Associate's degree programs in environmental systems technology can have two different emphases. The first provides training in the installation and maintenance of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) systems. Students learn the technical properties of HVACR equipment, solve practical problems and stay current with emerging technologies. The second is oriented toward pollution control. Students learn about environmental regulations as well as how to monitor waste management and emissions systems, identify sources of contamination and correct problems.
Associate's Degree in Environmental Systems Technology
Environmental systems technology is a flexible topic of study associated with more than one career path. People with mechanical skills, manual dexterity and an aptitude for mathematics are good candidates to consider training. Schools offer environmental systems technology programs at the associate's degree level. Applicants need to have graduated high school or earned a GED certificate for admission to an associate's degree program. Schools consider courses in mathematics, physics and biology to be good preparation.
The general education component of an associate's degree program may include courses in the fine arts, the social sciences and English. Some of these two-year programs require courses in geometry, algebra and business communications as relevant preparation. The following is a list of possible courses engaging either variant of environmental systems technology programs:
- Energy management principles
- HVAC systems design
- Troubleshooting HVAC systems
- Environmental science introduction
- Site analysis and assessment
- Waste remediation and contingency planning
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Over the years 2014 through 2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers would have 14% job growth. Also in the decade 2014-2024, water and wastewater treatment plant and systems operators will see a predicted 6% job growth.
The BLS reported that heating, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics and installers earned $45,110 as a median annual salary in 2015. The BLS also stated in 2015 that water and wastewater treatment plant and systems operators made $44,790 as a median annual wage.
Licensing and Continuing Education Information
Graduates of HVACR can pursue voluntary certifications offered by professional organizations, which may make them more desirable to employers. All states require certification of waste treatment plant and systems operators. The level of certification varies, depending on the operator's training and experience.
All states have certification requirements for waste treatment plant and system operators. Most have four levels of certification for different levels of operator training and experience.
A number of organizations and associations offer certification exams for HVAC technicians. They include the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute and the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society. No certification is mandatory, but employers prefer workers who have earned one or more certifications.
At the associate's level, students interested in environmental systems technology may choose from one of two career paths: HVACR installation and maintenance or pollution control. Graduates who choose to become waste treatment plant and system operators must obtain certification, while those who choose to become HVACR professionals can gain optional certification through various organizations.