Working as an HVAC technician or working towards additional training in the field may be a serious and beneficial career move. Employment in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics has a projected growth of 15 percent over the next 10 years. This is higher than the average rate of all other occupations, including other trades.
Needless to say, HVAC technicians and engineers are in growing demand. Moreover, in a world of ever-changing technology, HVAC systems are also changing and becoming more complex or powerful. That means, HVAC technicians can improve their employability and value with certifications and education.
Finding time and means to go to classes at a school can be difficult. Not to mention, taking courses at a school or college can be expensive. Thanks to modern technology, many of these physical and financial barriers can be removed or reduced, allowing better access to certifications, diplomas, and licenses.
Before making decision about your professional and educational career, it is a good idea to understand what online learning can do for you and what it cannot do. Luckily, this guide will help you in the journey of making a decision about HVAC certifications, education, and training online.
What You Should Know First about HVAC Certifications and Online Learning
While federal law does not list any mandatory certifications for HVAC certifications, some states and local governances require technicians to hold certain certifications and licenses. While requirements may different between locations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has one mandated certification.
The Section 608 Refrigeration Recycling Rule directs that all HVAC technicians that can release CFCs into the air must be certified by the EPA and pass a test to so. All engineers and technicians must have their 608 cards.
NATE and the HVAC Excellence Certification are also nationally endorsed certifications that demonstrate training and knowledge in the profession.
The required licenses vary between states, and these can be obtained by different regulatory or governmental bodies. You can research to find what certifications are needed where you live or work.
It is always ideal to research the requirements within your state and research the programs, schools, and courses that you are interested in taking, whether that education is online or face-to-face. Some of the requirements may require training in-person, which will take you beyond the online classroom.
At the most basic level, technicians need a GED, a HVAC certificate from an accredited program, an HVAC license from your state, and certificates depending on the kind of work you want to do.
Learning More About Online Certifications
Some online courses will lead to diplomas and degrees. Some schools and courses conclude with both a diploma and an examination that leads to necessary certifications.
However, there are other online courses and state-endorsed HVAC certifications that can be obtained through experience and examinations. This combination is another potential path to certification.
By receiving certifications in your state, you will be able to work within the field. This work includes installation, maintenance, and repairs. Other certifications may permit you to perform more advanced or complex work.
Why You Should Study for HVAC Certifications Online
There are a number of benefits to pursuing HVAC certifications and learning online.
If you have not taken online courses, the idea can be intimidating. However, after learning about the accessibility and structure of online courses, you may find them to be preferable over face-to-face classes.
There is a significant variety of online classes and programs you can take, so you should always research the online learning program in which you are interested.
Some are thorough and conclude with certification and license examinations, which means they offer everything you need.
Other programs may offer you a degree without ending in a certification you may need. Assess what you need and what you hope to achieve and make sure the program fulfils your professional goals.
Online Classes in HVAC Training Offer More Flexibility
Like any online course, studying online gives you a significant amount of freedom. Not only do you have a broader range of choices in both education and time. Brick and mortar schools have set semesters with mandated schedules, requiring you to be on campus or in the classroom established by the administration.
Instead, you are offered more flexibility to work from home, which removes any commute time, and it also offers more flexibility to work online when you can. You can still hold a job and study in your free time, whether that is at night after work or during your lunch break. You can work at a pace that works for your learning needs and lifestyle.
While you are not in a classroom, which means you do not see the teacher in person, you still have access to information and resources that you will need to be successful. Most online teacher have required, set office hours online. Many instructors offer virtual means of meeting, and some even can talk over the phone.
Aside from your instructor, online resources, databases, and websites can help you answer questions you have. If you question is regarding the technology, nearly all school platforms have information technology personnel to help you through technical issues.
Online classes can offer you more flexibility with the same amount of resources and access to information that other students may have. The online learning community is large, and you will not be alone.
HVAC Certifications and Courses Online Can Cost Less
It is common for online courses in any degree or field of study to cost less than courses taken at a brick and mortar school. This cost effectiveness extends to HVAC classes online. You can also apply for scholarships and financial aid.
More importantly, you can continue to work, which means there is less likelihood you will need to talk out larger student loans. If time is also a concern, some courses offer a program where the courses can be completed within a matter of six to nine months.
Therefore, taking courses online cannot only save you some time, but it can also save you money.
The Downsides to Online Certifications & Learning
While there are great benefits to online learning and online HVAC programs, there are some downsides to digital and virtual learning. These benefits can be significant depending on your specific needs.
Online HVAC Courses May Not Cover All Requirements
In many states and for some licenses or certifications, technicians are required to participate in an apprenticeship program. This is especially true for a master level license or certification, and it is also true for a journeyperson. Getting hands-on experience is crucial to having a well-rounded understanding of the profession.
