While bachelor's degrees in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems are not common, students may choose to earn a bachelor's degree in mechanical or architectural engineering. These 4-year degrees may sometimes be earned in conjunction with an HVAC certificate or with an HVAC&R (heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and refrigeration) concentration. Students need hold no more than a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission to most programs. Internships or other practicum opportunities are often included.
Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering
Students obtain the necessary skills and knowledge to design various heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration systems for commercial and industrial buildings. Candidates learn through coursework and laboratory studies. Air conditioning and HVAC-related courses may include:
- Engineering thermodynamics
- Heat transfer systems design
- Solar power systems
- Refrigeration principles and design
- Building heating and cooling loads
- Applied thermodynamics
Bachelor's Degree in Architectural Engineering
A 4-year architectural engineering program may offer a mechanical concentration aimed at individuals interested in pursuing careers in HVAC or AC engineering. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions as architectural engineers. In addition to courses and lab studies, students may complete thesis projects prior to graduation. Courses related to HVAC and air conditioning may include these:
- HVAC control systems
- Environmental control systems
- Solar energy building system design
- Heat transfer and fluid mechanics
- Engineering drawing
- HVAC design
Popular Career Options
Graduates of mechanical engineering programs typically go on to engineering careers where they design, create, and test mechanical equipment, tools, and systems. Some graduates may focus their career in designing air conditioning and HVAC systems for residential, commercial and industrial settings.
Employment and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of all mechanical engineers, including those working in air conditioning, will increase by 5% from 2014-2024. Mechanical engineers made a median salary of $83,590 as of May 2015.
Graduates of this program could also find work as architectural engineers who take part in the design, construction and operation of buildings, and they may choose to specialize in HVAC or mechanical systems design. As of January 2016, architectural engineers earned a median annual wage of $63,066, according to PayScale.com.
Students who complete mechanical or architectural engineering programs and plan to work as engineers who offer their services to the public are required to be licensed. Licensure requirements may vary by state but typically require completing an ABET-accredited degree program, passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, completing several years of experience, and then passing the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. After completing these requirements, engineers are then designated as Professional Engineers (PEs).
Students interested in AC engineering can enroll in bachelor's degree programs in mechanical or architectural engineering to study AC-related engineering principles, physics and mechanics. Graduates can expect positive job growth but may need to obtain state licensure before working as an engineer.