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How to Choose the Right HVAC Vocational School Near Gateway Alaska

Gateway Alaska commercial hvac tech servicing furnacesOnce you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC technical school near Gateway AK. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the best one to get the training that you require? Many potential students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are significant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other factors 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 additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Degree Courses

Gateway Alaska residential air conditioning condensers

There are several choices available for HVAC instruction in a vocational or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually achieved in as little as 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near Gateway Ak.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more exhaustive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to complete, some degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a standard 4 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 appropriate credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One option is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Gateway AK, eventually returning 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 Training Online

Gateway Alaska forced air heat registerAttending an HVAC program online is one alternative to obtaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in via the internet, this option may be a more accessible solution for many Gateway AK students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are cheaper than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Gateway and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education 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 online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic schedule.

HVAC Certification and Licensing

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 every state and regional municipality has its own prerequisites. Acquiring professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Gateway AK HVAC specialists to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the field that are offered. Here are some of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience as well as passing a comprehensive examination are required for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for technicians 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.

Because licensing may be required in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make sure that the school you select preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions to Ask HVAC Training Classes

Gateway Alaska hvac contractor repairing water heater

After you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you desire to acquire, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Gateway AK area and across the USA to pick from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the initial 2 aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you should explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Gateway AK area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for example HVAC technology. Verify that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, a number of states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to be approved 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 low completion rate may suggest that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It could also mean that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may mean more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Gateway AK HVAC employers to help graduates acquire apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Gateway AK HVAC specialists. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also provides job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Gateway AK HVAC contractor if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Gateway AK residence. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to moving costs there may be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and teachers. Speak to some of the students and get their opinions relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, speak with a few of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Gateway AK, check that the schools you are reviewing offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family responsibilities.

Find Out More About Gateway HVAC Training Schools

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree or Certificate

Selecting the right HVAC training program is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you should pick an HVAC school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are plenty of hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try 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 available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Gateway AK.


 

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