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How to Become an HVAC Technician

Alaska Heating and Cooling Tech servicing A/C condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for  AK HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of recognized certifications within the trade that are offered. Here 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 may be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are provided in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing could be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it's important that you enroll in an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you choose preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

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There are a number of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, often completed in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near AK.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning 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 supplies a more exhaustive background of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring two years to finish, a number of degrees include an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 year program. In addition to being taught how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.

Selecting the ideal credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in  AK, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

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