Complete Guide to an Online HVAC Training
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (commonly referred to as HVAC) degree programs are available at the certificate and bachelor's degree level. These programs discuss topics like energy management systems, ductwork, piping, HVAC design, LEED energy efficiency, and indoor air quality. Students learn how to design HVAC systems for residential and commercial buildings and how to troubleshoot existing HVAC issues. Most online HVAC programs require students to visit campus in order to participate in hands-on practicums. Graduates of the HVAC program can gain employment with building equipment contractors, hardware and plumbing wholesalers, and commercial equipment repair services.
Prospective HVAC degree students are advised to enroll in a program at an accredited school. Though there is no specific programmatic accrediting agency for the HVAC profession, attending an school that has received institutional accreditation will help ensure that you receive a high-quality education that will be valued by future employers. The US Department of Education offers a list of accredited higher education institutions that meet the minimum standards of academic excellence.
HVAC technicians perform a number of duties pertaining to systems of heating, air conditioning, and ventilation. These employees may specialize in one of these three areas, or they may specialize in aspects of installation or maintenance. Doing so requires them to connect air systems to existing systems such as water or heating supplies, as well as to disassemble and reassemble parts of machinery used to keep such equipment working. These professionals must have a combination of knowledge and experience working with mechanical, electrical, and air-quality technology.
Most professionals with college degrees in this discipline have at least an associate degree. However, there are a plethora of ways to obtain the knowledge and experience required to work within this field. Students may earn professional or educational certification or become a formal apprentice at any number of different organizations. Lastly, some individuals are hired and simply obtain on-the-job experience while assisting more experienced personnel. High school students interested in pursuing this profession should focus on classes pertaining to math, science, and shop. Any experience with plumbing or electrical applications can help, as well.
Online bachelor's degrees and certificates in HVAC are offered at a variety of different institutions, including community colleges, junior colleges, trade schools, and technical institutions. Bachelor's degree programs have a liberal arts component, in which students will take general education classes in core subjects that do not necessarily pertain to their majors. Certificate programs are an excellent way to get the training necessary to learn many different aspects of a HVAC technician's job, such as soldering, cleaning, insulating, disassembling, and reassembling and following blueprints for design installation.
Comprehensive List of Online Colleges & Universities for a HVAC Degree
Online HVAC degrees at the bachelor's level can help students become qualified for a number of jobs working in both residential and commercial buildings. The most demanding admissions requirement for online bachelor's degrees in HVAC is that students have a high school diploma or GED.
Students who have already completed an associate degree are also eligible to enroll in a bachelor's program. If a student is going to school full time, a complete bachelor's degree program will take four years to complete. Courses will total approximately 120 units upon graduation.
Bachelor's degree programs in HVAC will start students off with general education courses that typically include English, composition, science, psychology, and math. Specialized courses within the major often include introduction to HVAC, electricity, heating, advanced air conditioning, systems and applications, system design, microsystem technology and structure, commercial and residential systems, industry tools and procedures, and safety.
A bachelor's degree in HVAC is rare and will be more than sufficient for those beginning a career in HVAC. Common career paths include HVAC technician, home auditor, HVAC repair, system configuration, and installation. It's common for HVAC technicians to also gear their job toward a specialty, such as commercial or residential locations, or to work with particular systems, such as those that are energy efficient or systems in restored historic homes.
HVAC certificates are widely popular for professionals in the residential and commercial HVAC industry. Generally speaking, most HVAC certificates will require that applicants have a high school diploma or equivalent, although some programs do not have prerequisites at all. Due to the various types of certificates available from different organizations and educational institutions, certificate programs can take anywhere from a few weeks to two years to complete. On the other hand, some programs are test-based, which means students with previous knowledge could study and become certified in a few days. Most course-based programs will consist of 20 or less units of coursework.
There are a few levels of HVAC certificates available, depending on what types of HVAC jobs people are looking for. For example, if someone wants to get into residential HVAC, his or her certificate will be different from someone beginning a career in commercial HVAC. Although the courses will differ a little bit, there are some general courses you can expect in all certificate programs. Entry-level certificates will have courses that include HVAC controls and systems, energy management, ductwork and piping, system load, design considerations, and electricity.
A certificate and a high school diploma are generally all that's required for HVAC technician and repair jobs, so those with a certificate should have no problem being qualified for jobs. Common job titles in the field include HVAC technician, HVAC installer, and HVAC repairman. HVAC professionals can also choose to specialize in items such as energy-efficient systems or in systems made especially for certain types of homes.
Individuals who wish to pursue a certificate in HVAC will have a solid foundation of skills for an industry that is rapidly growing and expanding. Students will learn hands-on skills that will guide them through each step in the HVAC industry. Students have the option to specialize in many different areas in the HVAC industry, but they will also have a chance to learn about HVAC as a whole.
As HVAC systems become more technical and complicated, employers seek professionals with proven experience and a commitment to updating their skills. Although certification and licensure aren't always required for employment, there are many certificates available for HVAC technicians who wish to demonstrate their competency and their qualifications.
Some certificates are designed for technicians who are highly qualified in a particular area of the HVAC industry, such as air conditioning, gas heating, commercial refrigeration, or HVAC efficiency. Because each state has its own licensing requirements for the HVAC industry, students should contact their individual state board to find out whether they need a license to practice.
Here are some of the certifications that are currently available for HVAC professionals:
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE) offers Industry Competency Exams for HVAC technicians who have up to one year of work experience. NATE also offers a variety of HVACR certification exams for professionals who choose to specialize in one or more particular area, such as air conditioning, commercial refreigeration, gas heating, oil heating, or hydronics oil. The certifications are available at three professional levels: installation, service, or senior.
- Section 608 of the Clean Air Act requires that professionals who service refrigerant systems must be certified. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a list of the agencies it has approved to administer the EPA technician certification exams.
- HVAC Excellence offers a wide variety of certifications for both experienced HVAC technicians and for students who are just beginning their career. Some of the certifications require just a high school diploma, while others require more advanced computer and math skills along with work experience.
Accreditation is a process by which colleges, universities, and other postsecondary education institutions voluntarily choose to be evaluated by an objective, nongovernmental agency in order to verify their level of quality. Although certain agencies are recognized by the US Department of Education, the USDE doesn't actually perform any accreditation services itself. Academic institutions that meet the standards set by these agencies are considered to be accredited, and they must renew their accreditation after a set period of time in order to remain current. It is recommended that students enroll in a program at an accredited school to ensure that it meets high academic standards.
Individual programs may also be accredited at the programmatic level. Unlike some degree programs (e.g., political science, business, or cosmetology), however, there aren't any particular agencies that accredit programs culminating in a certificate or degree in HVAC. Instead, HVAC programs are accredited on an institutional basis, so the accreditation applies to the school that is offering the HVAC certificate or degree. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation maintains a database of accredited academic institutions for students who are considering enrolling in college or university.
- Certifications. HVAC Excellence. Accessed June 20, 2014. http://www.hvacexcellence.org/Certifications.aspx.
- Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed June 17, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm.
- North American Technician Excellence. Accessed June 20, 2014. http://www.natex.org/site/1/Home.
- Section 608 Technician Certification Programs. USEPA. Accessed June 20, 2014. http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/608/technicians/608certs.html.
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