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Career Info for a Degree in HVAC or Refrigeration

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians require some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties, and licenses to see if this is the right career for you.

A degree in HVACR will prepare individuals to enter the job market as HVACR technicians. Aspiring technicians may also opt to complete apprenticeships in lieu of a degree. These professionals install, troubleshoot and repair the systems that provide heating and cooling to residential or commercial buildings.

Essential Information

Heating, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics and installers, also known as HVACR technicians, use their knowledge of heat transfer, thermodynamics, electronics and basic mechanics to design, install, maintain and repair heating and cooling systems. Degree programs in heating, ventilation, air conditioning or refrigeration (HVACR) technology prepare students to work on heating and cooling systems in both home and business settings.

Required Education Technical or vocational degree or apprenticeship
Other Requirements Some states require additional licenses
Mean Annual Wage (2015)* $47,380
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

HVACR technicians may specialize in installing HVACR systems, repairing them or both. Additionally, HVACR technicians may choose to deal with just heating or air conditioning, while others are trained in all aspects of HVACR systems. They must also be qualified in the conservation and recycling of refrigerants. Graduates of HVACR training programs find employment working for companies offering this service, or they may start their own businesses.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers is anticipated to grow 14% between 2014 and 2024. A large factor in this growth is the increased emphasis on energy-efficient HVACR systems, which will raise the demand for qualified mechanics and installers. The BLS reported that as of 2015, the mean annual wage for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers was $47,380.

Educational Requirements

Although HVACR technicians may receive on-the-job training, employers typically prefer to hire individuals with formal training, which can be found at technical, vocational and community colleges. HVACR programs may offer diplomas, certificates or be part of associate's degree programs. Some programs may also be offered online. Candidates should have knowledge of electronics, electrical work and plumbing basics.

Courses may include electricity for HVACR, appliance installation, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifications, refrigeration systems, gas and electric heating applications, pump components, blueprints and specifications, indoor air quality and AC control principles. HVACR mechanics and installers usually require 2-5 years experience, after completion of training, before they're considered proficient in the business.

Certifications and Licensure

Licensure requirements may vary by state, but an HVACR technician living in a state requiring licensure must first pass a test. Applicants may also be required to complete apprenticeships lasting 2-5 years. The EPA also has certification exams for HVACR technicians working with refrigerants. These written exams - Type I, Type II or Type III - are geared towards a specific specialization, depending on if the technician works with small appliances, low-pressure refrigerants or high-pressure refrigerants.

HVACR technicians may also obtain certification in their field, based on their level of training and education. North American Technician Excellence (NATE) offers certification exams in various areas of HVACR. Other organizations offering certifications include the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute, the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society and HVACR Excellence.

A degree isn't necessary to begin a career as an HVACR technician, but applicants with formal education in this field may appeal to employers and increase their job prospects. The 14% job growth rate projected by the BLS for this career from 2014-2024 is much faster than average, and those who complete a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree should be prepared to compete for jobs as an HVACR technician.

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