How to Become an HVAC Pro
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the business that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however every state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative way for AR HVAC techs to establish that they are exceptionally proficient and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several respected certifications within the field that are offered. Following are a few of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC techs. The certification is attained by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for technicians that handle refrigerants. There are three forms of certification available, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to earn certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you decide on readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree Training Programs
There are a variety of choices offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the minimum amount of time, usually accomplished in just six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will provide more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each option offered near AR.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among entry level residential or commercial HVAC technicians. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more extensive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to finish, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is suited more towards a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs call for an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to learning how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Picking the right credential program will be based on what your long term career goals are, as well as the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in AR, subsequently returning to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, be sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
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