Additionally, most licensing demand and require resumes and apprenticeship hours that are notarized. Another in-person task is the actual examination. The examinations are proctored on established test sites and locations. The final examination for state licensing cannot be given or taken online.
Regardless of whether you take a course online or in-person, you will still have to take the final examination at a designated location.
If you are looking to have in-person workshops, some courses may or may not offer in-class HVAC workshops. If the program does offer in-class workshops, then you should take advantage of this. You can study the ideas and the concepts at home and then apply them in a practical sense in the workshops.
Which HVAC Certifications and Licenses Can You Get Online?
There are several different types of HVAC certifications. It is essential to know which ones are mandatory for the kind of work you plan to do.
The programs are aimed to give you exposure to the science and mechanics of air condition. The programs offer necessary manuals, guides, and tutorials needed to read diagrams for wiring, exam and troubleshoot defective equipment, and properly handle electricals.
The courses will most likely, and should include mechanical codes, Code of Federal Regulations, and International Residential Code.
EPA Type 1 – This allows to service small appliance
EPA Type 2 – This allows to service high pressure systems
EPA Type 3 – This allows to service low pressure systems
Universal EPA Certificate
North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
EPA HVAC Certification: or Section 608 Technician Certification
This certification is required by the EPA for anyone that has access to a system or container with refrigerant gas. Technicians handle these gases, which can be dangerous to people and the environment; therefore, it is crucial to be drained in handling it.
There are four different kinds of certifications under 608. Each type requires you to study and pass an exam. Only after completion of study and the exam can you hold the certificates.
Both the NATE certification and EPA Type 1 certification can be completed online through approved and accredited programs.
North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
NATE is a non-profit organization that offers certification programs for HVAC technicians that are recognized nationally. The NATE certifications add to your qualifications as a technician and make you more valuable as a technician.
Passing an exam is also required for this certification. Nate divides the exam between newly-trained and more experienced technicians. The exam is adapted to fit levels of experience. The exams are also further separated into field specialties, like gas furnaces, air distribution, air condition, etc.
The “Ready-to-Work Certificate” tests on the fundamentals of HVAC systems, professional tools, equipment, scientific theory, electrical skills, and safety.
The “HVAC Support Technician Certificate” is for those with 6-12 months of experience under their belt. This exam has more information and covers more topics than the Ready-to-Work Exam. It include information like planned maintenance, system components, and a design features.
After passing the exam, you will then hold a HVAC Support Technician Certificate, which is widely recognized and accepted as a viable certification.
There is also the exam for those with more experience, which are named NATE Professional Level Certifications. The exams are divided into specialties and skills within the field., which gives you acclaim for having further knowledge in installation and services.
Some specialty certifications offered by NATE Professional Level Certifications include oil heating (OL), heat pumps (air-to-air), hydronics gas (HG), HVAC efficiency analyst (EA), and Commercial Refrigeration (RC). There are others.
The NATE certification can be completed online through pre-approved programs.
How to Take HVAC Certification Exams Online
While some certifications require an examination to be taken in person, there are a few certifications that can be entirely completed online. The ways in which you can complete these exams can vary between programs.
Taking the EPA Section 608 Online
As previously mentioned, the Type 1 Certification for EPA Section 608 can be taken online. This is the certification that is required by federal law for all HVAC technician to have.
The Type 1 Certification is only possible online because it is an open-book exam. It can be taken in an actual testing center, if you prefer. However, the test can be taken through an online testing center.
Since the test is open book, the online test requires a higher grade than the in-person test. There are different sections of the exam. Everyone must take the core section of the test, and then you will move to the section (Type 1-3) that you are trying to become certified in.
If you pass the test, then you will be certified to work with smaller appliance, typically under 5 pounds of refrigerant. Luckily, the certification does not expire and does not need yearly re-testing for re-certification.
Unlike Type 1, Types 2 and 3 cannot be taken online because they are strictly proctored in an established testing area that is monitored.
Getting Your NATE Certification Online
This certification is important because it shows that you understand a broad range of topics and ideas in the HVAC trade and industry. It bolsters your credibility by shower a greater breadth of knowledge. This certification can be taken online.
NATE has 22 different certifications in the HVAC field which encompass 22 different skill arenas. Unlike the EPA certificate, NATE certifications are only good for up to five years. However, you can re-certify and renew the certification by gaining continuing education credits.
HVAC Excellence Certification
Some organizations are nationally recognized as programs that distinguish technicians that are deemed excellent in the field. These are ready-to-work certifications that are awarded after a number of exams are given and passed. After demonstrating knowledge in the HVAC field and passing the examinations, technicians are recognized as ready to work.
