Three Important Academic Considerations When Evaluating Prospective HVAC Training Programs

Posted on: 29 April 2015

If you are considering a career as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician, then carefully evaluating HVAC training programs is worth your while. Below are some academic considerations that you will want to keep in mind as you research, read and talk with program representatives:

Accreditation status

One of the essential things you should know about any HVAC training provider is their accreditation status. Accreditation is a recognition granted to an individual educational program that acknowledges it meets certain minimum academic standards; whether or not an institution is accredited can be affected by several factors including institutional resources, number of faculty, admissions standards and other measures of quality.

 There are two broad types of accreditation, and each has a bearing on your individual qualifications to work in the HVAC industry:

  • Institutional – this accreditation standard refers to an evaluation of overall institutional integrity and a school's status as a recognized provider of learning. In the United States, the Department of Education recognizes six regional accrediting bodies as well as a distance education organization (Distance Education Accrediting Commission) for the purposes of evaluating overall quality.
  • Programmatic – on the other hand, programmatic accreditation refers to a particular accrediting body's evaluation of a program's quality within a select discipline. In the United States, there are numerous programmatic bodies that provide accreditation for different disciplines, but here are few specific HVAC programmatic accreditations you should seek when making your list of potential candidates:

If you are interested in pursuing HVAC installation and repair as a career, then you should seek both an institutionally and programmatically-accredited institution for your education. While accreditation isn't always strictly necessary, some states may have licensing requirements that mandate HVAC licensure candidates must have attended accredited formal education programs. In addition, accreditation is helpful for future career opportunities and advancement, and it provides others with an easily-understood recognition of your quality educational background.

Licensure and certification potential

Another consideration when evaluating potential HVAC educational providers is concerning licensing. Many states require HVAC technicians to have a license before performing work on at least some HVAC systems, especially larger commercial or industrial systems; some states also specify that candidates achieve a particular amount of formal education before being allowed to sit for the exam. It's important to know if the schools you have in mind can properly prepare you for passing the test.

In addition, HVAC technicians also must pass the appropriate EPA Section 608 exam and be licensed under its provisions. The Section 608 licensing requirement is necessary for anyone who wishes to perform installation or maintenance work in the HVAC industry; it specifically ensures that technicians understand how to properly handle refrigerants which are environmentally-destructive if misused or released into the atmosphere.  Your school must include some preparation in its curriculum for the Section 608 exam; if it doesn't, then you should consider looking elsewhere for one that will prepare you for the test.

Classroom and practical instruction balance

When researching prospective HVAC programs, it is important for you to consider the benefits of enrolling in a program that provides an adequate amount of practical, hands-on instruction. Like most other technical occupations, it is difficult to obtain all the skills necessary for working as an HVAC technician without having sufficient practice with real equipment. You should specifically inquire about the following characteristics of a quality education:

  • Variety of equipment – the institution should offer students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with both old and new equipment produced by multiple leading manufacturers. In addition, programs should also provide students with an opportunity to work with commercial and industrial equipment, not just residential units.
  • Guided practice – institutions should also support student practical training by using organized guided instruction; lab instructors should be available to assist and provide feedback to students as they work through exercises. A "free for all" lab session is less-helpful to students.
  • Proper balance – while practical training is of great importance, programs shouldn't neglect the also-important theoretical aspects of HVAC technology. For example, an understanding of both math and physics is key to an HVAC technician's ability to install and maintain equipment. Establishing balance in the curriculum will make you a well-rounded technician.

For more information on available classes, check out places like HVAC Technical Institute.