HVAC professionals install, maintain, and repair some of the most fundamental equipment in our buildings. Working with heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration units, HVAC mechanics ensure temperature and humidity control in homes, businesses, and factories; the controlled climate environment provided by HVAC technicians ensures food, medicine, and people are protected and preserved from excessively hot or cold temperatures. With so many complex pieces of equipment to master, most HVAC professionals develop their skills through HVAC certificate programs.
Many online HVAC certificate programs can be completed in one year or less. The course work in most schools is highly focused on the HVAC field, so few outside classes will be required. After obtaining the certificate, HVAC technicians are qualified to begin working in the field. As they gain real world experience, many then choose to obtain additional certifications by taking qualifying exams. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for HVAC mechanics was $42,530 in 2010.
Types of HVAC Certificates
Professionals who obtain their HVAC certification online often find work quickly. Busy HVAC technicians travel frequently to job sites where they inspect, install, and repair a variety of systems. Those who specialize in residential work will keep busy installing and repairing gas and electric furnaces and air conditioners. Others who work with larger businesses will maintain and repair larger heating and cooling units, as well as large refrigeration equipment. In order to acquire the necessary expertise in an accredited HVAC program, students need to first earn a high school diploma (or GED) and provide transcripts with a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
Although they cover a lot of ground, the best HVAC vocational certificate programs do not take long to complete. Students will typically take one class each in electromechanical systems, sheet metal fabrication, refrigerant management, ductwork, and plumbing systems. At least two classes in the principles of HVAC and HVAC installation will generally be required. Most programs also require course work in understanding blueprints and diagrams, and the best ones will offer at least one course in workplace safety and basic OSHA rules.
What’s Next for HVAC Certificate Holders?
According to BLS data, the field is expected to grow 34% between 2010 and 2020. Most HVAC professionals find work as building equipment contractors, although some are employed by wholesalers or in direct sales businesses. In 2010, the highest paid HVAC technicians were earning more than $66,000, as reported by the BLS. By 2020, it is anticipated that over 358,000 people will be employed as HVAC professionals.
Once they obtain the vocational certificate, some choose to continue their education and pursue an associate degree. They realize that with more education, they will earn more money, as highlighted by a recent report produced by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce; in fact, the average person with an associate degree will earn $1,700,000 over the course of his or her lifetime. Furthermore, in 2012, people with an associate degree had a 20% better chance of finding work over those who stopped their education with a vocational certificate, according to the BLS.
HVAC professionals seeking to become engineers eventually obtain a bachelor’s degree. At this level of education, electrical engineers earned a median annual salary of $87,180 in 2010, according to BLS data; during their lifetimes, bachelor’s degree holders will earn roughly 45% more than those who stopped their education with a vocational certificate, as noted in the Georgetown University report. The bachelor’s degree also translates into greater employment; in 2012, people with bachelor’s degrees had only 4.5% unemployment, far less than the national average of 6.8%.