Heating Ventilating and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) programs are usually offered through community colleges or vocational schools. Certificate and diploma programs take about a year to complete and focus on the skills needed for system installation and repair. Associate's degree programs call for two years of study and include general education courses in addition to HVAC courses. All programs combine classroom and hands-on workshop training.
Certificate Program for HVAC
HVAC certificate programs are intended for students interested in learning the fundamentals of furnace, air-conditioning and ventilation systems. Students are trained in both the science behind HVAC technology and the practical skills required for installation and maintenance work. HVAC certificate programs directly prepare graduates for work as HVAC technicians. HVAC certificate programs prepare students to work on multiple types of heating and cooling systems. The topics listed below are common in HVAC certificate programs:
- Heating system design
- Air-conditioning design
- Principles of refrigeration
- Handling refrigerants
- Fundamentals of electricity
Diploma Program for HVAC
Diploma programs in HVAC technology provide students with foundational training in both the mechanical and electrical aspects of heating and cooling equipment. Students learn about the many components of HVAC systems. Additionally, they learn about the tools used to install and repair these systems. HVAC diploma programs are generally open to students with high school diplomas.
Through classroom-based and hands-on learning, students gain practical skills in HVAC technology. Coursework may include the following:
- HVAC maintenance
- Residential heating and cooling systems
- Commercial heating and cooling systems
- Refrigerant handling
- Gas and oil furnaces
- Electric heat
Associate's Degree for HVAC
HVAC associate degree programs train students to work with furnaces, air conditioners and related heating and cooling systems. Students receive hands-on training on HVAC equipment and get to use the appropriate industry tools. Some programs include courses that emphasize green technology, such as energy efficient furnaces.
Coursework in HVAC associate degree programs includes the installation and maintenance of furnaces and other heating and cooling systems. Common courses include the following:
- Circuits and controls
- Refrigeration systems
- Furnace installation
- Oil and gas furnaces
Popular Career Options
Certificate programs in HVAC technology provide career-focused training. Graduates may find work in one of the following positions:
- HVAC technician
- Residential HVAC specialist
- Commercial HVAC technician
- Furnace installer
HVAC diploma programs prepare students for work on residential and commercial heating and cooling. Typical jobs include the following:
- HVAC technician
- Furnace installer
- Furnace maintenance technician
- Commercial heating system technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Approximately 292,000 HVAC and refrigeration technicians, including those specializing in furnaces, were employed in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov). Employment in the field was expected to grow 14% during 2014-2024. This growth was expected to stem from a variety of factors, including the increased complexity of furnaces, air conditioners and other HVAC and refrigeration systems. HVAC and refrigeration technicians earned a median hourly wage of $21.69 as of May 2015, reported the BLS.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
HVAC technicians are required to be certified if they work with refrigerants. Regardless of regulations, many technicians choose to earn certification to demonstrate competency and foster career advancement. Many organizations offer certification exams, including the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute and HVAC Excellence. Some states require HVAC professionals to obtain licenses, typically through passing an exam and completing an apprenticeship program. Generally, HVAC technicians do not complete formal training beyond the associate degree level.
Certificate, diploma and associate degree programs in HVAC can provide the instruction and hands-on training necessary to work with furnaces, and technicians are also required to be certified if they work with refrigerants. The HVAC employment field is expected to experience healthy growth in the 2014-2024 decade.