How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling School near Grand Rapids Minnesota
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning technician, the next action is to find an HVAC trade school near Grand Rapids MN. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide on the right one to obtain the training that you require? Some potential students will make their decision based entirely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to investigate. Just some of the other factors 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 other criteria will be covered in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC technical school, let’s take a look at what a heating and a/c technician does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the business that stands for “Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning”. HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an alternative means for Grand Rapids MN HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the trade that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is attained by passing a competency examination and may be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers 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 together with a passing score on the professional level exam. Similar to NATE, certifications are made available in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that handle refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification available, one for small appliances, and the additional two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also wish to acquire certification, it’s imperative that you select an HVAC trade school that will train you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools
There are several options available for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor’s Degree. Earning a certificate will take the minimum period of time, often achieved in just 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each option offered near Grand Rapids MN.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more detailed knowledge of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 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 geared more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career aspirations are, as well as the time and money that you have to commit. One option is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Grand Rapids MN, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor’s Degree. If this is your tactic, make certain to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Schools Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one approach in obtaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to complete hands on training. Some also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or as an alternative to practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended via the internet, this alternative may be a more convenient solution for many Grand Rapids MN students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even commuting expenses from Grand Rapids and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your career or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs
Once you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are many HVAC vocational schools in the Grand Rapids MN area and across the Country to pick from. That’s why it is extremely important to have a checklist of relevant qualifications when making school evaluations. As previously mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will probably be the first 2 factors you will look at. Following are some additional ones that you need to investigate before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC technical programs in the Grand Rapids MN area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school’s programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Confirm that the school and program are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you receive a superior education, it can help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Also, a number of states mandate that the HVAC training program be accredited for it 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 percentage or portion of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may suggest that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It might also indicate that the instructors were not competent 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 broader list of graduates, which can result in more contacts for the school to utilize for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only affirm that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but also that it has the network of Grand Rapids MN HVAC employers to help graduates acquire apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Many HVAC trade programs are taught in conjunction with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC companies or labor unions. Check if the schools you are reviewing have working partnerships with local Grand Rapids MN HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only offers a rewarding experience by providing practical training, but it also supplies employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the local HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make certain that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC technician you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Grand Rapids MN HVAC contracting company if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Grand Rapids MN home. Take note 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 personalized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in bigger classes. Ask if you can monitor a few of the classes so that you can observe how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their comments relating to class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to a few of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Verify that the class schedules for the schools you are reviewing are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to attend classes at night or on weekends near Grand Rapids MN, confirm that the schools you are looking at provide those options. If you can only attend part-time, make 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 emergencies.
Considering an HVAC School near Grand Rapids MN?
Perhaps you are considering enrolling in an HVAC training program in the Grand Rapids Minnesota area. If so, you may find the following background information about the location of your new school campus both interesting and informative.
Grand Rapids, Minnesota
The city of Grand Rapids is named for the 3.5-mile (5.6 km) long local rapids in the Mississippi River, which was the uppermost limit of practical steamboat travel during the late 19th century. Today, those rapids are hidden below the dam of the Blandin Paper Mill.
The Forest History Center is a State Historic Site and a living history museum that recreates life as it was in a turn of the 20th century logging camp. Costumed interpreters guide visitors through a recreated circa 1890s logging camp to educate the public on the history of white pine logging and its relevance to today's economy. Miles of nature trails, educational naturalist programming, and an interpretive museum are also located on the site.
Old Central School, located in downtown Grand Rapids, was built in 1895 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture. The three story building served as an elementary school from 1895 to 1972. A community effort restored the building in 1984 and it now serves as a location for commerce and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
HVAC Certification Classes Grand Rapids MN
Enrolling in the right HVAC training program is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. You originally came to this website because you wanted more information regarding HVAC Certification Classes. However, as we have addressed in this post, you need to select an HVAC trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to search for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to tour 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. Additionally, ask about scheduling choices and whether night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don’t forget to inquire about financial aid and student loan options too. If you ask the right questions as we have detailed in our checklist 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 commitment, you can ultimately become a licensed HVAC contractor in Grand Rapids MN.
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