If your house has heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer, you can thank an HVAC professional for that. Also known as HVACR, this field encompasses all aspects of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration, and highly trained workers are needed to design, install, and repair these systems.
Today's furnaces and air conditioners are complex machines that may rely on computer controls and other innovations to be highly efficient. As homes and businesses replace outdated HVAC systems, the government anticipates that job prospects for workers in the field should be excellent.
However, before you can pursue one of these jobs, you'll need the right education. HVAC degree programs can have students ready to work in as little as six months, although longer programs are available for those who want to gain advanced knowledge and skills. Even better, schools are starting to put some or all of their HVAC degree programs online.
What to Know About Online HVAC Degree Programs
Students have several options when it comes to pursuing an HVAC degree online. Some short-term diploma programs can be completed entirely online or via other distance learning methods. Graduates of these programs can expect to have basic understanding of HVAC systems and their repair, but may need some additional on-the-job training to master hands-on skills such as brazing and soldering.
Community colleges and technical schools may offer HVAC degree programs that combine online coursework with an externship for real-world experience. There are even bachelor's degrees in HVAC, although these are not as common.
Here's more about what you can expect from each level of HVAC education:
- Diploma/certificate programs: These programs are typically the fastest way to complete your HVAC education. It may take anywhere from six months to a year to earn a diploma or certificate, and students can learn the basics of how an HVAC system is installed and repaired. These programs are best for those interested in entry-level positions, and who don't mind honing their skills on the job.
- Associate degrees: Completed in two years, associate degrees in HVAC are generally offered by community colleges and technical schools. Beyond basic installation and trouble-shooting, these programs train students to work with advanced systems and in the fabrication of components. Some schools combine online theory classes with on-campus lab work.
- Bachelor's degrees: Although not as common, some HVAC professionals choose to earn a four-year degree in the field. A bachelor's degree in HVAC may be appropriate for those who want to work as energy engineers and design or manufacture heating and cooling systems.
Some states require HVACR technicians be licensed, and there are also voluntary certification programs available for these professionals. The Environmental Protection Agency, Industry Competency Exams, and North American Technician Excellence offer three commonly pursued national HVAC certifications.
Job Outlook for HVACR Professionals
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for HVAC technicians is bright. The projected job growth for system mechanics and installers is double the national average for the period from 2014 to 2024. In addition, those working in the field may be able to specialize and work on specific types of systems which offer even greater job growth and income potential.
The following chart takes a look at career details for common HVAC occupations. All data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor.
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)
|National Median Income (2015)
Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics and Installers
Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers
First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers and Repairers
Choosing the Right School
Not all HVAC degree programs are the same, so it pays to carefully review your options. Start by checking with your state's licensing department to learn the requirements for HVAC professionals in your area. If licensure is required, you'll want to be sure the program you select meets your state's requirements.
Next, check for the school's accreditation and ask whether the curriculum is designed to prepare students for national certification exams. You may also want to inquire into graduation rates and, if available, graduate placement or employment statistics.
If you're considering an online program, ask if and how the school approaches training for hands-on skills such as brazing. Some schools might place students in externships, while others could assist with placement into jobs that can provide additional training. Institutions may also leave it to students to practice these skills independently.
Finally, look for any perks the school might offer. For example, some colleges include tools as part of their tuition. Others have free career counseling services. Enrolling in an institution with these value-added benefits may help maximize your tuition dollars.
To make the process of comparing HVAC degree programs easier, Online-Education.net has compiled a list of schools offering training for future heating and cooling technicians. Check out the list below and request information from the ones of interest to you.
- HVAC Careers, O*Net Online, https://www.onetonline.org/find/quick?s=HVAC
- Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.bls.gov/oes/
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/