This will be the last segment of a 10-part series on the subject of learning HVACR. But that doesn’t mean that I, for one moment, think that there can be an end to learning about the HVACR craft, though. Like any industry, there are always new developments in HVACR, and the people who maintain and troubleshoot air conditioning and refrigeration systems will, almost every day, encounter a heat pump, gas furnace, or some other type of equipment that gives them pause because they haven’t seen anything exactly like it before. So, the learning never stops.
Are there some technicians working in HVACR who either don’t or won’t understand this concept? Yes, there are some, and as an entry-level technician, you may enounter one from time to time. Here’s some advice for you: If, when you are hired on your first job and assigned to ride with a lead tech for a while, and on your first day out, that person turns to you and says, “Don’t worry about a thing, Kid. I know everything you need to know about this business,” then I suggest that you jump out of the vehicle at the first opportunity, because you’re riding around with a crazy person who is not only unaware of reality, but is also dangerous.
Kidding aside, though….once you’ve decided on a career in HVACR, your next decision is about how you’re going to learn what you need to know and be able to do what you need to do in order to get paid for doing it. And, in this series I’ve provided some detail on the different avenues you can take to get the training and knowledge you need.
There’s the proprietary, for-profit trade school, the community college, and the university. Which route you’ll choose will depend on many factors.
If your goal is to work in the installation and service segments of HVACR, a reputable trade school offering a certificate program that is full-time (meaning that you’ll be attending at least 4 days a week for at least 6 hours a day) can effectively prepare you, via the proper blend of classroom and hands-on lab time, to be an entry level technician in about 6 months. And the price of a such a program will likely be somewhere North of $10,000 these days, which is why the school you’re considering should be able to say that “financial aid is available to those who qualify” in their advertising.
Community colleges also offer certificate programs, and while the price will be lower, the amount of time it takes to complete a program will often be longer, due to the different type of scheduling. And, since a community college is, by definition, an academic institution, you may be required to take some courses that are not exactly HVACR-related in order to earn your certificate. (Not that taking a Writing 101 or other basic academic class is a bad thing. Being able to communicate effectively and have a grasp of mathematics/algebra is important for an HVACR technician.)
When it comes to degree programs, you’ll find applied technology degrees offered by private schools, and associate degrees offered by community colleges. In my opinion, an effective degree program builds on certificate training and provides a well-rounded curriculum in regard to equipment design and load estimating, as well as more advanced concepts on climate control in commercial applications.
Beyond the associate level or applied technology degree, a four-year degree from a univeristy may be what you decide to pursue. This, of course, is more from an engineering and design perspective. You don’t often find people with a Bachelor’s Degree running service calls, troubleshooting equipment problems, and performing hands-on tasks. If this is the route you decide to take, you may also consider the idea of starting out at a community college for your first two years, then transferring to a university. It’s my experience that this can be a very effective way to pursue a four-year degree for many people.
In the often strange, yet wonderful world of academia, things that shouldn’t get in the way of a person’s education, often do, especially when they are in their first two years of college. I recall a time quite a few years back when I was facilitating a program that prepared individuals for work in the community college system, being asked what the real difference was between a community college and a university. My response was, “The major difference between a community college and university is the number of snobs per square foot. They’re much thicker in a university.”
I hope this series has provided you with the information and insight you need as you consider getting into the HVACR industry, and whatever route you decide to take in getting your education, I wish you success in your endeavor.
Until next week….
Learn from yesterday…..Live for today……Look forward to tomorrow