Online HVAC Certification Training Programs
Online HVAC certification training programs can lead to a diploma, associate's degree or even a bachelor's degree. Explore what programs consist of, how long they take, and how to get licensed and ready for a role in HVAC.
Overview of Online HVAC Certification Programs
Due to the technical nature of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) field, online programs require students to complete practice hours on-site and some amount of coursework online. There are three types of online HVAC certification programs, which vary in length and cost.
- Certificate Programs: Online HVAC certificate programs provide students with the basic knowledge necessary to become certified HVAC professionals. These programs typically take less than a year and cost less than other online HVAC programs. Although costs vary by student and school, students may be able to complete these programs for less than $1,000. Courses included in certificate programs are focused on HVAC topics, such as refrigeration, configurations and design.
- Associate's Degree Programs: Students in these programs further explore HVAC and related topics, gaining more extensive understanding and skills than those in certificate programs. These programs typically take around two years to complete and include some general education courses (such as English and mathematics). Depending on the school, these programs can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, but some schools allow students to waive some courses (decreasing costs) by earning alternative credits.
- Bachelor's Degree Programs: Bachelor's degree programs are the rarest type of HVAC program, both online and on-campus. These programs typically take 4 years to complete, but some students can finish faster with transfer credits or by taking more classes each semester. Tuition can cost between $12,000 and $25,000 per year. Coursework is typically 50-65% HVAC-focused but will always include several general education courses.
Online programs in HVAC are not common, but some schools do offer HVAC programs as hybrid options. Depending on the program, students may complete all or some of their didactic coursework online. Students may use their online learning portal to communicate with peers and teachers, submit assignments and view lectures and other resources.
As noted above, some programs enable students to waive some of the required courses if they have real-world experience or pass certain knowledge assessments. While not available everywhere, these alternative credits can help students decrease their program length and cost. For example, a student who has already completed some supervised or entry-level work in HVAC may be able to waive some courses based on life experience. Alternatively, that same student may be able to take a test to prove that they have the required knowledge for one or more courses (such as an introductory HVAC course).
Students in these programs may be required to complete around 700 hours of hands-on experience. These hours may be completed on campus one day each week in hybrid/online HVAC programs. Practice hours are typically completed in school laboratories stocked with equipment and resources for students to practice program objectives. These practice hours are necessary to prepare students for professional roles and are typically required for state certification.
Some common HVAC courses are listed below. HVAC graduates also need a foundational understanding of electronics/electricity and mathematics.
- Intro to HVAC & Refrigeration - students learn the basic topics and processes of HVAC and refrigeration systems, such as materials and tool safety.
- Electricity of HVAC - explores DC and AC circuits and electrical distributions of HVAC systems in residential and commercial settings.
- Air Conditioning - provides an overview of systems used for air conditioning, including installation, operation, fluids and leaks, and controls.
- Residential HVAC - students learn the design and operating characteristics of HVAC systems for residential use, including installation and troubleshooting.
- Heating Systems - explores various types of furnaces, including gas-fueled and forced-air furnaces, as well as air quality, pressures and repair.
- Duct Systems and Design - students review duct systems and their characteristics, including materials, standards and air distribution.
- Commercial Refrigeration - provides an introduction to refrigeration systems that are used in commercial buildings as well as practices for troubleshooting and repair.
- Commercial HVAC - students build upon their knowledge of HVAC systems by reviewing characteristics of those in commercial settings.
- HVAC Design - students explore the design of HVAC systems as well as proper methods for installation based on system design.
Why Accreditation Matters for Online HVAC Programs
Attending an accredited school means that students can qualify for federal financial aid, but it also indicates that students should receive a better educational experience. In order to qualify for accreditation, a school must meet or exceed various criteria (such as graduation rates) that are set by the accrediting organization. Schools can have national accreditation or regional accreditation, but students may prefer to attend those with regional accreditation.
|Regionally Accredited Schools||Nationally Accredited Schools|
|Cost||Usually less expensive||Generally more expensive|
|Transferring Credits||Credits can transfer to regionally or nationally accredited schools||Credits can usually only transfer to nationally accredited schools|
|Quality||Required to meet more strict criteria, considered more prestigious||Less strict accreditation standards|
|Location||Regional accreditation applies to schools in specific geographic regions||National accreditation applies to schools throughout the U.S.|
|Admissions||Admissions may be more selective||Typically more relaxed standards for admissions|
|Employer Tuition Reimbursement||Qualifies for tuition reimbursement||May not qualify for tuition reimbursement|
How to Get Financial Aid for Online HVAC Programs
There are several types of financial aid available to students of online HVAC programs, including scholarships, loans and tuition reimbursement. Students should first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) when considering financial aid. The FAFSA is available online and is free to use. After completing the FAFSA, students can see some types of aid that they may qualify for (such as loans). Students can also find other types of aid through their school, employer and various other resources.
