What is HVAC Technology?
HVAC is formally known as the field of heating, ventilation and air conditioning. A HVAC professional is responsible for the installment and maintenance of systems used to maintain varying temperatures in a given structure. Such structures may include homes, office buildings, warehouses, or any other building that requires one or all of the above mentioned systems. Individuals trained in this field will be able to fully and competently implement these systems, ensure their functionality, maintain them annually and properly train customers in the proper use and care of the system. In case of malfunction technicians will also be required to conduct repairs.
What is the Difference Between a HVAC Certificate and Technical Certificate?
The primary difference between a technical certificate and certificate in HVAC comes down to credit hours, program emphasis, and skill development. The technical certificate will typically have a greater number of credit hours in the program with a larger breadth of classes than a certificate program. The program emphasis of a technical certificate is hands-on learning coupled with career-ready, transferrable skill development to a greater degree than a certificate program. Students completing a certificate program or degree in HVAC or HVACR will be ready to launch a career in residential or light commercial systems as a service technician, installer, HVAC mechanic, refrigeration mechanic, or refrigeration technician.
Top HVAC Degrees
The degree and certificate programs available to students pursuing a career in Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Technology (HVAC) include a number of options to consider. We have outlined the programs below to help you better understand your options when considering earning skills in the trade from an accredited college or university. The degree and certificate programs in HVAC include:
Certificate & Diploma Programs in HVAC
The certificate and diploma programs in HVAC is the entry-point into the world of HVAC that will take less time to complete than an associate’s degree or technical certificate. Earning a diploma or certificate in HVAC can be a 6-12 month program as a function of course load and program pace. Examples of classes a student may see in a course catalog include: introduction to HVAC, fundamentals of heating, refrigeration, introduction to electricity, indoor air quality, customer relations, heating service, comfort cooling, and electrical circuits & controls.
Technical Certificate Programs in HVAC
A technical certificate in HVAC is a program that provides students with hands-on, technical knowledge in the trade. Students can expect to complete the program in about a year’s time of full-time studying or longer for part-time students. Students in the program will learn a number of key aspects to step into a vocation in HVAC that include technical and soft-skills. An example of classes taken in the technical certificate program include: communications, residential building design, heat pump technology, building code, applied mathematics, heating fundamentals, introduction to HVAC, refrigeration basics, introduction to electricity, heating service, electrical controls & circuits, heat pump systems, duct installation and duct fabrication.
Associate Degree in HVAC
The associate degree in HVAC is conferred as an Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) as a function of the school’s courses and accreditation parameters. A typical associate degree program will take student’s 2-years to complete for full-time matriculation and longer for part-time students in the program. Foundational classes will look very similar to classes in a technical certificate program plus liberal arts classes such as English composition, communications, physics, and psychology to help students think differently about the world around them and equip them with critical thinking skills. Students may see additional science-bases classes along with green energy coursework as the industry evolves along with technology.
Educational Requirements in Heating & Ventilation
A degree in HVAC demonstrates that an individual is prepared to install, maintain and repair those systems in a home or office setting. Most individuals will pursue a degree or certificate/diploma through a vocational school or community college, which will take between 6 months and 2 years depending on the program. Sponsored apprenticeships are also available, and individuals will be considered skilled laborers once the apprenticeship is completed.
Programs in heating and air conditioning will combine classroom courses with practical experience, allowing students be exposed to the various systems they will have to work with and how to diagnose and repair problems within those systems. Additionally, students will learn how to read blueprints and diagrams in order to identify electrical systems and other features within the building they will be installing such systems in. graduates of such programs will have a strong understanding of heating and air conditioning systems and will be ready to enter the workforce at entry level positions.
An HVAC curriculum may include:
- Trade Math
- Piping and Ductwork
- Systems Design
- Control and Energy Management Systems
- Applied Physics
HVAC Certification and Licensure
Individuals may work with professional firms, individual contractors, repair companies or form their own business. Individuals may also pursue an apprenticeship in order to obtain work experience prior to pursuing a career or opening their own business. The work involved in HVAC is labor intensive, and the equipment installed requires regular maintenance. Due to this, it is important that an individual maintain a healthy relationship with his or her clients in order to annual maintenance and repeat business.
Salary, Job Growth and Related Trades
The average salary of an HVAC technician is $45,910 per year, with the top 10% making $73,350 and bottom ten percent making over twenty-eight thousand dollars a year on average. Increases in salary are based on experience and location, with areas with a larger population having more work available, a higher demand for installation and repair, and a higher tolerance for competition.
HVAC jobs are expected to grow much faster than average. In fact, the BLS estimates a job growth of 14% over the coming decade adding some 39,600 jobs during that reporting period. Individuals interested in a career in HVAC should work well with others, be patient with clients, have a solid math foundation, able to lift heavy objects, and capable of reading and following schematics. Some states may require licensing in order to work, and the requirements will vary between those states, though some amount of work experience and a state issued test are usually required. Additionally, individuals who pursue certification from a national certifying body, particularly those who familiarize themselves with computer systems, will find more job opportunities than those who do not.
Biggest Employers of HVAC Mechanics & Installers
- Building Contractors 212,810
- Direct Sellers and Retailers 9,410
- Heating & Wholesale Suppliers 8,070
- Commercial Machinery Manufacturers 6,170
- Colleges and Universities 5,620
States with the Highest Employment of HVAC Mechanics & Installers
- Florida 28,700
- California 25,360
- Texas 24,300
- New York 15,930
- Pennsylvania 13,160
Top Paying States for HVAC Mechanics & Installers
- District of Columbia $67,230
- Hawaii $66,820
- Alaska $63,620
- North Dakota $60,420
- New Jersey $58,420
Individuals interested in entering an HVAC program may also consider a program in plumbing, electrician, refrigeration. For additional information, check out The Complete Guide to an HVAC Career on our blog here.
List of Resources in HVACR
Trade groups and associations can be useful to help advance your career in this field. Associations work to provide information, education, and resources for its members throughout the country. Associations may also provide continuing education courses or webinars to help keep professionals at the top of their game year over year. A list of the top ranked trade groups include: