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How to Select the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Training Near Gateway Alaska

Gateway Alaska commercial hvac tech repairing furnacesNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to look for an HVAC vocational school near Gateway AK. But with so many to select from, how do you decide on the ideal one to obtain the training that you need? Many future students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other details that you need to research are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional benchmarks will be discussed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to select an HVAC trade school, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Degree Classes

Gateway Alaska home A/C condensers

There are a number of choices available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, typically accomplished in just six months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive edge for securing employment and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a short summary of each option offered near Gateway Ak.

  • Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They furnish a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Typically 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 tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional 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 right credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Gateway AK, eventually going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Training

Gateway Alaska forced air heat registerEnrolling in an HVAC program online is one alternative to getting your education and receiving a certificate or degree. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Many also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes can be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Gateway AK students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus alternatives. Even driving expenses from Gateway and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active lifestyle.

HVAC Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally required to be licensed, although every state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but a voluntary means for Gateway AK HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are many recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Here are a few 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 offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience together with a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in several specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for specialists that work with refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's imperative that you enroll in an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

What to Ask HVAC Certification Classes

Gateway Alaska hvac technician installing water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to obtain, either on campus or online, you can start to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Gateway AK area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two variables you will take into consideration. Following are some additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical schools in the Gateway AK area have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They can attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it may assist in acquiring financial assistance or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing 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 could signify that students were disappointed with the program and quit. It may also suggest that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of Gateway AK HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC trade programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling businesses or trade unions. Find out if the schools you are comparing have working relationships with local Gateway AK HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Gateway AK HVAC company if they can give you some suggestions. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Gateway AK residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's desirable that you receive as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Last, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Verify that the class schedules for the programs you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends near Gateway AK, verify that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family issues.

Find Out More About Gateway HVAC Training Programs

Get Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Picking the right HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a gratifying career in the heating and cooling trade. As we have covered in this article, you should pick an Heating and Cooling vocational school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC trade. Other things to look for are plenty of practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally 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 instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and if evening or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have detailed in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC specialist in Gateway AK.


 

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