Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technology programs are commonly available as associate degree and bachelor's degree programs. Not all programs include HVAC design, so prospective students may wish to check the curriculum of potential programs to make sure it encompasses the areas they wish to learn about. Programs in HVAC design technology often include courses in HVAC controls, duct design, heating systems design and wiring. Students must possess a high school diploma or GED to enroll, and may need to purchase their own tools to participate in some of the hands-on courses. HVAC technology programs are generally completed in 2-4 years, depending on whether it is an associate's or bachelor's degree. Programs are commonly offered online or in a hybrid format.
Associate Degree in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning
HVAC professionals design, install, perform preventative maintenance on and repair systems wherever climate control systems exist. This could include private homes, hospitals or government buildings. Associate degree programs in HVAC can teach students to interact with customers, read schematics, design airflow systems and solve problems on location. These programs typically introduce topics like electronics and mechanical repair, and can offer students practical experience discussing problems and reading wiring diagrams while participating in hands-on experimentation.
Associate degree programs merge training in physics with general education requirements so that students are better equipped to communicate with customers while understanding the science behind HVAC techniques. Commonly, these programs include coursework on:
- Heating systems
- Electrical servicing
- Refrigeration theory
- Heat pumps and air conditioning
- Technical writing
Find schools that offer these popular programs
Bachelor of Science in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology
Individuals looking to operate their own HVAC business can enroll in these 4-year programs to learn quality control, refrigeration, project management and energy management. These programs are commonly hands on and additional fees may apply for students entering into training programs without the requisite tools, like hacksaws, cable rippers, wire strippers and swage punches. Applicants are required to have finished high school, including a recommended academic background in chemistry or physics, as well as algebra. Degree-completion programs are available for students entering with associate degrees.
Many HVAC professionals are self-employed. Because of this trend, students may learn about small business management as part of bachelor's degree program curricula. Students can prepare for positions where on-site trouble-shooting is imperative by learning:
- Automated HVAC design
- Mechanical systems
- Duct design
- Professional communication
Popular Career Options
According to the BLS reports from May 2014, over half of the 292,000 employed heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers worked for building equipment contractors. Despite the fact that most professionals work for general HVAC contracting companies, bachelor's program graduates are qualified for placement in specialist fields like clean rooms and cryogenics. Commonly held positions include:
- HVAC systems designer
- Sales representative
- HVAC shop supervisor
- Field service technician
- Construction field estimator
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the May 2015 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earned a median annual salary of $45,110 (www.bls.gov). The 2014-2024 BLS jobs forecast showed an anticipated 14% increase in job opportunities for HVAC professionals. This rise was projected because of an expected need to replace aging systems, installed around 2000, during the surge of new home construction. Additional concerns over energy efficiency and the reduction of power usage have led to fiscally-conservative and environmentally-minded homeowners purchasing improved systems.
Licensure laws for HVAC technicians vary by state. Commonly, an applicants must pass a test and either meet job experience requirements or complete apprentice program.
Voluntary certification demonstrates competency based on education and experience to employers. Eligible technicians obtain certifications through industry organizations like the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society, the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute or HVAC Excellence.
In order to comply with the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires specific certification exams for technicians that work with refrigerants (www.epa.gov). These exams vary, depending on whether the technician works with high- or low-pressure refrigerants or small appliances.
Students interested in working in life support systems for astronauts or computational modeling of thermal systems can study heat engineering or heat transfer at the graduate level. Programs at the master's, Ph.D. and graduate certificate levels are available through mechanical engineering departments.
Students who earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in HVAC technology enter a career field with robust growth, with jobs projected to grow by 14% over the next decade. Earning a professional certification from organizations such as the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute will further improve your odds of finding a good-paying job.