Students interested in online HVAC programs may qualify for tuition reimbursement. This might be offered by employers to both new and existing employees. HVAC students already working in the field should ask their human resources department about tuition reimbursement; those not yet working in the field can inquire about tuition reimbursement when considering job prospects.
Work-study programs require students to work part-time during their studies in exchange for financial aid. Depending on their program, work-study position and hours worked, students can earn part or all of their program costs.
Students can obtain loans for their program through private or government lenders. Private loans are more variable and should be used as a last resort. Government loans are income-based and have nationally set interest rates and flexible repayment plans.
Students can find scholarships through several resources, including their selected school and the U.S. Department of Labor's scholarship finder (CareerOneStop). Some scholarships that are available to online HVAC students are listed below.
- Mike Rowe Work Ethic Scholarship - Mike Rowe, known for his role in Dirty Jobs, founded this scholarship, which is awarded to students with a commitment and appreciation for hard work.
- The Skylands Energy Scholarship - $2,500 is awarded to one student each year who is enrolled at a trade school, college or university full-time.
- Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund - This $2,000 scholarship is awarded to low-income women who are 35 or older and are pursuing vocational or trade programs.
- PTAC Crew Scholarship - $1,500 is awarded to one student who is pursuing HVAC or a related program at a technical or vocational college.
License Requirements for Online HVAC Graduates
HVAC professionals need to have certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA) and often need additional licensure through their states. The two types of licenses required for HVAC professionals are discussed below.
Section 608 Certification
Section 608 certification is required for professionals who service and dispose of materials and equipment that can lead to the atmospheric release of refrigerants. This certification is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is available as four different types:
- Type I - for technicians who service small appliances, such as residential air conditioners and refrigerators
- Type II - applicable to technicians who dispose of and service equipment that uses high-pressure refrigerants, such as residential heat pumps and air conditioners and supermarket refrigeration units.
- Type III- for technicians primarily working on low-pressure appliances, typically chillers.
- Type IV- universal certification for servicing all types of HVAC equipment.
Many HVAC programs offer the EPA certification test to students upon graduation. Students whose programs do not include the exam can review approved testing sites on the EPA website. The Section 608 certification exam includes knowledge assessment in various areas, including environmental impacts, the Clean Air Act, materials and safety.
Depending on where they live, online HVAC graduates may also need state licensure. While state requirements for licensure vary, technicians may need to have a certain amount of experience and a passing exam score to qualify. For example, technicians in Georgia need four or five years of experience, depending on which class of license they are applying for.
Career Info and Outlook for HVAC Graduates
Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration installers and mechanics are often referred to as HVAC or HVACR technicians. They repair, maintain and install ventilation, heating, refrigeration and cooling systems. Their duties can include installing wiring and other electrical parts, inspecting HVACR systems for problems, and replacing defective or worn parts. They discuss system problems with customers and make recommendations to obtain optimal performance. Some technicians specialize in certain HVACR fields, such as solar panels, commercial refrigeration or radiant heating systems. HVACR technicians are required to follow environmental regulations set by the government pertaining to the proper disposal and handling of certain fluids and gases.
Most technicians work in residential settings, stores, schools, offices, hospitals or factories. Some have scheduled jobs each day while others respond to service calls throughout the workday. HVACR technicians work both indoors and outdoors as needed to fully service affected systems. At times, HVACR technicians work in less-than-ideal conditions; these can include tight or small spaces (such as crawl spaces and furnace closets), outside in cold weather, and inside while the central air is not working. Most work full time, often working overtime during peak seasons for heating and cooling system use.
The median annual salary for HVACR technicians in 2018 was $47,610, with the highest-earning 10% making over $76,230. The median salary for HVACR technicians is shown by industry below.
|Industry||Median Salary (2018)|
|Educational Services; State, Local and Private||$50,740|
|Plumbing, Heating and Air-Conditioning Contractors||$46,040|
Jobs for HVACR technicians are expected to grow by 13% between 2018 and 2028, which is significantly higher than the average for all careers. HVACR candidates with technology and troubleshooting skills are expected to have better job prospects than those who do not. As building construction continues to expand in both residential and commercial sectors, the demand for qualified technicians is also expected to increase. In addition, there is an increased awareness of the environmental effects of HVACR and other systems. As a result, it is expected that more systems will be upgraded or replaced to become more energy-efficient and environmentally-conscious.
HVACR technicians who focus on installing new systems typically experience slow periods when demand is low for replacements and newly constructed buildings, but technicians who focus on repairs and maintenance usually have stable work throughout the year as businesses and homeowners rely on quick and necessary repairs.
Some HVAC graduates may choose to complete apprenticeships at the beginning of their careers, which can last between 3 and 5 years. During an apprenticeship, the apprentice learns various skills and technical knowledge such as safety procedures, proper tool use and how to read blueprints. Apprenticeships are offered by several organizations and groups as a way to ensure new professionals have been properly and extensively trained. Apprentices do not earn the same salaries as their professional counterparts but instead make about half as much as those who are experienced.