The development of HVAC systems -- heating, ventilation and air conditioning -- radically changed the way people have been able to live and thrive throughout the last century and a half. Enhanced environments, available by running the AC in hot locales and heating homes in the winter without the need for coal or wood, allowed for more comfortable lives and settling in greater numbers in more extreme climates. The preservation of food and medicines by refrigeration and freezing and their subsequent increase in accessibility and safety was another positive change, allowing for less dependence on seasonal crops and poorer-quality storage techniques. The HVAC or HVACR (which includes refrigeration) profession is a key component to creating, installing and maintaining the systems that helps to make lives safer, more convenient and more comfortable.
The technical aspect of this career is substantial. Technicians need to know how to work with both electrical and mechanical systems as well as the ducts and other infrastructures that make air conditioning and refrigeration systems function. Many of their responsibilities when installing and maintaining these systems require special equipment, and the use and handling of refrigerants needed for cooling systems falls under governmental regulation. For these reasons, career preparation education and ongoing training are essential.
Degree Overview: HVAC
For students who enjoy working with their hands, using technology and getting tangible, satisfying results, a career as a heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technician can be an appealing career choice. But gaining the necessary certification and understanding the latest HVAC technology requires knowledge that an online program in HVAC can be ideal for learning. Here's an overview of the courses offered in some typical online programs for HVAC, as well as the skills those courses can help you to develop.
Online HVAC Courses
A formal education for HVAC offers both classroom study as well as opportunities for hands-on experiences with a variety of technology and equipment. Online education combines all the information of the classroom with the convenience of online learning, and provides hands-on guidance through scheduled campus trips or agreements with local businesses and their workshops. Typically, HVAC programs last six months to two years, with some lasting only a matter of weeks.
The HVAC (or HVAC/R) major generally leads to an associate degree, though some may lead to certificates. Courses usually include topics such as:
- Fundamentals of electricity
- Principles of refrigeration
- Residential and commercial air-conditioning systems
- Residential and commercial heating systems
- EPA compliance and safety
- HVAC/R system design and installation
Every state and local area has its own requirements in terms of licensing to work in HVAC, and those requirements should determine each student's path in terms of coursework and experience. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that any technician who works with, buys or handles refrigerants be certified in proper handling. Online programs for HVAC generally prepare students to test for and receive this certification, with some even awarding the certificate itself upon completion of the program.
It's unusual to find online bachelor's degree programs in HVAC, though they do exist for students who want to pursue positions such as project engineers, estimators, systems representatives or other high-level careers.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
Of course, learning the ins and outs of HVAC systems, parts and technology comes with the territory of online education for HVAC. But beyond the technical expertise, students may expect to gain or strengthen certain other skills that are essential for performing HVAC/R work, which they'll need in order to be successful on the job.
An important skill students will hone in their programs is diagnostic/troubleshooting skills. Students should learn to identify problems in HVAC/R systems and how best to repair them, and learning about various devices and the way their parts function is an important component of this skill. Of course, they'll also need strong mechanical skills, which means having a good understanding of the components of HVAC systems and how to build, disassemble and program them -- another key topic for an HVAC program to cover. Additionally, good math skills are important for calculating load requirements and ensuring that HVAC systems are adequate for their spaces.
Many programs also emphasize the service aspects of this work, namely customer-service and time management skills, both of which are essential to success in this field. This means being polite and helpful, meeting deadlines, communicating clearly, answering questions and keeping detailed records, all of which helps customers appreciate your hard work and come back to your business again and again.
HVAC Career Outlook
Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Projected Job Openings
Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Projected Job Growth
Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Postsecondary nondegree award
In order to enter heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and Installer careers, people must complete a certificate or associate degree from a technical or community college. When they have finished their education, they may get on-the-job training through an apprenticeship that lasts three to five years.
These professionals, also known as heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians, are responsible for installing, inspecting and maintaining customers' systems; testing specific parts of a system and making decisions on whether or not they require repairs; and selling services to existing and prospective clients. HVACR technicians may work for contractors that specialize in plumbing, heating and air conditioning, or they may be self-employed.