Is it Worth Going to School for HVAC?
The HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning) industry, also referred to as HVAC/R (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration), is a growing industry that is in constant need of qualified HVAC technicians to serve both residential and commercial markets. The HVAC industry thrives, even during economic downturns, because of the year-round comforts and lifestyles the world enjoys and expects. Combined with the growth of green technologies and the importance of energy conservation, HVAC careers are constantly in demand.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration estimates the need for qualified, well-trained HVAC technicians in Florida will rise 16 percent over the next several years. Thus, many companies have established HVAC apprenticeship programs to offer entry-level HVAC jobs to those who have the proper training and skills. With Florida’s floodwaters, record-breaking heat and hurricanes, competent HVAC mechanics and installers are needed throughout the year.
The HVAC industry is one that stays on the cutting edge of technology with new jobs being created every day such as Energy Auditors, Efficiency Specialists, and Green Technology Specialists. The industry is growing and the demand for HVAC technicians is very strong.
Diversity in Career Choices
It is hard to dispute that the HVAC industry isn’t one of the best fields for work. The world of HVAC has many positions for trained and untrained workers. New technologies and green technologies are increasing the demand for those with both strong mechanical and electronic skills. Initially, some HVAC technicians may start off as an installer, but then develop into a project manager, then field supervisor and even end up in corporate leadership.
There are virtually no limits to the diversity of the careers in HVAC because it takes so many positions to create, engineer, service, repair, produce, package, promote and sell HVAC products and services. Every stage has a specific task that needs to be performed.
To get a better sense of all that HVAC offers, here is just a small sample of the jobs available within the HVAC industry*:
- Blueprint Creation/Reading
- Controls Technician
- Design Engineer
- Energy Auditor
- Engineering Lab Technician
- Equipment Performance Testing Specialist
- Energy Conservation Specialist
- Field Technical Specialist
- Graphic Designer
- Green Technology Specialist
- HVAC Equipment Dealer
- IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) Inspector
- Product Manager
- Product Technical Support Personnel
- Training Instructor
- Safety Director
- Sheet Metal Fabricator
- Supply Chain Specialist
- Shop Maintenance Manager
- Vendor Manager
Many of these jobs can easily be found through networking, online job sites, social media, and recruiters after attending a trade school. The demand for skilled professionals to develop, manufacture, sell and install HVAC-related products is ongoing. But those wanting HVAC careers must first acquire the necessary education and training.
Available Education Programs
To become an educated HVAC technician, Florida Technical College (FTC) has an HVAC school that has a well-established diploma program that gives soon-to-be HVAC technicians, project managers, sales managers and other professionals, the core HVAC courses and training required to start successful HVAC careers. The HVAC/R training program offered by FTC teaches students the skills and technical knowledge needed to service, repair and install all types of heating, refrigeration and air conditioning systems.
The HVAC School has a curriculum that combines comprehensive classroom training with hands-on experience. FTC also provides extensive career development classes and strategies to ensure graduates successfully obtain HVAC jobs as soon as they complete the 17-month program.
The certificate HVAC/R program offered by Florida Technical College’s HVAC School has fifteen core competencies to fully prepare students for HVAC careers. Starting with Applied Mathematics, the HVAC course offering gives students exposure to Basic Electricity, Industrial Safety, Mechanical Instrumentation, Refrigeration, and A/C Principles, Heat Pumps and Related Systems, and Codes and Regulations, just to name a few.
The HVAC School curriculum was also designed to give future graduates an environment to test their skills and training before getting HVAC apprenticeships and other entry-level HVAC jobs. The HVAC School’s curriculum also has lab classes in Electrical Instrumentation, Domestic Equipment, and Commercial A/C Equipment, so students are prepared for their first day out in the field.
One specific area where FTC stands out is its’ Programmable Logic Controller Units-Lab. This lab gives students extensive training and knowledge in Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), which is used in special computer devices to control a variety of commercial and industrial systems. The PLC lab provided gives students a setting where they can test out and put to use the valued skills of being able to troubleshoot and adjust HVAC systems by using handheld computers. This training and exposure is vital to securing HVAC apprenticeships in emerging HVAC, green and energy conservation technologies.
Although there are plenty of different HVAC careers, most HVAC technicians, early in their careers, will participate in an HVAC apprenticeship. Lab classes at trade schools are important, but on-the-job training is needed early on to apply what is learned in both the classroom and in the lab. HVAC apprenticeships give students the opportunity to use their newly acquired skills.
Many individual employers have HVAC apprenticeship and training programs for students already enrolled in HVAC courses. Additionally, HVAC apprenticeships are sponsored by joint employer and labor groups, trade associations and even by local, state and federal agencies.
HVAC apprenticeship programs typically last one to five years, often requiring about 144 hours of school instruction for each year of the HVAC apprenticeship.
For instance, the Northeast Florida Builders Association (NEFBA) has an HVAC apprenticeship program that gives participants real-life experience installing and servicing residential, commercial and industrial HVAC systems, monitoring automated building controls and solving problems in the field.
Most HVAC apprenticeships are most fitting for those who are ready to commit long-term to an HVAC career. They must be at least 18, have graduated from high school and physically ready to perform the required work of the HVAC trade.
Once an HVAC apprenticeship is completed, finding entry-level HVAC jobs becomes much easier not only because of the practical field experience but also because of the networking and relationships that are formed from working in the field.
Additional Factors for Choosing An HVAC Career
Choosing a career in the field of HVAC can be very rewarding. In addition to the variety of jobs from which to select, the process of getting educated and trained to be an HVAC technician usually takes only one to two years. The industry is growing and advancements in technology make it very likely the HVAC industry will remain strong for several years to come.
More reasons to consider attending an HVAC school:
- HVAC careers are attractive because these are jobs that can’t be exported. The HVAC industry is homegrown.
- The HVAC field is perfect for those who like to work with their hands. Every day is different and gives a sense of pride when saving the day for customers having issues with their heating or cooling.
- The need is growing for HVAC technicians with strong skills in networking, controls, and electronics. Today, HVAC technicians spend more time with handheld technologies than they do with screwdrivers.
- The HVAC industry is technology-driven, constantly evolving. Changing careers within the industry is easy and the skills are transferable.
- Not every high school graduate is made for academics and the trades offer
- The HVAC industry is ripe for innovation, not only in the products offered but how products are offered to clients and how solutions are discovered for cooling and heating facilities more efficiently and effectively.
- The HVAC field is interesting and challenging with lots of opportunities to help people with skills learned from having a background in HVAC.
- The demand for HVAC technicians is high and consistent.
- The HVAC industry is recession-proof to a large degree.
To find out if going back to school for training as an HVAC technician makes sense, visit any of the four FTC campuses offering the program. Tours are available to check out the state-of-the art, industry-standard facilities and to meet instructors with experience in these fields. Florida Technical College’s HVAC School has four locations to make it easier to start an HVAC career. FTC has campuses throughout Florida, in Lakeland, DeLand, Orlando, Kissimmee, Cutler Bay and Pembroke Pines.
Want to Learn More?
The HVAC/R with PLC Diploma Program offers Florida Technical College students the technical and practical knowledge and skills to perform heating, refrigeration, and air conditioning maintenance, installations, and repairs. Students will also learn basic skills related to the programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Graduates from this program will be able to fill positions at construction firms, as well as residential and commercial refrigeration and air conditioning companies.
For a really cool career with a lot of options, consider attending Florida Technical College’s HVAC School.
*These examples are intended to serve only as a general guide of possible employment opportunities. There are many factors that determine the job an individual may obtain and Florida Technical College cannot guarantee its graduate any particular job. Some positions may require license or other certifications. We encourage you to research the requirements for the particular position you desire.