Are you someone who is equally passionate about electrical circuits as you are about getting your hands dirty at work? Do you envision yourself as a leader designing and maintaining successful HVAC systems? Then a degree or certification in HVAC may be the next, ideal move for you!
What kind of HVAC degree should you get?
Though most HVAC certificates and degrees provide similar foundational training, each comes with its own emphases and specializations. Some schools ensure you have a firm grasp on theory as much as application. Others stress the importance of getting in the lab and learning through hands-on experience.
Whichever program feels right for you, just make sure they offer the kind of certification you want. And check whether they prepare you for the industry EPA exam. We’ve be sure to note those that do below.
Finally, if you’re still not sure about HVAC training, because of finances or circumstance, and you’re wondering about earning a degree online, visit our 2017 ranking for the best online education programs in the nation.
How much money do people make with an HVAC certificate or degree?
Let’s say you just want to earn an HVAC certificate before committing the time and money to a full associate degree. Then you’re looking at an average salary of at least 45k a year. Now, maybe you’re ready to take some more classes and complete the full AS degree. You’re looking at a substantial pay raise: those with an AS in HVAC earn on average 52k a year. The possibility of making upwards of 76k annually only increases in time.
Not only is the pay good, HVAC offers job stability. It’s projected that the need for HVAC mechanics will rise another 14 percent (way above the national average) in the next few years alone.
What are the requirements for an HVAC certificate or degree?
Acceptance into any of these HVAC programs are practically guaranteed. You only have to prove you’re passionate about HVAC training!
Once accepted, you can anticipate foundational classes in electricity, cooling, and heating. If you’re earning only the certificate you may take a few more courses on top of these, such as Troubleshooting Skills or Electrical Motors.
But if you’re planning to earn an associate degree you can expect a number of specialized classes. These might include thermodynamics, sustainable energy, brazing and piping, and more. As a rule of thumb, the associate degree will take around two years to complete while certifications range from six to twelve months.
What are the best HVAC degrees?
While some of these programs specialize in green energy and sustainability and others emphasize leadership development, they all share one thing one common: they are the best at training future HVAC mechanics. Whether you want to work in installation or design, one of these HVAC programs will get you where you want to go.
To determine the best HVAC programs we started first with the reputation of each HVAC program in the nation and then looked into graduation rates, retention rates, affordability, and the early salaries of graduates.
After such thorough research, our final list boasts the best HVAC programs in the U.S. Our figures and information come from the university and colleges’ websites, PayScale, and nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
Georgia Piedmont Technical College
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $6,641.00
Part of the larger Technical College System of Georgia, Georgia Piedmont Technical College (GPTC) serves the Atlanta community. More than 8k students are enrolled in a GPTC program, of which there are over 120. GPTC continues to grow and is currently developing new programs in the arts.
At GPTC you can become fully prepared for a career in either residential or commercial heating and air conditioning. You will also gain a foundation in both theory and application on industry technologies. This includes troubleshooting, repairing, and maintaining HVAC systems. The following program options at GPTC include:
- Air Conditioning Technician’s Assistant (Certificate)
- Sustainable Technologies (Certificate)
- Air Conditioning Technology (Diploma)
- Associate of Air Conditioning Technology
GPTC is perhaps best known for having one of the largest adult literacy programs in the larger technical system of Georgia. It implemented the system-wide Certified Literate Community Program. GPTC was also recognized recently for having the largest number of students earn U.S citizenship while in school.
Ferris State University
College Choice Score: 99.71
Average Net Price: $13,204.00
Located in Big Rapids, Michigan, Ferris State University (FSU) was founded as an industrial school. And today, though it offers hundreds of unique academic programs, it maintains those roots. It has strong professional programs in the areas of technical education, business, health sciences, and more.
