Jobs in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration repair and installation are growing at a faster-than-average pace of 34 percent between the years 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you're considering a career in HVAC repair, finding an accredited school is the first step to a quality education.
If you're not sure why accreditation matters when choosing an educational program, the U.S. Department of Education -- which doesn't accredit schools -- notes that this process helps to ensure quality levels. Although the Department of Education doesn't actually accredit schools, they do recognize accrediting agencies or bodies that provide acceptable quality measures. Accrediting agencies recognized by the Department of Education that evaluate HVAC training programs may include national bodies such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training, the Council on Occupational Education or regional agencies, such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education or the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Community College Options
Community colleges offer two-year associate degrees and shorter length certificate or diploma programs in HVAC technology. As postsecondary educational institutions, community colleges are often accredited by a regional body. For example, the Mohave Community College in Bullhead City, Arizona, offers an Associate of Applied Science HVAC degree and a certificate in residential HVAC. These programs, as part of the community college, are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission North Central Association. Associate-level community college programs, such as Mohave's, typically include a combination of general education and HVAC courses. Certificate or diploma programs are shorter and don't include the additional general education classes.
Although you'll need on-the-job or hands-on training to complete your HVAC education, you can opt for an accredited online program when it comes to taking lecture-type courses. For example, the Penn Foster Career School is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Penn Foster's HVAC certification program offers an online option that allows students to take their heating, air conditioning and ventilation courses through web-based distance education. Some schools -- such as Brownson Technical School in Anaheim, California -- offer a blended learning option. This type of program allows students to take courses online as well as get hands-on training on-campus through the school's professional workshops.
Vocational and Career Schools
An on-campus vocational or career school offers students the technical training that they will need to work in the HVAC field. Unlike community colleges that offer general education programs along with an HVAC major, vocational schools typically focus on the skilled trade. For example, Northwestern Tech School for the Skilled Trades -- which is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges -- offers a 45-week program in HVAC technology in Southfield, Michigan. This program includes classroom-based courses as well as hands-on practical experiences led by professional HVAC instructors.