Refrigeration engineering degrees are designed to prepare candidates for roles as technicians, engineers, or academics. At the associate's degree level, the degree program is typically referred to as Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR). There are also bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in mechanical engineering. These programs may include internships or have thesis or dissertation requirements.
Both undergraduate programs require students to be high school graduates or the equivalent with a basic knowledge of course principles before enrolling. A two year master's program will need students to have completed the bachelor's degree or one in a related field with satisfactory GRE scores. Doctoral programs require a Master of Science in Engineering or related field and typically consist of 63 credit hours.
Associate's Degree in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
An associate's degree in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration provides students with the knowledge and skills they need for entry-level careers in the design, application, manufacturing, operation, and maintenance of HVACR systems. Program graduates are eligible to pursue study at the bachelor's degree level. Associate's degree programs focus on basic operating principles of commercial and industrial HVACR systems. Courses include technical math, blueprint reading and the following:
- Computer aided drafting
- Air and water distribution and cooling systems
- Electrical circuits
- Load calculations
- Industrial exhaust and modern refrigeration
- Mechanical cost estimates
Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering
A bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering allows students to focus not only on refrigeration and air conditioning systems but energy systems, piping, pressure vessels, plant engineering, and automotive design. Most mechanical engineering programs are focused on the broad application of mechanical design to the development of products. Graduates often begin careers with high entry-level salaries. Coursework places a heavy emphasis on fundamentals such as calculus, physics, chemistry, material sciences, and computer-based engineering. Common courses in a mechanical engineering program include the following:
- Solid modeling
- Heat transfer
- Gas laws
- Electric power systems
Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering
Graduate students in mechanical engineering use the skills they learned through their associate's or bachelor's degree studies and apply them toward a specialized area in mechanical engineering. These areas may include aeronautics, astronautics, electronics, and, in the case of refrigeration engineering, thermodynamics. Programs in mechanical engineering at the master's level provide a combination of instruction, independent research, and design experience. Some programs give students the choice between thesis or non-thesis tracks. Coursework often depends on which track the student chooses. At many schools, the tracks include energy and fluids, systems and dynamics, mechanics, and design. Possible coursework is as follows:
- Rocket propulsion
- Fluid mechanics
- Mechanics of solids
- Composite materials
- Linear systems theory
- Continuum mechanics, digital control, and thermodynamics
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Doctoral Degree in Mechanical Engineering
Doctoral degree programs in mechanical engineering prepare engineers for leadership positions. These positions are most often found in industry, academia, and government. Students will conduct rigorous research in mechanical engineering, culminating in a doctoral dissertation that will attempt to define new concepts and theories in the mechanical engineering world. The curriculum includes a certain number of approved credit hours of the doctoral core and a minimum number of doctoral credit hours. Coursework may include the following:
- Applied finite elements
- Solid mechanics and composite materials
- Plates and shells
- Advanced materials
- Composite materials
- Robotics and microsystems
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The median wages for HVACR mechanics and technicians were $45,110 in May 2015, stated the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment was projected to grow at a much faster than average rate of 14% from 2014-2024, stated the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
While associate's degrees prepare students for technical jobs, bachelor's degrees will allow students to become full-fledged engineers out of school. At the bachelor's degree level, those who wish to work in refrigeration will major in mechanical engineering.
Students who wish to advance their careers after a bachelor's degree or work in a university setting can opt for more schooling. Master's degrees in mechanical engineering are available at most 4-year universities, and some universities offer five-year or six-year combined bachelor's and master's degree programs.
The final educational goal of mechanical engineer majors is the Ph.D degree. Doctoral degree holders can contribute to the advancement of engineering technology through education and research.
Popular Career Options
Career options include engineering jobs, assistant engineering jobs, supervisory positions, and administrative careers. Program candidates often complete internships with engineering firms which, upon graduation, may lead to full-time employment. All master's degree graduates in mechanical engineering are eligible for jobs in laboratories and research.
Ph.D. degree holders are at the top of their field and may pursue high-level industry jobs; however, most tend to work at the university level, teaching, and conducting research. Below are listed different careers that people who have earned varying levels of degrees may be eligible for:
- Mechanical engineer, assistant power supervisor, mechanical design engineer
- Design engineer, packaging engineer, refrigeration engineer, energy engineer
- Mechanical engineer, product design engineer, mechanical building design engineer, design engineer
- College professor
- Postdoctoral scholar
- Postdoctoral research professor
With associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral options, refrigeration engineering is a varied field with many potential career options from even the lowest level of education.