At Ferris State you can earn a full BS degree in HVAC. This is a two-year program that introduces you to HVAC design, testing and adjusting, systems balancing, and microcomputer controls. Meaning, you’ll graduate from Ferris State ready to immediately enter a rewarding career in HVAC. In fact, graduates have gone on to become:
- Application Engineers
- Project Engineers
- HVAC Technicians
- Systems Representatives
Ferris State boasts an impressively low student-to-teacher ratio of 16:1. Students at Ferris State work closely with faculty members, who are leaders and experts in their professional fields. This has established a reputation of mentorship across the Ferris State campus.
Austin Community College
College Choice Score: 96.64
Average Net Price: $7,233.00
This community college system (ACC) serves all of Austin, Texas and its surrounding communities. In all, it serves over 100k students who either attend classes on one of the many campuses or online. ACC offers over 100 associate degrees and technical certification programs.
The Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Technology (HART) program at ACC gives you two options: a 29 credit-hour certification that takes one year to complete or a 60 credit-hour Associate of Applied Science degree, which takes two years to complete. Both provide a foundation in HVAC with classes on:
- General Basics in Electricity
- Physics of Refrigerant
- Temperature and Pressure Relationships
- Fundamentals in Troubleshooting Skills
As one of the largest community college systems in the United States, ACC is able to offer an impressive range of services and programs to its students. It is best known for its continuing education and technical training programs, though.
Northwest Louisiana Technical College
College Choice Score: 98.96
Average Net Price: $10,322.00
Northwest Louisiana Technical College (NLTC) offers degrees in business, health services, information technology, construction and manufacturing, and transportation. NLTC’s main campus is located in Mindin but it has additional branches throughout the state. Over 3k students are enrolled.
You can earn a HVAC technical diploma, certificate of technical studies, or a technical competency area recognition at NLTC. All provide specialized training in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration repair. You will learn how to install, diagnose, repair, and maintain systems at the residential and commercial levels. At NLTC you can anticipate taking classes such as:
- Applied Electricity and Troubleshooting
- Solar Thermal Applications
- Commercial Refrigeration
- Electrical Motors
NLTC offers certification, diploma, and associate degrees in a wide variety of areas. From phlebotomy to well drilling, students have many options at NLTC. The most popular programs of study are also among NLTC’s best: HVAC, business management, and computer science.
William Moore College of Technology
College Choice Score: 91.99
Average Net Price: $10,008.00
From plumbing to applied technology, the William Moore College of Technology (Moore Tech) offers a number of vocational and professional degrees. It’s one of the smallest schools on our list, with just a few hundred students. And it is a private, nonprofit institution of higher learning.
This Associate in HVAC degree through Moore Tech takes two years to complete. With a job placement rate around 97 percent, Moore Tech sets its students up well to find stable careers after graduation. Students engage in both a theoretically driven and hands-on learning experience. The exhaustive curriculum covers:
- Ventilation and Refrigeration Maintenance
- Mechanics and Installation
- Principles of Conditioning and Refrigeration
- Heating Mechanisms
Moore Tech is one of the oldest vocational institutions in the United States. It was founded in 1909 and since then has provided accessible education for those seeking careers in business and technical fields.
Indian River State College
College Choice Score: 91.87
Average Net Price: $1,235.00
Located in Fort Pierce, Florida, Indian River State College (IRSC) offers approximately 10 bachelors degrees in addition to a number of certificate, associate, and diploma programs. All in all, there are over 100 areas of study and trade, from education to manufacturing.
At IRSC you can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, and Heating Systems Technology. This program not only fully trains you on the needed skills of HVAC technicians, but it ensures you are ready for a mid-management position. Choose between hands-on module learning or the apprenticeship program. Classes include:
- Air Conditioning and Heating Service Management
- Refrigerant Recovery and Reclaim
- Introduction to Business
- Energy in Building Design
IRSC was recently named one of the ten best community colleges in the country by the Aspen Institute. Additionally, its Knight Center for Emerging Technologies is designated first in the nation among mid-size colleges by the Center for Digital Education.
Palm Beach State College
College Choice Score: 91.42
Average Net Price: $4,134.00
Palm Beach State College (PBSC) is a member of the highly regarded Florida College System. It is located in Palm Beach County and is home to over 50k students. PBSC offers over 100 degree programs, from certifications to full bachelors, and in an equally diverse range of subjects.
