HVAC Education and Training Requirements
The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry includes a wide variety of specialties that each have different education and training requirements. Popular careers in HVAC include the installation and maintenance of commercial heating or cooling systems, system engineering and new product design, and HVAC control systems.
Installation and Maintenance
A variety of skills are required for residential and commercial installation, maintenance and repair of HVAC systems. Some HVAC installers and mechanics - also known as technicians - receive training through certificate or associate's degree programs in HVAC or a related discipline, such as electronics. These programs can be completed in 6-24 months. A degree can often be substituted for a part of the apprenticeship program and allows new employees to get a leg up in the business.
Many HVAC technicians begin in an apprenticeship program that lasts four years and includes both on-the-job training and classroom instruction. Apprentices learn electronic and electrical components, airflow physics, blueprint reading, pipefitting, sheet metal work, plumbing and refrigerant handling.
Engineering and Design
For research, development and design of new HVAC systems, employers normally prefer to hire those with at least a bachelor's degree in mechanical or electrical engineering. For some positions, a master's degree is preferred, although companies will at times hire non-degreed research and development team members from among other experienced HVAC workers.
Another avenue of entry into the HVAC engineering and design field is an associate's degree in HVAC engineering. Graduates of a 2-year program in HVAC engineering are normally employed as HVAC engineering technicians and assist engineers in the design or retrofitting of HVAC systems.
From pneumatic (air-powered) controls to direct electronics, a wide range of knowledge is necessary for those who wish to find a job in HVAC control systems. This may include training in ladder logic or block computer programming, electronics and signaling, networking, fluid dynamics and other similar technologies. Often employers in HVAC control systems are searching for applicants who have an associate's degree in electronics, a Cisco networking certification, several years of experience in the HVAC field or some combination of the above.
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