The School of Building Technology at PTI provides prospective students with detailed information about the types of courses required to receive a program certificate or an associate degree. To earn a certificate, students must complete 13 increasingly difficult courses and an internship. Examples of coursework at this level include refrigeration basics, fundamentals of electricity, heating systems, load calculations, math and HVAC troubleshooting. The associate degree program includes 19 courses and an internship. Classes get more in-depth and include offerings such as algebra, English, and customer service in additional to the HVAC basics.
Regardless of the educational option chosen, the internship is an integral part of career training. Students should spend time researching options and apply to intern in a specialty that they are interested in pursuing. HVAC certificate and degree programs typically take six months to two years to complete, including the internship time.
According to an article in the small business section of the Houston Chronicle, several states require HVAC technicians who want to become licensed to complete an apprenticeship lasting from three to five years. The benefit of a formal apprenticeship program is that it allows the new HVAC technician to shadow a licensed technician and observe several important job functions. He or she also has the opportunity to master these skills while still being supervised by someone who has more experience in the field.
Every state has different requirements that HVAC technicians must meet before they can sit for the official licensing exam. What all exams have in common is that they require the applicant to demonstrate advanced knowledge of every aspect of heating and cooling repair and installation. Some HVAC examinations also require the applicant to answer several questions about the use of electrical codes.
Those who desire to work in refrigeration must take and pass an additional state-licensing exam. This written exam focuses exclusively on the area where the technician intends to work. High-pressure refrigerants, low-pressure refrigerants and small appliance servicing are just some of the areas where technicians can obtain refrigeration licensure.
A successful heating and air conditioning technician makes it a point never to stop learning, even after earning an associate degree, obtaining a program certificate, completing and internship, or working as an apprentice for three to five years. Many employers require a certain number of continuing education credits every year as a condition of employment. HVAC service technicians who want to excel in their field often seek voluntary certification through the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program.
NATE is the industry’s largest third-party certification organization. Participants in the program can earn certification in one or several specialty areas. Some of these include air conditioning, heat pumps, gas or oil furnaces, energy efficiency, and hydronics gas or oil. Customers often look for companies that employ services technicians who have earned certification from NATE.
HVAC Career Projections
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2012 that HVAC technicians at the mid-point of their career earn an average hourly salary of $20.98 and annual salary of $43,640. The field as a whole is expected to grow by 21 percent over the next six years.