There are a few HVAC associate's degree programs available online; remote HVAC programs are much more common at the certificate and bachelor's degree levels. Courses for the associate's degree program can be taken fully online, although some hands-on training may be required.
Students learn about repairing the electrical and mechanical components of heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems in homes and businesses. The program may prepare individuals for a variety of HVAC certifications with organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and North American Technician Excellence (NATE). Knowledge of math, general science and physics is required for entry to these programs.
Associate's Degree in HVAC
A student in this type of program learns about heating systems, commercial refrigeration, air conditioning technology and HVAC appliances. Generally, the only prerequisite is a high school diploma or GED.
A few organizations provide accreditation for HVAC programs. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) is one such agency. Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) also provides accreditation. The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) certifies heating system programs. In addition, associate degree HVAC programs might meet the criteria established by ABET.
Program Information and Requirements
Most HVAC associate's degree programs are 2-year programs that include core general education classes, in addition to technical coursework. While online HVAC degree programs do exist, a completely online curriculum is not common because of the hands-on training required for licensing by most states.
List of Common HVAC Courses
Associate's degree programs generally follow a college quarter or semester system. Students should have foundational knowledge in math, general science and rudimentary physics.
Principles of Refrigeration
This is a basic course that covers the chemical and physical laws behind refrigeration systems. Students learn the basics of refrigerants and how to apply them.
Residential Gas Heating
Students learn about the controls, air movement and operation of gas-fired household appliances and systems. Troubleshooting and repair of such systems is also covered.
HVAC and Building Systems
Students learn how to construct and design commercial building systems with effective comfort controls. Energy utilization and conservation are also covered.
Load Calculation for Heating and Cooling Systems
Load calculation is the concept of sizing an HVAC system to effectively and efficiently heat or cool a building. The mathematics behind such calculations is discussed.
Career Information for Graduates
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for HVAC mechanics and installers was expected to increase by 14% during the 2014-2024 decade. The median salary for HVAC technicians was $45,110 in 2015, according to the BLS.
Those with HVAC training may be employed as HVAC installers and repairers. In this job, one may be responsible for designing systems specific to a building's dimension and, therefore, may require the ability to read blueprints. HVAC technicians may also be responsible for installing ductwork. An understanding of the chemical properties of refrigerants and their effects on the environment is necessary. The job can be unpleasant at times because some of the work occurs in buildings with non-existent or non-functioning HVAC systems.
Continuing Education Information
Many companies offer certification exams that target specific aspects of HVAC work. Most certification exams do not require any prior practical experience. HVAC Excellence (www.hvacexcellence.org) is one of the largest providers of HVAC certifications. The two basic certifications offered are the Professional Level and the Master Specialist certifications; both require verified field experience. Exams are offered in topics like refrigeration principles, commercial air conditioning, heat pumps and gas heat. North American Technical Excellence (NATE) (www.natex.org) offers a variety of certification exams in HVAC areas like insulation, heating, manufactured housing and air-conditioning. ACCA (www.acca.org) has its own online classes with preparation for certification in specific areas.
HVAC licensing is handled individually by each state. Information about licensing in a specific state can be found at www.contractors-license.org. In addition to competency testing, most states require hands-on experience in order to be licensed. Some reciprocal agreements with regard to HVAC licensing exist between states.
Students can find HVAC associate's degree programs online, although it may be easier to find certificate or bachelor's degree programs fully online. These degree programs may require a hands-on component to complete the training, and knowledge of math and science is needed for entry.