Most of these examinations are given at the end of programs when students must demonstrate the knowledge they have gained throughout the course. This is much like any other program of study that gives examinations at the end of the semester.
There is a stipulation to the Excellence Certification. To receive this certification, you must have two years of work experience in an HVAC position or an HVAC-related position.
Getting Diplomas and Degrees with HVAC Online Programs
The kind of diploma, degree, or certification truly depends upon the program you chose and how the program is designed to fit within the parameters of your state’s requirements. It is ideal to check your state’s requirements and what the online program offers you by the end of your studies.
Short-Term Online HVAC Programs
Some schools offer significantly focused programs that seemed to move quickly. Speedy trade schools, programs, and community colleges offer a 9 to ten-month diploma-earning program in the HVAC field. While the theoretical and textbook information is done online, hands-on training and workshops will probably be part of your program.
Some of the workshops may be able to count towards apprenticeship hours, but these programs are designed to give you the fundamental skills you need to pass your exam and become a technician.
Two-Year HVAC Programs and the Online Associate Degree
Many two-year programs offer the same fundamental knowledge as the shorter programs, but these will expand that knowledge. Moreover, these programs with most likely end with an Associate Degree in hand. This will make you more valuable than entry-level technicians that only hold a GED.
These programs make you a little more valuable by giving you further information within the HVAC field. They also offer my opportunities for hands-on experiences.
HVAC Programs for a Bachelor’s Degree
Getting a bachelor’s degree to be an HVAC service technician is not entirely necessary. A bachelor’s degree is truly for those who wish to have a further, complex understanding of the field’s science techniques and theories. These programs are usually up to four years.
A four-year or bachelor’s program may be more beneficial to those looking to take on managerial positions within businesses and companies. That means those you are more likely to gravitate towards project management or communications may want to look into the bachelor’s degree. These jobs include project managers, facility managers, supervisors, etc.
Meeting All State Licensing for HVAC Technicians
While these certifications and degrees can make you more valuable and knowledgeable as a technician, you may still have more training and education to take depending on your state requirements.
Some states require more extensive training and testing. Oftentimes, fieldwork is required, and you must track your hours. In some cases, additional classroom work can count towards fieldwork, but other states will not allow this substitution.
Check with your state government office or appropriate authority for the most recent information on your state’s licensing requirements for HVAC technicians.
Continuing and Ongoing Professional Training for HVAC Technicians
With numerous certifications and quite a large number of specializations in the HVAC field, technicians and engineers can always looks to improve their knowledge and value by gaining more experience and certifications.
The Air-Conditioning Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) are great resources that can give advice on career advancement, further certifications, additional professional development, or more education.
Is an Online HVAC Program or Certification Right for Me?
Without a doubt, gaining certifications and licenses in the HVAC field is a good career move. Whether you are coming to the field, new to it, or seasoned, you can also benefit from additional education of licenses.
Recognized and accredited programs online offer a number of benefits. They are cost-effective and time time-effective. They allow you to work at your own pace while you have the opportunity to continue work outside of education.
Online programs give you the fundamental knowledge you will need to be a successful technician. Many of these programs integrate the Type 1 Certification for EPA Section 608. This means that you can begin to work towards more certifications and specializations after the program is finished.
Moreover, for bad test-takers, the exam is open-book. The online program seems to be less intimidating than the in-person testing or learning that is offered.
Online learning extend beyond those attempting to get their Type 1 license and can benefit those already in the field. Seasoned professionals can continue learning and expanding their knowledge. They can even begin to study for supplementary certifications, such as NATE or other specialized licenses.
Extended knowledge, certifications, and licenses in the HVAC field will only improve your value and increase your chances of higher salary. Online learning can help you make the next step in your professional development.
Frequently Asked Questions About Online HVAC Certifications and Programs
Can I Become an HVAC Technician Completely Online?
It is unlikely that you can become a licensed technician through only online work. Online programs are designed to give you the theoretical and textbook knowledge you need. However, you will still need practice and hands-on experience. Therefore, you will most likely have workshops, or you may need to pursue apprenticeship yourself. Some schools have resources to help find apprenticeships.
Can I Find a Free HVAC Certification Program Online?
There are currently no free, legitimate certification programs online. Even if you are looking to become a technician for free, it is impossible. The test itself to become certified costs money. Therefore, you will still have to pay to even take the test.
What is the Shortest Program I Can Take to Become Certified?
The shortest program is 6 months. However, expect to work as an apprentice for some time, as some licenses require hands-on time before certifications and licenses can be issued.