At Palm Beach State College you will learn all the skills and knowledge affiliated with air conditioning and refrigeration, installation and maintenance, and control circuitry. This program is HVAC Excellence Employment Accredited and it prepares you to ace the EPA HVAC certification exam. At PBSC classes are organized into four tiers, with multiple courses in each:
- Heating, AC, and Refrigeration Helper
- Heating, AC, and Refrigeration Mechanic Assistant
- Heating, AC, and Refrigeration Mechanic
- Heating, AC, and Refrigeration Mechanic Technician
PBSC is one of the largest schools in the Florida College System. It was recently ranked as the 12th largest producer or associate degrees in the U.S. by Community College Week. And, it offers the lowest tuition rates in the state of Florida.
Florida State College at Jacksonville
College Choice Score: 89.65
Average Net Price: $6,608.00
Located in Jacksonville, Florida State College (FSCJ) offers some of the most affordable and accessible degrees in the state. It has a global learning initiative, with classes held online. And FSCJ offers over 150 academic, professional, and technical programs.
FSCJ offers a Workplace Certification in HVAC that takes one year to complete. This program sets you on the path to either earn a more advanced degree or to jump right into HVAC work as either a mechanic or installer. In addition to the coursework you will complete a number of labs plus an internship. Some of FSCJ’s classes include:
- Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Theory I and II plus labs
- Basic Electricity and Schematics
- HVAC Controls
- Applied Heating and Piping
In addition to its praise for being affordable and accessible, FSCJ is also known for its commitment to student diversity. Students represent more than 100 countries. Community College Week ranks FSCJ as 11th in the nation.
Moraine Valley Community College
College Choice Score: 89.01
Average Net Price: $4,848.00
Moraine Valley Community College is located in Palos Hills, Illinois. It is home to over 36k students, who are enrolled in one of Moraine Valley’s many academic and trade programs. Classes are held both online and on-campus (or both), on weekends, and at night. Tuition is low and scholarships are plentiful.
Moraine Valley offers a 33 credit-hour Heating and Air Conditioning Certificate. This is a perfect route to gain an entry-level position with the HVAC industry. At Moraine Valley, in addition to taking the traditional classes on electrical service, installation, control systems, and AC theory, you will also have the opportunity to take unique electives such as:
- Sheet Metal Hand Forming
- Sustainable Energy Practices
- Electronic Controls
- Plus seminars and internships
Moraine Valley has demonstrated an adamant commitment to sustainability. Its Center for Sustainability, established by the Illinois Green Economy Network, works to maintain a green campus. But it also promotes green careers and job training among its students.
Lewis-Clark State College
College Choice Score: 88.79
Average Net Price: $11,296.00
A public undergraduate school, Lewis-Clark State College offers approximately 85 areas of study and trade. However, it is most known for its technical, education, criminal justice, and nursing programs. Over 4k students attend Lewis-Clark State College, which is located in Lewiston, Idaho.
At Lewis-Clark you can earn an Advanced Technical Certificate, an Associate of Applied Science, or a Bachelor of Applied Science in HVAC. It all depends on the amount of time and energy you can provide, and what level of training you desire. While the certificate requires 55 completed hours and the BAS requires 120, core classes cover:
- Mechanical Systems Maintenance
- Refrigeration Theory
- Systems Design and Installation
- Hydronic Systems
U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks Lewis-Clark State College as among the top public colleges in the West. It is also known for its research initiatives and its collaborations with other state colleges and universities, as well as local business leaders, public sector groups, and more.
Tidewater Tech Trades
College Choice Score: 88.69
Average Net Price: $22,483.00
Located in Norfolk, Virginia, Tidewater Tech Trades is a private, for-profit college. It is notably small with under 600 undergraduate students, but it offers a number of trade and certification programs. Most students attend on a part-time basis.
