Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Technology Associate Degree

Obtaining an associate's degree in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration technology (HVAC-R) could lead to a career in the field. Find out about classes, licensure and certifications. Get information about choosing a school for your HVAC-R studies, and check the job outlook for the field. Schools offering Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How Important Is an Associate's Degree in Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), air-conditioning, heating and refrigeration systems are becoming more sophisticated and complicated (www.bls.gov). Because of this, you need to undergo a certain amount of on-the-job training once you're hired; however, employers prefer to hire people who have either completed an apprenticeship or a formal training program. You can find programs leading to an HVAC-R associate's degree offered at technical and community colleges throughout the country.

What Should I Look For In a Program?

While an apprenticeship can take as long as five years to complete, you can usually complete a formal HVAC-R degree program in two years. You may have the opportunity to pursue a program part-time in the evenings, in which case it may take about three years to complete. A program consisting of 62-64 credits commonly leads to an Associate of Applied Science. Typical courses you might encounter include commercial and residential codes, HVAC electricity, refrigeration principles, air conditioning and circuitry.

A program may include a work experience component. This might be a co-op course with a school-approved local business. A final capstone project can essentially be a test to determine your eligibility for an entry-level position.

Because of the hands-on nature of HVAC-R training, online courses are quite rare. Schools may offer you the possibility of completing an HVAC-R certificate program on campus, then completing general education requirements needed for an associate's degree in an online format.

Will I Need Anything More Than a Degree to Practice as an Installer or Repairman?

The BLS mentions that schools usually offer you certification examinations dealing with various repair and installation duties. Most states also require licensure for installers and repairmen. Although specifics of the exam may vary with each state, you must sit for an examination to obtain individual state licensure.

In addition, all states are quite strict about the use of refrigerants. If you work with refrigeration, you'll need to sit for a certification examination. Various schools or organizations may administer a number of different types of certification examinations, all of which have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

What Is the Occupational Outlook?

In 2010, the BLS projected that employment opportunities for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration installers and repairers would increase 28% from 2008-2018. This is largely due to the increase in the number of new buildings, as well as the need to repair HVAC-R systems in older structures.

The most recent salary statistics are also from 2010. At that time, the BLS determined the mean annual wage for HVAC-R technicians to be $44,860.

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