HVAC schools are designed to train students in the theories and hands-on skills used by heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) technicians. Through degree, certificate and diploma programs, HVAC school students learn how to install, maintain, and repair HVAC systems and other systems in a variety of environments.
What to Expect in HVAC School
The career training provided by HVAC schools varies based on the credentials being offered and the focus of the program. The three most common credentials awarded by HVAC school programs are associate’s degrees, certificates, and diplomas. These credentials are typically offered by junior colleges, career schools, universities, and other postsecondary schools.
Most HVAC schools provide lecture-based and hands-on courses covering standard HVAC systems. This includes installation, maintenance and repair for residential and commercial heaters, air conditioners, ventilation systems, and other climate systems. Many programs include additional areas such as water treatment or energy efficiency, and some emphasize more modern aspects of the HVAC industry, such as solar energy. These programs are appropriate for students who wish to work in a specialized field of the HVAC industry.
Depending on the credential sought, HVAC schools might offer courses in:
- Mechanical Drawing
- Applied Chemistry
- Blueprint Reading
- Computer Applications
- Temperature Theory and Control
- Equipment Design
Choosing an HVAC School
Because there are many types of HVAC school, it is important to compare details between different schools before enrolling in a program. Almost all HVAC schools require students to have a high school diploma or GED.
Here are a few things to consider when comparing schools:
- Program Length - Depending on the credential sought, HVAC school programs can last anywhere from a few months to around 2 years. Shorter programs (certificates and diplomas) can get graduates into the work force sooner, but longer programs (associate’s degrees) can provide the in-depth expertise it takes to advance further. Which direction you take depends on your specific career goals.
- Accreditation - HVAC school accreditation is a school’s way of certifying that it meets industry standards. If a school is accredited by a reputable organization, it means course content meets basic education standards set by the HVAC industry. Currently there are three well-known accrediting agencies for HVAC schools:
- Career Services - Some schools offer career assistance to graduates. This can include resume advice, job interview coaching, job placement services, or recruitment connections. Schools vary widely in these offerings, so it pays to be aware of what a school offers.
After Graduating from HVAC School
There are two main ways HVAC technicians gain experience beyond the training they receive from their school. One of the best ways to do this is by enrolling in an apprenticeship. These are offered through local HVAC industry organizations such as the Air-Conditioning Contractors of America. An apprenticeship is a combination of in-class instruction and paid on-the-job-training, and usually takes 3-5 years to complete.
Although apprenticeships are considered a great way to start in the industry from the ground floor, they can be unappealing for students or those who are not ready to commit to such long-term training. Fortunately, many HVAC schools offer on-the-job training or externship/internship opportunities. The career services department of your HVAC school should be able to provide information about training and work opportunities.