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How to Choose the Best Heating and Cooling Degree Program Near Tanaina Alaska

Tanaina Alaska commercial hvac tech installing furnacesOnce you have come to a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioner specialist, the next action is to choose an HVAC technical school near Tanaina AK. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the ideal one to receive the training that you require? A number of prospective students will make their choice based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their home. While these are significant concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few 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 tackle how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools

Tanaina Alaska residential A/C condensers

There are a number of options available for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can obtain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the minimum period of time, usually accomplished in just six months, although some programs 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 programs may provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief explanation of each option offered near Tanaina Ak.

  • Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more extensive understanding of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking two years to finish, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards 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 learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to start with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Tanaina AK, subsequently returning to obtain 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 Schools

Tanaina Alaska forced air heat registerAttending an HVAC school online is one alternative in attaining your training and receiving a degree or certificate. Most schools will require some attendance on campus to complete practical training. Some also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the rest of the classes may be attended online, this option may be a more practical solution for many Tanaina AK students that are pressed for time. And some online degree programs are more economical than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Tanaina and study supplies can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And many online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family obligations have left you with limited time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it easier to fit school into your active schedule.

HVAC Certification and Licensing

HVAC is an acronym that is frequently used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically required to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own criteria. Attaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional means for Tanaina AK HVAC techs to prove that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are several acknowledged certifications within the industry that are offered. Below are a few of the important ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a competency exam and may be earned in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available 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 must have three years of experience in addition to a passing result on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are made available in various specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory 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.

Because licensing might be required in your area, and you may also desire to obtain certification, it's important that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

Questions For HVAC Schools

Tanaina Alaska hvac technician working on hot water heater

Once you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you would like to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your list of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC technical schools in the Tanaina AK area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is imperative to have a checklist of key qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two aspects you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  Many HVAC technical schools in the Tanaina AK area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Confirm that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a superior education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases unavailable for non-accredited schools. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate might indicate that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It might also suggest that the teachers were not competent to train the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive 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 can not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but additionally that it has the network of Tanaina AK HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC training programs are taught together with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating vocational and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have working relationships with local Tanaina AK HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing hands-on training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to build relationships in the local 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 using in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Tanaina AK HVAC contracting company if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you can relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Tanaina AK home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there may be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.

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

Flexible Scheduling.  Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Tanaina AK, verify that the schools you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Tanaina HVAC Vocational Schools

Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree

Choosing the right HVAC training program is an important beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating & cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you need to select an HVAC training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are sufficient hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and speak with both the current students and faculty. Try to get a feel for the quality of the training and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and whether or not night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our checklist for comparing schools, you'll be able to filter 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 Tanaina AK.


 

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