How to Find the Right HVAC Certification Class in Alaska
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to choose an HVAC vocational school in Alaska. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose the right one to receive the training that you require? Some potential students will make their decision based solely on the price of tuition or how close the heating and cooing school is to their home. Even though these are important factors to consider, they are not the only ones to evaluate. A few of the other things that you need to look into are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to choose an HVAC vocational school, let’s look at what a heating and cooling professional does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Specialist
HVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for “Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning”. HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary means for Alaska HVAC technicians to demonstrate that they are exceptionally qualified and knowledgeable in their area of specialization. There are a number of acknowledged certifications within the field that are available. Here are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency exam and can 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 in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 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 offered, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Considering that licensing could be required in your area, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it’s important that you choose an HVAC vocational school that will prepare you for both. And since you will most likely be handling refrigerants, make certain that the Alaska program you choose prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Classes
There are several options offered in Alaska for HVAC training in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor’s Degree. Earning a certificate will take the lesser period of time, typically accomplished in just 6 months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will provide more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option.
- Certificate. Normally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among Alaska entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the industry.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program supplies a more extensive knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally 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 towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a traditional four year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Selecting the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your long term career objectives are, in addition to the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade subsequently going back to acquire a Bachelor’s Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the Alaska HVAC tech school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC School Options Online
Choosing an HVAC program online is one option to getting your education and receiving a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. A number 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 via the internet, this approach may be a more accessible solution for some Alaska students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even travelling expenses from and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family commitments have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it less complicated to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Questions For HVAC Degree Programs
As soon as you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you want to attain, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your selection of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in Alaska and across the USA to choose from. That’s why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial 2 aspects you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Numerous HVAC technical schools have attained either a regional or a national accreditation. They may acquire Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school’s programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to an individual program, such as HVAC technology. Make certain that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you acquire a quality education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs in Alaska. Additionally, many states require that the HVAC training program be accredited for it to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A low completion rate might suggest that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It might also signify that the instructors were not qualified to train the students. It’s similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader directory of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their Alaska apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has an excellent reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of contacts to help grads obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC trade programs are taught along with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Alaska HVAC businesses or trade unions. Check if the schools you are comparing have referring partnerships with regional HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by furnishing practical training, but it also supplies job opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Confirm that the campus facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. Otherwise, ask a local HVAC company if they can give you some tips. Also bear in mind that unless you can move, the school must be within driving distance of your Alaska residence. Remember that if you decide to enroll in an out-of-state school, besides the added moving costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It’s important that you receive as much personalized instruction as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak with some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is in Alaska and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the programs you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes at night or on weekends in Alaska, confirm that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Select the Right HVAC Vocational College in Alaska
Picking the right HVAC training program is a critical beginning toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning trade. As we have addressed in this article, you should pick a trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the HVAC community. Other factors to look for are plenty of hands-on training and modern facilities. You need to check out each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, inquire about scheduling choices and whether evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And remember to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have laid out 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 Alaska.