Heating and Cooling Science: Education and Training Program Information

Climate control systems, also called heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, are designed, installed and repaired by HVAC technicians. Education and training programs for aspiring HVACR technicians can be found at the certificate, associate's degree and baccalaureate degree levels.

Essential Information

Certificate programs take about a year to complete and offer fundamental training in the installation, repair and maintenance of HVACR systems. Students may focus on one area or get a broad education in all aspects of the field. Associate's degree programs, which take two years of study, go into more detail, teaching students such skills as reading electrical diagrams and schematics. A bachelor's degree program, which requires four years to complete and includes general education courses, offers business skills in addition to technician training.

Some states and municipalities require that technicians be licensed, which generally calls for passing an examination. Several professional organizations offer certifications, and obtaining these credentials is standard in the field. Many schools offer credentialing exam preparation as part of their training programs.

  • Program Levels in HVAC Science: Certificate, associate's, bachelor's.
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED.
  • Online Availability: Commonly available online.
  • Program Length: One year for certificate, two years for associate's, four years for bachelor's.

Certificate Program in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology

HVACR certificate programs provide courses and hands-on training for students to learn to operate and fix HVAC and refrigeration systems. Some certificate programs focus on one aspect of heating or cooling, such as on refrigeration or air conditioning. These programs prepare students for entry-level positions. Certificate programs take roughly one year to complete and require applicants to have earned a high school diploma.

Certificate programs provide students with a basic understanding of electricity, and heating and cooling technology. Programs cover topics such as:

  • Principles and theory of refrigeration
  • Heating systems
  • Technical math
  • Electric controls

Associate of Applied Science in Heating, Air Conditioning, Ventilation and Refrigeration Technology

AAS degree programs in HVACR provide students with more than introductory level of training in topics like electronics, interacting with customers and air-flow system design. Students hone their skills in reading schematics, reading wiring diagrams and solving problems on location. Associate degree programs are open to high school graduates who earned good grades in algebra and science.

Associate degree programs include general education courses along with courses designed to give students a broad understanding of science and technical topics that intersect within the HVAC field. Classes include:

  • Physics
  • Heat pumps and air conditioning
  • Electrical servicing
  • Technical writing
  • Heating systems

Bachelor's Degree in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology

A Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Applied Technology in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology degree program includes training in HVAC design and repair and in small business management. This program is designed for HVAC professionals who want to operate an HVAC business. Bachelor degree programs for HVAC repair generally require a high school education, including some classes in algebra and either physics or chemistry.

Programs include training in electronics, mathematics, physics and design, to prepare future professionals to trouble shoot and solve problems on site. Courses include:

  • Mechanical systems
  • Algebra and trigonometry
  • HVAC automated design
  • Small business management
  • Duct design

Popular Career Options

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2012, 61% of HVACR technicians worked for contractors and 9% were self-employed. HVACR technicians work anywhere that uses climate control systems, such as government buildings, hospitals and private homes. Duties include performing preventative maintenance as well as installing and repairing systems.

Employment is available in specialty fields, such as cryogenics, which deals with extreme cooling techniques, and clean room HVAC systems, which are HVAC systems designed to control or eliminate airborne particulates. The majority of professionals work in generalist positions at HVAC contractor companies, sales and design firms and local governments; job titles include:

  • Construction field estimator
  • Field service technician
  • Project manager
  • Sales representative
  • HVACR Systems designer

Employment Outlook

As of May 2014, the BLS reported that the median annual wage for heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers was $44,630. Employment for HVACR technicians was expected to increase 21% between 2012-2022, partly due to an increase in commercial and residential building construction (BLS). Additionally, environmental concerns have led to homeowners purchasing new systems that increase efficiency and cut energy bills.

Licensure and Certification Requirements

Laws covering HVACR technician licensure vary be state, but common requirements include passing a test and completing an apprenticeship program or meeting a job experience quota. The U.S. Environmental Agency requires technicians working with refrigerants to pass certification exams in compliance with the Clean Air Act (www.epa.gov). Applicants choose an area of specialty among small appliances, high-pressure refrigerants and low-pressure refrigerants.

With experience and education, HVACR technicians can earn certifications to demonstrate their competency to their employers. Industry organizations, such as HVAC Excellence, the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute, the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society and the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, offer certification exams for eligible technicians.

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