Online HVAC Schools and Colleges: How to Choose
HVAC is an acronym for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. It is now more known as HVACR (or HVAC&R) to include refrigeration. These systems control air quality, temperature and humidity in commercial, industrial and residential buildings. The HVACR profession includes technicians who maintain, repair and install systems, and engineers who design, test and balance them. HVACR programs are not common online, but there are some to choose from at the certificate and bachelor degree levels.
How to Choose an Online HVAC School or College
HVACR programs are available fully online and in a hybrid format. Students learn through lectures, videos, applied exercises and e-mail discussions with teachers and classmates. Printed textbooks are needed for some programs. There are also required on-campus labs that take place once during the program. Though demonstration of skill competency is not always required, it is strongly recommended that students have a supervised apprenticeship with a local HVACR employer.
Schools usually have a learning system environment, and may offer classes through an eLearning service, such as ed2go. Newer computers with high-speed Internet and e-mail access work best for online classes, and in fact, some school programs are not feasible with a dial-up Internet connection.
HVACR technician programs culminate in certificate awards. In some states, technicians must then pass a test and become licensed; test contents vary by state. In addition, all states require any technician who will be working with refrigerants to be certified by taking exams approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Those training in HVACR engineering technology earn Bachelor of Science degrees, and will be qualified for most entry-level positions. Graduates will also be prepared for whatever certifying exams they need to take, but are not required to register as professional engineers.
Median hourly wages for HVACR technicians in May 2008 were $19.08, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The projected job growth rate from 2008-2018 for this occupation was much faster than average at 28%. This is partly the result of the increased number of buildings necessary to accommodate a growing population, and because a large number of current HVAC systems are due for replacement during the 2008-2018 decade.
HVACR engineers are categorized with mechanical engineers by the BLS. As such, their median annual wages in May 2008 were $74,920, with a slower than average job growth of 6% (www.bls.gov).
List of Online HVAC Programs
Certificate for HVACR Technician
With today's complex HVACR systems, employers increasingly prefer to hire workers who have completed formal training programs, according to the BLS. The HVACR technician training programs are based on learning objectives defined by leading industry groups, such as North American Technician Excellence, and focus on building competency in each of the four areas of heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration. Preparation for any certification exams is also a major consideration.
Classes begin with fundamental vocabulary, definitions and applied physics. Proper safety practices are also covered thoroughly since working with electricity and refrigerants can be hazardous. A significant amount of time is spent studying the theories, properties, use and control of electricity, especially as it applies to HVACR systems and components. Also covered are refrigeration and the different methods of heating, such as gas, oil and water, as well as parameters for human comfort.
Graduates of this program will have a comprehensive understanding of HVACR system design and operations. They will be able to install, service, troubleshoot and repair equipment. This program is designed for both those new to the profession and those who are already working but want to expand their skills and become certified.
Bachelor of Science in HVACR Engineering
HVACR engineers are involved in the research, design and production of HVACR systems. With today's increased awareness of sustainability, and regulations calling for green technology, retrofitting of existing systems is needed as well. To this end, HVACR engineers also test and re-work current systems and control components for more balanced, efficient and cleaner operation. HVACR engineering programs present the latest information on industry advances, such as the use of microcomputer controls and adjusting equipment for optimum performance.
HVACR engineering is a 2-year completion program that focuses on industrial and commercial building HVACR systems, and includes classes in system control theories, work contracts and digital control design. Selection of primary and secondary equipment components, emphasizing the use of alternate energy sources, is covered, as well as how to audit and analyze HVACR system energy use. The latter course includes a senior project with on-site audit practice, written recommendations for meeting standards and an online class presentation.
One on-campus visit for several days of labs is required for hands-on learning. There is also a required internship with a local HVACR company. Students applying to this program must have already completed an HVACR associate's degree and be able to use presentation and spreadsheet software.
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