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Ever since air conditioners started to become commonplace in the U.S., in the years after World War II, technicians with the tools and the know how to keep them running have been vital members of the workforce. The technology has changed significantly since then, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians are in higher demand than ever.
You'll learn the ins and outs of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in a HVAC degree program, as well as the technical terminology and engineering literacy necessary to communicate effectively with other members of the field. Some programs, commonly known as HVAC/R, also include refrigeration in their curriculum.
Even though the work is hands-on, it's possible to be trained in HVAC or HVACR without ever setting foot in a classroom. Online HVAC degrees use virtual courses that give you the flexibility to complete your degree on a schedule that works for you. Look into online degrees for HVAC systems if you're too busy for a traditional program.
Best Colleges for HVAC Degree Programs 2017-18
There are hundreds of schools in the U.S. that train HVAC techs. We wanted to find out which ones were the best schools for HVAC students, so we collected data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and used our multi-point methodology to rank each school in eight categories. Click the button to see how we calculated the scores, and read on below for the best colleges for HVAC degree programs.
The Cleveland, Ohio, outpost of this national for-profit college posted the second-highest graduation rate among our top schools for HVAC. It also had by far the highest percentage of HVAC students in its 2015 graduating class of any school that made our list, despite being the smallest school overall in our top ten.
The HVAC program at Vatterott College leads to a diploma rather than an associate degree and provides a comprehensive professional education. The curriculum covers classroom topics like applied mathematics and blueprint reading with workshop sections on soldering, brazing, wiring, pipe joinery and other hands-on skills.
The HVAC program at Cypress College in Orange County, California, is delivered in a two-year curriculum that culminates in either a certificate or an Associate in Science (A.S.) degree. The instruction provided by the program is designed to give you a versatile skillset once you enter the workforce, preparing you to take on positions in sales, service, applied engineering, design or construction with equal confidence.
Not only that, but Cypress College was one of the best schools for affordable HVAC training in the country. Only three other schools nationwide posted lower average tuition rates than Cypress, and no other school on our list could top the affordability of its $1,138 average annual tuition and fees cost.
Davidson County Community College in North Carolina took the No. 3 spot on our list thanks in part to its commitment to flexibility for its students. It was one of the best schools for online HVAC degrees, posting the second-highest percentage of distance education students among our top ten schools, and certain courses are available on weekends or evenings for on-campus students with scheduling issues.
The HVAC programs at DCCC offer a range of diplomas and certificates. The general diploma program takes 37 credit hours to complete, while the certificates in residential system design, heat pumps and residential heating and cooling require just 12-13 credit hours of study.
This Southern California institution offers two different daytime or evening program tracks for aspiring HVAC techs. The A.S. degree plan at Los Angeles Trade Technical College contains 48 units of HVAC-specific courses as well as 18 general education credits in subjects like English composition and the social sciences. A Certificate of Completion program, which requires just the 48 units of HVAC coursework but confers fewer transferrable credits, is also available.
If you think you might go on to a bachelor's degree in business or engineering after spending some time in the workforce, the associate degree option is probably your best bet. The certificate program may help you get on the job quicker, but those extra transfer credits can go a long way toward your future education.
The HVAC/R program at San Jose City College features plenty of hands-on training and works to educate students on all the finer points of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration work. Along with commercial and residential HVAC systems, you'll learn about industrial ultra-low temperature systems and refrigeration technology that's used in supermarkets.
Specialized skills such as copper pipe welding and applied diagnostic physics are also taught in the SJCC program. What's more, students hoping to use their HVAC/R skills to help fight climate change can apply for a special scholarship at SJCC.
Just two other schools on our list posted higher graduation rates than this member of the Technical College System of Georgia, and the school's commitment to academic support services like academic and career counseling may be part of the reason. No other institution in our top ten allocated a larger percentage of its annual budget to academic support expenses than Georgia Piedmont Technical College.
The HVAC program at this school just outside Atlanta is offered as a diploma program in air conditioning technology and includes a few general studies courses along with its training in A/C troubleshooting, gas heat and refrigeration principles. Students must earn a minimum of 51 credit hours before becoming eligible for graduation.
This two-year, for-profit college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offers two separate study plans for HVAC students. The certificate program in air conditioning and electrical technology is designed to give you a quick but comprehensive understanding of the essentials of the field, including safe work practices, regulations and the fundamentals of heat transfer, electricity and refrigerants.
The degree program at ITI Technical College takes the form of an Associate in Occupational Studies (A.O.S.) degree and brings an interesting additional academic section to the table. Not only will you learn the vital specifics of HVAC systems, you'll get training in circuitry, lighting, programmable logic controllers and the National Electric Code (NEC). According to ITI, you'll be qualified to test for certification as an electrician after graduating.
The A.S. degree in air conditioning and refrigeration at El Camino College requires 60 credits for graduation, and a majority of those units must be earned at El Camino College itself. At least 50 percent of your HVAC-focused courses must be completed at the Southern California school. The curriculum recommends electives in construction technology, business mathematics and computer information systems.
The shorter Certificate of Achievement program breaks down into a few different concentration options. The general HVAC option is the largest, requiring 39 credits of exclusively major-subject coursework, and an additional 13-credit refrigeration option may be taken as well. The school also offers two separate certificate tracks that focus only on air conditioning.
Flexibility was one of the bright spots at this two-year school in Paris, Texas. Not only did it rank No. 3 among schools on our list for the percentage of its student body that takes at least some of its classes online, but the degree and certificate programs in HVAC can be attended full-time or part-time, during the day or in the evening.
The degree plan is an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) program that requires 64 credit hours to complete. The certificate in air conditioning and refrigeration requires 15 fewer credits, taking a total of 41 units to complete, and can be followed up with a 16-credit certificate in distributed digital control for air conditioning systems.
Just two other schools on our list posted a lower average rate of tuition and fees than Oakland's Laney College, where students also had access to weekend and evening courses and placement services for graduates once they finish their degrees. Two separate HVAC/R programs can be taken at Laney: a residential/light commercial track that requires two semesters of study and a standard commercial track that typically lasts four semesters.
HVAC training at Laney is offered through the Environmental Control Technology department, which also offers a certificate in energy efficiency sales and auditing and an A.S. in building automation systems. A 16.5-credit certificate of proficiency in refrigeration technology is also available.
Degrees and common career paths in HVAC
The trade-specific skills taught in HVAC degree programs are in high demand, particularly in regions of the country where the summer season gets the hottest and lasts the longest. Here's some info about common degrees and career paths for HVAC graduates.
Career outlook for HVAC
Knowing what to expect from the career market once you graduate can help you take the stress of the inevitable job search in stride. Check out these employment projections for careers that typically employ graduates of HVAC degree programs.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||$49,530||307,060||14.7%|
Financial aid and scholarships in HVAC
Many of the scholarships available for aspiring HVAC students are offered at the regional or institutional level, but some programs, such as those administered by the Nexstar Legacy Foundation, are open to all qualifying students nationwide. Here's a list of a few financial aid options that might be able to help you pursue your HVAC degree.
Automatically renewable if renewal criteria met and with annual progress essay.