Through the Tidewater Tech program you can take the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification and the Industry Competency Exam (ICE). You’ll become a full-fledged HVAC technician, and all within twelve months. This program prepares you for any entry-level position with the HVAC industry. Graduates have found careers as:
- HVAC Technicians and Specialists
- Maintenance Specialists
- HVAC Systems Installers
- HVAC Electricians
On top of the academic services offered by Tidewater Tech, the school also goes to great lengths to provide career counseling and training. Part of this is the professional network Tidewater has cultivated between its students and Norfolk businesses.
College of Business and Technology
College Choice Score: 86.30
Average Net Price: $21,171.00
The College of Business and Technology (CBT) is located in Miami, Florida. It specializes in professional degree programs that give students hands-on learning experience. Among all of its offerings, the business administration, information technology, allied health, and graphic design programs are the most popular.
You can earn either an associate degree or a diploma in A/C Refrigerator Technology at CBT. Both programs fully train you in the installation, maintenance, and repair of refrigeration, heating, and AC systems. You can then use these well-earned credits to attain advanced education or jump right into the job market. CBT classes include:
- Fundamentals of DC/AC
- Electric Motors Application
- Fundamentals of Refrigeration
- Blueprints and Design Codes
CBT not only offers free career service assistance to its students (and alumni!), but it also provides free refresher courses after graduation. So you can keep your acquired skills and knowledge polished and up-to-date. CBT also hosts a number of free workshops and lectures.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
College Choice Score: 85.49
Average Net Price: $9,761.00
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) is located in Green Bay. It offers more than 100 associate degrees, apprenticeship programs, and technical diplomas. Impressively, nearly 94 percent of NWTC students go on to find jobs after graduation.
NWTC offers a Technology Associate degree in HVAC that takes approximately two years to complete. Unique to the NWTC experience is the opportunity to study abroad and to become CPR, AED, OSHA, and EPA certified. Through NWTC you’ll become an expert in the following:
- Installation of HVAC systems
- Troubleshooting and repairing HVAC systems
- Working within both commercial and residential settings
- Product and building control
NWTC is recognized as an “Achieving the Dream Leader College,” a national award designating the school as highly committed to student success. Further, NWTC ranks within the top 1 percent of colleges for its communication technologies services, engineering technologies department, and its computer sciences support (Community College Week).
Chippewa Valley Technical College
College Choice Score: 84.29
Average Net Price: $11,130.00
One of the 16 members in the larger Wisconsin Technical College System, Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) is located in Eau Claire. It is a relatively large school with over 6k enrolled students plus another 15k within the continuing education department. CVTC offers dozens of certification, diploma, and degree programs.
Boasting a 100 percent job placement rate, CVTC’s diploma in HVAC can get you where you want to go. And in under a year! The twelve-month technical degree covers AC systems, sustainable energy, geothermal and solar applications, equipment installation, and more. CVTC also offers a two-year associate degree that builds on this with classes covering:
- HVAC Systems Design, Balancing, and Drafting
- Principles of ACHR Electricity
- Gas, Oil, Electric, and Hydronic Heating
At CVTC you have access to academic advising, a student success specialist, college success seminars, health coverage, and much more. CVTC receives federal grant support, which is then filtered into its non-traditional occupation programs. This helps fund the non-traditional programs and its participating students.
Waubonsee Community College
College Choice Score: 82.61
Average Net Price: $4,428.00
Waubonsee Community College (WCC) proffers the traditional degree and diploma programs of any community college. But they also offer non-credit options for those who want to advance their career skills. This includes industry certification, workforce development training, and community engagement opportunities. Waubonsee Community College is located in Aurora, Illinois.
The exhaustive HVAC curriculum at WCC (see classes below) means students are prepared for careers in both residential and commercial settings. You will take classes in which you’ll learn by doing, participate in an internship, and even take a certification course. You’ll also have the option of supplementing your education by taking a lot of unique electives, thus graduating as a well-rounded HVAC job candidate.
