How Long Does HVAC Technician School Take?
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians work to install or maintain HVAC systems in buildings and homes. Their knowledge and expertise in working with these systems enable them to make edifices and residential spaces more comfortable because these systems can control the temperature and climate of a given environment. They also work on systems that make it possible to maintain the freshness and quality of food and medicines while these are being transported to different places. Because of the very positive job outlook and good pay for HVAC technicians, this is one of the occupations that those who are technically-inclined should consider.
Working with air conditioning and heating units is no easy task and aspiring HVAC technicians need to obtain the necessary training to be able to do the job correctly. There are actually different avenues to get the training you need to become an HVAC technician.
The first is by going to formal HVAC technician school. Technical schools, trade schools and community colleges offer training not only in HVAC but in refrigeration systems (HVAC/R) as well. The length of time you’ll spend in HVAC technician school depends on the program you enroll in. Programs leading to a certificate in HVAC or HVAC/R can be as short as six months while an associate’s degree can take as long as two years. As an example, Metropolitan Community College in Missouri offers an HVAC certificate which takes a year to finish and an HVAC associate’s degree which can be completed in two years. Brownson Technical School in California, meanwhile, offers HVAC/R Technology programs that can be finished in 9 ½ months.
The second way of getting the training you need to become an HVAC technician is to apply to an apprenticeship program offered by the local chapters of different trade organizations like the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. These programs vary in duration from three to five years. Apprentices are required to finish no less than 2,000 hours of on-the-job training annually and at least 144 hours of technical education each year. Although different organizations have their own requirements on the apprentices who can enter their apprenticeship program, they commonly prefer those who already hold a high school diploma or its equivalent, are at least 18 years old, hold a valid driver’s license and pass tests in basic math and pass substance abuse screening.
The third way of studying to become an HVAC technician is to assist an experienced technician and obtain your training on the job. Experience technicians usually start by teaching their assistants basic procedures and then move on to more complicated ones as the latter gains more experience and skill. An advantage with this route is that you really get the hands-on experience right then and there. However, a disadvantage is that not many employers these days hire assistant HVAC technicians who don’t have the background to do these highly-technical tasks. This is the reason why this kind of entry point for a career as an HVAC technician is becoming less popular each year.