Congratulations on your decision to attend HVAC school! This is an ideal educational and career choice for you if you enjoy mechanics, are a tactile learner, and are excited by the possibility of thinking analytically about problems and solutions. HVAC (and possibly with an “R” for Refrigeration) mechanics must learn how to troubleshoot problems with systems and figure out appropriate solutions, even if they did not install the system themselves. Mechanics must also be skilled with various tools and enjoy fixing things. For example, if you were always tinkering with appliances, computers, or cars as you grew up, this career could be ideal for you. Regardless of how confident you are in your abilities, you may be nervous about attending school. This could be the case whether it is your first foray into higher education or you are returning to college later in life in order to make a career change. School can be nerve-wracking, and surely you want to succeed in your occupation once you graduate. No need to worry! Here are a few tips to help you along your journey, from your initial decision to become an HVAC professional through your graduation and beyond.
1. Research Schools Thoroughly.
There are many more choices out there than you may initially realize. Community colleges and trade schools offer programs ranging from six months to two years. In some programs you will receive a certificate, and in others you will receive an associate’s of applied science. Some institutions offer classes online, while others require in-class instruction or hands-on practice in technical skills. As you research programs, you may notice other factors that will play a part in your decision, from tuition rates to location. If you have a full-time job and/or a spouse and children, you will probably want to attend class close to home so your commute is reasonable and you do not have to relocate. In this situation, you may also be attracted to schools that offer evening classes so you don’t have to sacrifice other obligations. Your decision will undoubtedly also be influenced by how much the school costs and what kind of financing they offer, such as loans and scholarships. You may also speak with an advisor about what type(s) of schedules are available – especially if you need to attend part time or in the summer. If you have not attended college before, you may lean towards an associate’s degree so you can gain credits in general education as well. On the other hand, if you already have a degree or have taken general education classes, a shorter certificate program may suffice. If you consider all your options carefully and choose the best program for your needs and career goals, you are more likely to succeed – both in the short and long-term.
2. Choose your classes carefully and if possible, select a specialty.
If you have been accepted into a shorter, more targeted program in preparation for your work in the HVAC field, you may not have much flexibility in your courses. These programs often offer a very specific set of courses so that you can receive a certificate in as little time as possible and be successful in all fundamental aspects of mechanics and repair. However, if you are involved in a longer program, particularly an A.A.S. degree, you likely will have more choices in your coursework. If you choose carefully, you can use your general education or elective classes to build up secondary knowledge in an additional area, such as business, management, or finance. All of these subjects will be helpful if you one day choose to start your own company. You could also take communication or writing classes, which could benefit you should you choose to teach other aspiring HVAC technicians one day. Some schools allow their students to specialize in a specific concentration of system design and repair. These might include an energy technology and management concentration, such as geo-thermal installation or energy auditing. Other concentrations include green technologies and building automation systems. Having a particular specialty can help you pass certification exams more easily and prepare you for a particular field of work.
3. Acquire as many certifications as possible.
In addition to being certified as an HVAC technician, some schools allow you to take classes that will prepare you for certification exams in air conditioning, gas heat, electrical currents, or air pumps. The more certifications you have, the more likely to are to succeed beyond graduation. If you can soak up knowledge in all of these areas during your studies, you will excel both in school and in the professional world. Depending on your schedule and course progression, you may be qualified to take some of these exams before you complete your program. Any studying you do for specific exams while you are in school will also help you keep current with technical information and solidify what you learn.