon as you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC trade schools in the Fairbanks AK area and throughout the Country to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the initial two aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC trade schools in the Fairbanks AK area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you acquire a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently unavailable for non-accredited schools. Also, many 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 considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage or portion of students who enroll in and complete the program. A low completion rate might signify that students were dissatisfied with the program and quit. It may also signify that the instructors were not competent to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Fairbanks AK HVAC employers to assist grads obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC vocational 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 Heating and Cooling businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring partnerships with local Fairbanks AK HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also provides 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 working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local Fairbanks AK HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Fairbanks AK home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger 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 instructors. Speak with several of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak to a few of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, confirm that the schools you are considering offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Additionally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Fairbanks HVAC Training Programs In Your Area

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Finding the right HVAC school program is a critical beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should select a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to look for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore 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 choices and if night or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options also. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the proper training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Fairbanks AK.