HVAC technicians and technologists work anywhere there is climate-control equipment that needs to be installed, maintained, repaired and serviced -- in residential, commercial and industrial locations.
Associate degrees in HVAC provide a basic introduction to heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; many programs are called HVACR and incorporate refrigeration systems. You might study these subjects:
- Basic HVAC electricity
- Codes and ordinances
- Fundamentals of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration
- Heat pumps
- Industrial tools
- Metal and duct working
- Residential load calculations
- Technology and society
In states that mandate certification for HVAC professionals, programs offer certification prep classes. Basic education courses span social and behavioral sciences, humanities and fine arts, math, science, and economics. In addition, computer literacy is important because many HVAC systems are computer controlled.
Related associate degree programs include electronics technology with an HVAC control systems concentration. Coursework could cover basic electronics, computers and digital computer electronics, electronic testing, motors, wiring, and HVAC system controls.
HVAC career options, outlook and salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth for heating and air conditioning mechanics and installers of 28 percent between 2008 and 2018; in 2010, median salaries were $42,530.
Many employers now prefer to hire HVAC technicians and technologists with formal training, according to the BLS. You can enter the workforce with your HVAC associate degree or use it as the first step toward a bachelor's degree in HVAC or HVACR engineering technology or even a mechanical engineering degree. Scoring an internship from a professional organization like the Mechanical Contractors Association of America can also make you more competitive in the job market.
Master's and Ph.D. degrees are also available. Most advanced HVAC programs are in mechanical engineering, which is the overarching field for HVAC. With this master's degree, you might design new types of HVAC systems and evaluate emerging design technologies that improve energy efficiency, or you could be responsible for managing a team of mechanical engineers and other HVAC professionals. A doctorate can pave the way to original contributions to the field of mechanical engineering/HVAC as well as leadership roles in education, research and industry.
Although some web-based HVAC degree programs require an on-site lab component, you can typically study online for your HVAC associate degree and work as a technician or technologist while you continue your education in this hot -- and cool -- career.