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How to Pick the Right HVAC Certification Course Near Gateway Alaska

Gateway Alaska commercial hvac tech installing furnacesNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Gateway AK. But with so many to choose from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you need? A number of prospective students will make their decision based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are significant considerations, they are not the only ones to evaluate. Just some of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to pick an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes

Gateway Alaska residential A/C condensers

There are a variety of alternatives offered for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually accomplished in as little as 6 months, although some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification related to the position. The degree training programs might provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each credential offered near Gateway Ak.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among beginning commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more comprehensive knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to complete, 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 as well as business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering 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 based on what your future career aspirations are, together with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to start with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Gateway AK, subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Gateway Alaska forced air heat registerEnrolling in an HVAC program online is one possibility in obtaining your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Almost all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes can be participated in online, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Gateway AK students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional alternatives. Even travelling expenses from Gateway and study supplies can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.

Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own criteria. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Gateway AK HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are multiple acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Following are some of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC techs. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and can be received 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 needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Considering that licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's essential that you pick an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

What to Ask Heating and Cooling Training Programs

Gateway Alaska hvac contractor replacing water heater

Once you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC vocational schools in the Gateway AK area and throughout the Country to select from. That's why it is essential to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school assessments. As previously stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the initial 2 variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you will want to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Gateway AK area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire 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 program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it may help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states require 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 considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate may indicate that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It may also indicate that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Gateway AK HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Many HVAC vocational programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with local Gateway AK HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using in the field. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Gateway AK HVAC company if they can provide some tips. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Gateway AK residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there might be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and learn 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 handle your needs. If you are only able to attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Gateway AK, check that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Learn More About Gateway HVAC Training Courses

Earn Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Choosing the ideal HVAC training program is an important first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have addressed in this post, you need to choose an Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to check out each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. Also, inquire about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to ask about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC technician in Gateway AK.


 

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