How to Pick the Best HVAC Program Near Anchorage Alaska
Once you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC vocational school near Anchorage AK. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the ideal one to get the training that you require? Some potential students will make their choice based exclusively on the price of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. While these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other things that you need to research are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning technician does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are several options offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the lesser period of time, often accomplished in as little as six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a brief description of each option offered near Anchorage Ak.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level commercial or residential HVAC professionals. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for employment within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive background of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to complete, some degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four 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 appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Anchorage AK, later going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Courses
Choosing an HVAC program online is one approach in getting your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. Many also sponsor 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 online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for many Anchorage AK students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even travelling expenses from Anchorage and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more budget-friendly. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy lifestyle.
Heating and Cooling Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Anchorage AK HVAC technicians to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of specialization. There are a number of respected certifications within the industry that are available. Here are some 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 exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing could be mandated in your location, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you choose an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Certification Classes
After you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Anchorage AK area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifiers when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC trade programs in the Anchorage AK area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to an individual program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you get an excellent education, it can help in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate might suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It might also signify that the teachers were not qualified to train the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of graduates, which can produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Anchorage AK HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and trade programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Anchorage AK HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC technician you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Anchorage AK HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Anchorage AK home. Take note that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to several of the students and get their opinions concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Anchorage AK, verify that the schools you are comparing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree
Selecting the right HVAC school program is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling field. As we have covered in this post, you need to choose an HVAC trade school and a degree or certificate program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other features to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling options and if evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have laid out in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Anchorage AK.