- HVACR Electrical Systems
- Residential Comfort Systems
- Sheet Metal Estimating, Fabrication, and Installation
- Advanced HVAC Controls
WCC has a reputation for providing highly individualized education to its students. Students participate in customized learning experiences and hands-on education, and they develop close relationships with faculty. On top of this, WCC offers tons of opportunities to get involved in student organizations and extra curriculars.
Oakton Community College
College Choice Score: 82.01
Average Net Price: $6,606.00
Located in Des Plaines, Illinois, Oakton Community College (OCC) offers a plethora of on-campus and online education opportunities. From STEM to gender studies, OCC has something for everyone, including plenty of trade and professional programming.
This 60 credit hour AAS in HVAC Technology degree at Oakton provides a general education core first, in humanities and the sciences. Then introduces you to the ins and outs of HVAC installation, repair, and maintenance. On top of the traditional heating, refrigeration, and energy management courses, you’ll also take these:
- Blueprint Reading for Building Trades
- Applied Physics
- Advanced Automatic Controls
- Facilities Management and Engineering
There are endless ways to get involved in the OCC life that take place outside of the classroom. In fact, OCC has some of the best student activity opportunities of any community college. Through clubs, student organizations, and athletic programming, OCC encourages students to get involved and take on leadership roles.
Walla Walla Community College
College Choice Score: 80.82
Average Net Price: $6,945.00
Walla Walla Community College (WWCC) is located in Walla Walla, Washington. They offer perhaps the most degrees and academic programs of any community college on our list. From drama to fire science, WWCC has hundreds of academic opportunities.
Becoming an expert in HVAC through Walla Walla means taking classes on wind energy and thermodynamics in addition to classes on refrigeration and heating components. This program is ideal for those who want to apply their HVAC skills to sustainability and renewable energy. The following degree options are available in the HVAC department:
- AAS in Energy Systems Technology – HVACR
- Energy Systems Technology, Heating and Air Conditioning Certificate
- Energy Systems Technology, Advanced Heating and Refrigeration Certificate
A few years ago Walla Walla Community College was one of only a handful of colleges invited into the prestigious Achieving the Dream National Reform Network. This organization is the country’s most exhaustive higher education reform community. And it has caused better programming and more student achievement on the WWCC campus.
Branford Hall Career Institute
College Choice Score: 80.65
Average Net Price: $20,280.00
Branford Hall Career Institute is located in Bohemia, New York, which is on Long Island and in close proximity to New York City. Though offering a large selection of educational opportunities, Branford is most known for its programs in medical assistance, medical billing and coding, and HVAC training.
At Branford you can graduate with certification in HVAC/R through completion of the EPA exam. Branford ensures you pass through its extensive curriculum covering the installation, maintenance, and repair of HVAC and/or refrigeration systems. Distinctive to the Branford program is the option to specialize in one of the three areas:
- Solar Panel Installation
- Commercial Refrigeration
- Water-Based (Hydronic) Heating Systems
Branford doesn’t just provide technical and career training, it gives its students access to externships, a notable training facility, and hands-on learning experience. The HVAC center alone is nearly 8,000 square feet of building that contains labs, an HVAC library, and more.
College Choice Score: 80.02
Average Net Price: $5,510.00
Brazosport College (BC) is based in Lake Jackson, Texas, but has served students all round the Southern Texas region for decades. BC offers four-year degrees in industrial management as well as health services and administration. Additionally, there are dozens of two-year certification options at BC in an array of fields and disciplines. Over 6k students attend BC.
Brazosport offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in HVAC that requires 60 completed credits or a certification that only requires 16 credits. Whichever track you enroll in, Brazosport provides a foundational education in everything HVAC. You can also choose to specialize as either a commercial or residential technician. Coursework covers:
- Shop Practices and Tools
- Gas and Electric Heating
- Cooperative Education in HVAC Technology
- Residential and Commercial Refrigeration
BC is consistently named among the Aspen Top 10 for Community College Excellence. This is the nation’s preeminent recognition of high achievement among U.S. community colleges. BC also boasts a record number of Pell Grant winners: over 20 percent of BC students receive one.
