Heating and air conditioning specialists, or HVAC technicians, install and service systems that control the air temperature and quality in a building. A high school diploma or GED is required as a minimum, but many employers prefer an employee with some post-secondary vocational HVAC training. The following outlines the educational requirements and job outlook for heating and air conditioning specialists.
Heating and air conditioning specialists are responsible for understanding the theory and applications of these systems. They must have the ability to operate heating and air conditioning systems as well as troubleshoot and repair damaged ones. Training in this field is highly experience-based and may be obtained on the job, although many students choose to earn certificates or associate's degrees.
|Required Education||High school diploma or GED|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||14% (for all heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers)*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$45,110 (for all heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Heating and Air Conditioning Training
In the past, most heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians received on-the-job training, often through apprenticeship programs. However, due to advances in the technology used in heating and air conditioning systems, many technicians now receive training through a combination of classroom study, internships and apprenticeships.
HVAC training teaches students how to install, maintain and repair heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. Some training programs may include all of these systems, while others may focus on specific types of systems.
Most training programs require incoming students to possess a high school diploma or a GED. Many programs prefer students that have taken high school courses in shop math, physics, chemistry and drafting.
Training usually involves a combination of class work and hands-on training. Classroom work often occurs during the beginning of the program, with field training beginning after the majority of the classwork has been completed. Students may explore subjects such as electrical design and circuitry, commercial heating and air conditioning systems, system design and refrigeration principles.
Students who pursue heating and air conditioning training learn how to troubleshoot and service HVAC systems. Some programs specifically train students to repair gas heating systems, while others focus on electric heat. Additionally, program graduates develop business skills pertaining to the operations of the heating and air conditioning profession, such as invoicing.
Career Education Options
Many different educational options exist for students interested in pursuing a career in heating and air conditioning. Programs are offered at local union halls, technical schools, trade schools, junior colleges and community colleges. Through these programs, technicians typically receive a certificate or an associate's degree in heating and air conditioning technology.
Union Apprenticeship Programs
Coalitions of local contractor unions often run apprenticeship programs for aspiring heating and air conditioning technicians. Interested individuals apply through local union halls and are often placed on a waiting list. Once a program opening comes up, an apprentice receives a combination of classroom and on-the-job training under the guidance of a master HVAC technician. Typically, these programs run from 3-5 years with apprentices earning wages throughout their entire apprenticeship.
Technical and Trade School Programs
Students can find certificate or associate's degree programs in heating and air conditioning from trade and technical schools. These programs can run from six months to two years and are available either online or on campus. Courses typically include studies in electronics, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Depending on the school, students may be offered internship opportunities and job placement aid following program completion.
Community and Junior College Programs
These programs typically run two years and require classroom study and some form of guided internship in the heating and air conditioning industry. Upon completion of these programs, students earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in HVAC. Many community and junior college programs include state licensing preparation and aid students throughout the licensing process.
Heating and air conditioning specialists are tasked with installing and maintaining systems which control temperature, humidity, and overall air quality in a building. Technicians may be employed after receiving a high school diploma or GED and obtaining on-the-job training, but as technology has advanced many employers now desire some post-secondary vocational training in HVAC. Upon completion of many of these programs, the student will have earned an associate's degree.