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How to Pick the Right HVAC School Near Lakes Alaska

Lakes Alaska commercial hvac contractor servicing furnacesNow that you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and cooling technician, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Lakes AK. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the best one to get the training that you need? A number of potential students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Even though these are relevant factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other details that you need to look into 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 addressed in more detail later in this article. But before we tackle how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's look at what a heating and air conditioning contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes

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There are a number of options offered for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the least period of time, usually achieved in as little as 6 months, though some courses are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short explanation of each option offered near Lakes Ak.

  • Certificate. Normally 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 employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, some degrees incorporate 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 being taught how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.

Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after gaining some experience in the field in Lakes AK, later returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your tactic, be sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Courses

Lakes Alaska forced air heat registerChoosing an HVAC program online is one possibility to attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Many also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended online, this approach may be a more convenient solution for some Lakes AK students that are short on time. And some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Lakes and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it less complicated to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.

Heating and Cooling Licensing and Certification

HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Acquiring professional certification is not mandatory, but an optional means for Lakes AK HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are highly proficient and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several recognized certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained 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 in addition to 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 exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are three types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing could be required in your area, and you may also intend to earn certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.

Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Trade Schools

Lakes Alaska hvac tech replacing hot water heater

After you have picked the type of certificate or degree that you desire to obtain, either online or on campus, you can begin to decrease your selection of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Lakes AK area and throughout the USA to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of important qualifiers when making school evaluations. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will probably be the first two variables you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Lakes AK area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may earn Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you get a quality education, it can help in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Additionally, some states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Cooling 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 may signify that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It might also mean that the teachers were not qualified to train 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 directory of alumni, which may result in 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 industry, but additionally that it has the network of Lakes AK HVAC employers to help students obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  A large number of HVAC training programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have working partnerships with local Lakes AK HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a rewarding experience by supplying practical training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make certain that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, talk to the HVAC tech you are working under concerning what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Lakes AK HVAC company if they can provide some suggestions. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within driving distance of your Lakes AK residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor a couple of the classes so that you can see how big they are and witness first hand the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Last, talk to some of the teachers and find out what their level of expertise is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Lakes AK, verify that the programs you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Also, ask what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family issues.

Learn More About Lakes HVAC Vocational Schools

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Picking the ideal HVAC school program is a crucial beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating & cooling field. As we have discussed in this post, you need to pick an HVAC training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are lots of practical training and modern 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. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for evaluating schools, you'll be able to narrow down your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Lakes AK.


 

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