Heating and cooling technicians typically need a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. While some heating and cooling system installers train on the job, many learn the necessary skills through formal vocational training programs. These programs cover in-depth techniques for servicing commercial or residential heating and cooling systems and come in the form of certificate programs, associate's degree programs, and diploma programs, some of which can be found online.
Certificate in Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC)
A heating and cooling technician certificate program generally takes 1-2 years to complete. Participants learn to properly handle refrigerants and work with electrical circuitry. They also learn to diagnose, install and service heating and cooling systems. Some course topics might include:
- HVAC system design considerations
- Building commissioning for LEED
- HVAC mechanical design codes
- HVAC system load calculations and psychrometry
- Construction and facilities project management
Diploma in Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC)
Diploma programs typically take two years to complete and are often offered through trade schools. Students learn about commercial and residential heating and cooling systems. They study topics such as:
- Electrical wiring
- Airflow calculation and management
- Safety procedures
- Blueprint reading
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Associate of Applied Science in Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC-R)
This 2-year degree program combines practical knowledge with a foundation in liberal arts. Students learn about air circulation and study gas and oil heating systems as well as electric heating and cooling systems. They also study construction mathematics and learn trade skills such as brazing and soldering. Some course topics might include:
- Services and procedures
- Heating systems and controls
- Heat pump systems and controls
- Refrigeration systems and controls
- Applications of refrigeration and temperature controls
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The BLS reports that HVAC technicians made a median annual wage of $45,110 as of May 2015. Employment for this career is expected to grow 14% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS.
Licenses and Certifications
Many states require heating and cooling technicians to obtain licensure. Requirements vary by state but typically include meeting minimum education or work experience requirements and passing an exam. Additionally, heating and cooling technicians must have an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification in order to legally buy and handle refrigerants. Voluntary certifications are also available through heating and cooling organizations, such as HVAC Excellence (www.hvacexcellence.org) and the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (www.ahrinet.org).
Workshops and Seminars
Heating and cooling technicians can participate in HVAC conferences. These educational events typically run for several days and cover key topics such as energy efficiency. Colleges often sponsor heating and cooling seminars, which may be held as part of larger construction seminars or as individual case studies in topics like solar heating and cooling.
Heating and cooling technicians often take online or campus-based continuing education classes in HVAC technology and state regulations. Organizational and state-run websites often provide Web newsletters, links to industry reports and HVAC guidelines.
Aspiring heating and cooling technicians can train for a career in this field by enrolling in an HVAC certificate, degree or diploma program. Further licensing and continuing education requirements may apply once these initial programs have been completed.