If you’ve been considering the HVAC field as a career, you’ve probably been weighing whether to enroll in a formal vocational program or to seek an apprenticeship and get on-the-job training. There are advantages to both paths, so let’s look at them and you can decide.
HVAC as a Career
The heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) industry always needs new technicians. As older workers retire, there’s a need to replace them with technicians with skills matched to recent industry innovations. HVAC work requires advanced skills in several disciplines, including electrical work, refrigeration, heating, ventilation, and plumbing.
Vocational Training in HVAC
While you may work on some older, strictly mechanical systems, new equipment is largely computerized. HVAC technology has been revolutionized in recent years by advances in smart systems, and vocational courses can help you get an edge in mastering this technology.
Efficiency regulations involving the HVAC industry have been pushing many of the innovations over the last decade. Vocational training in a cutting-edge program can help you understand how these innovations are affecting not only system design, but also efficient installations of equipment.
Training in a college setting could help you gain the knowledge you need in all these fields, especially when they are taught by a faculty of experienced instructors with deep knowledge of the industry.
Your training in a vocational program will likely consist of classroom instruction, as well as laboratory exercises where you will get hands-on experience working with equipment.
Your training should prepare you in the basics of installing, maintaining, and repairing HVAC systems. To be sure, you will likely need a couple of years of training with an employer as an apprentice, in addition to the college program, to become a certified technician. But having a degree or diploma will help you get your foot in the door, as you show a potential employer your familiarity with HVAC terms and equipment.
Skills You Will Need
Here’s a breakdown of some of the skills you could learn in a college program:
- Refrigeration. Refrigerant is key for air conditioning and cooling, and technicians must learn how to handle it safely. You will also learn how it cools spaces by absorbing heat and moving it indoors and outdoors. The student will learn the laws of thermodynamics, about the refrigeration cycle, about pressure and temperature relationships, and how to install and test a refrigerated system.
- Electro-mechanical technologies. Some of the courses in this discipline overlap with HVAC courses. Students will learn about electrical wiring, and how to apply basic principles of electricity to voltage circuits, feeder circuits, and wiring panels in HVAC work. Students might even learn about solar panels, and the science of photovoltaic energy.
- Pipe brazing, ducting, and air movement. To air condition a home or business, the student must understand the principles of air movement, particularly with ductwork systems that distribute it, as well as pipe brazing for repairs and installations.
What’s more, a well-rounded program should help you develop skills that aid you in talking to customers, conducting business transactions, and being part of a business team. For instance, some courses that might help you in these areas are industrial psychology, speech, accounting, and technical writing.
One area of training you won’t receive in a strict apprenticeship is service management. If you have any desire to advance in the HVAC industry into the position of manager, or you’d like to start your own business someday, look for a vocational program in HVAC that offers a service management component.
You will need to learn about customer service, communications, employee and human relations, inventory management, business management, and business financial reports.
Enrolling in Vocational Training
Most vocational programs these days are designed to accommodate working individuals, either by offering courses at night, on weekends or even online. It may be possible to enroll in an apprenticeship program and work in the field while you are attending vocational school and earning your degree or certification.
Programs will vary in length, but you might expect to complete your training in nine months to a little over a year, attending class four days a week.
Enrolling in a vocational program is a good way to balance hands-on experience with theoretical knowledge. Earning an associate degree or diploma in this field shows you have put in significant time and effort to successfully complete a course of study, which may give you an edge when you start looking for a job or an apprenticeship program.
Are you ready to start training so you can enter the next generation of skilled professionals in the HVAC industry? Contact Advanced Technology Institute today and ask about the Associate in Occupational Science HVAC Technology with Service Management.