HVAC technology programs are offered at the certificate and associate's degree levels. Certificate programs cover all essential concepts and skills needed for the field, while associate's programs provide detailed instruction that can prepare students to handle more complex HVAC issues. However, both of these programs typically involve comprehensive practical experiences and an apprenticeship to prepare graduates for various technician, sales, repair, and installation positions.
Programs can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete. Applicants to both certificate and associate's degree programs require a high school diploma or equivalent to enroll. Associate's degree programs have more stringent admission requirements, with many schools requiring one year of high school-level algebra and science. Some programs prefer applicants who are familiar with mechanical drafting and concepts of electricity. Some HVAC workers may need to earn licenses after graduation, depending on their state of residence.
Certificate Programs in HVAC Technology
Certificate programs prepare students for entry-level opportunities within the HVAC industry by developing basic skills in troubleshooting and service. Focused topics include maintenance procedures, repair basics, industry code standards, and the theory of temperature control. An emphasis is also placed on HVAC safety. Program coursework incorporates extensive hands-on experience in lab and field settings to reinforce theoretical knowledge learned in the classroom. The curriculum includes the following topics:
- Temperature control
- HVAC installation
- Troubleshooting techniques
- HVAC design and construction
- HVAC electrical systems
Associate's Degree in HVAC Technology
An associate's degree program in HVAC technology provides students with an understanding of the principles and procedures involved in installing, maintaining, and repairing HVAC systems. Coursework includes classroom instruction and practical lab exercises that provide students with valuable field experience. Students explore preventive maintenance procedures, troubleshooting techniques, heat loss calculations, system design, and principles of airflow. Graduates are prepared for entry-level employment within the HVAC industry or enrollment into a 4-year degree program in HVAC engineering or other related discipline.
In addition to practical and theoretical instruction in HVAC principles, program coursework incorporates general education courses, including technical mathematics, communications, humanities, and science. Topics covered as part of an HVAC curriculum include:
- Electronic and automatic controls
- Load calculations
- Blueprint reading and interpretation
- Air conditioning systems
- Heat systems
Popular Career Options
Employers of HVAC professionals include residential mechanical contractors, large commercial heating and cooling contractors and facility maintenance agencies. Individuals may also choose to be become small business owners by creating their own heating and cooling repair company. Examples of job opportunities include:
- HVAC equipment mechanic
- Air conditioning technician
- Heating and cooling sales representative
- System design technician
Employment and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected the employment of HVAC and refrigeration mechanics and installers to increase by 13% between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that, as of May 2018, workers in this industry earned an average annual salary of $50,160.
Continuing Education Information
Some states require HVAC mechanics and installers to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, however all states with professional licensure requirements expect candidates to pass a state examination. Apprenticeship experience of 2-5 years may also be a licensing requirement. HVAC professionals with at least one year of experience can also choose to advance their career opportunities by obtaining additional certifications offered through organizations such as The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute; HVAC Excellence; or the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society.
By earning a certificate or associate's degree in HVAC technology, students gain access to a job market expected to grow over the next several years. Depending on which state you live in, licensing may be required and students may also choose to pursue a professional certification from an organization such as the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society to improve job prospects and earnings potential even further.