Lake Technical College
College Choice Score: 79.85
Average Net Price: $14,843.00
Lake Technical School is based in Eustis, Florida with a few other campuses located throughout the state. It is organized into five departments: architecture and construction, health science, hospitality and tourism, manufacturing, and law, public safety, and security. Lake Technical also offers career training to students still in high school under their dual enrollment program.
At Lake Technical School you will learn the basics of electricity and electrical components through coursework on heating, AC, and refrigeration electrical control. You will also learn how to design heating and cooling systems and how to prepare and analyze financial reports. At Lake Technical you will divide your time among three training areas:
- HVAC Helper (250 hours)
- HVAC Mechanic Assistant (250 hours)
- HVAC Mechanic (250 hours)
Lake Technical’s stats speak for themself: over 93 percent of students graduate, 84 percent find job or school placement, and 88 percent get licensed. In addition to this, on average, graduates from Lake Technical make at least 25k annually in the early years of the career.
Delaware County Community College
College Choice Score: 78.33
Average Net Price: $5,825.00
Delaware County Community College (DCCC) is a two-year school located in Philadelphia. Over 28k students attend DCCC and are enrolled in one of the 80 certificate or associate degree programs. DCCC is organized into five academic divisions: health, business and computer science, arts and humanities, STEM, and workforce development.
Though you cannot necessarily earn a certificate or degree in HVAC at Delaware County Community College you can take a number of classes on HVAC systems. This allows you to choose what you want to learn and how you want to specialize. For example, these classes are just a small sampling of what DCCC offers:
- Gas and Oil Heating
- AC and Heat Pumps
- Basic Residential Wiring
- Preparing for the NATE Exam
DCCC partners with several four-year universities in and around Philadelphia to allow students an automatic transfer. This includes renowned colleges such as Drexel University, Eastern University, and Saint Joseph’s.
Perry Technical Institute
College Choice Score: 78.31
Average Net Price: $19,870.00
Perry Technical Institute is a private, non-profit school located in South Central Washington state. It offers a dozen specialized technical training programs. And each program was specifically designed for career assurance and success.
Perry not only offers a two-year degree in HVAC technology, it provides an array of certification options with which to supplement the degree (see below). Through Perry you will gain a solid foundation in HVAC principles and applications. And you will graduate ready for entry-level technician work or advanced education.
- Indoor Air Quality
- Green Mechanical Systems
- Preventative Maintenance
- EPA Refrigerant
Perry is ranked first of 700 other community colleges and technical schools for its income mobility. Part of that is because Perry consistently provides nearly a half million dollars in scholarships each year. Finally, Perry’s job placement rate for its graduates hovers around an impressive 94 percent.
San Joaquin Valley College
College Choice Score: 77.87
Average Net Price: $18,733.00
With over a dozen campuses scattered throughout California and an extensive online education program, San Joaquin Valley College (SJVC) is a large school. It is a private, for-profit junior college that proffers certificates, associate degrees, and continuing education programming. SJVC’s most popular areas of study are health, business, and technology.
At SJVC you can earn a HVAC certification in as few as 9 months or an Associate of Science in HVAC degree in approximately 15 months. Both prepare students fully for the EPA certification exam. And most students go on to become production supervisors, HVAC installers, repair specialists, and more. Some of the classes you’ll take at SJVC include:
- Theory and Applications of AC
- Theory and Applications of Electricity
- Theory and Applications of Refrigeration
SJVC has provided accessible, affordable education and career training for over 40 years. It gives students small class sizes, career counseling, and low student-to-teacher ratios. Most students earn at least a certificate from SJVC is as few as 7 months.
Itawamba Community College
College Choice Score: 76.76
Average Net Price: $5,910.00
Itawamba Community College (ICC) is comprised of three campuses in northeast Mississippi. Offering dozens of transfer, degree, and career certificate programs, ICC is also known for its athletic programming. Over 15k students attend ICC.
The Associate of Science in HVAC degree program at ICC prepares students to become experts in all areas of HVAC technology. From installation to maintenance, operation to design, students learn everything they need to become successful HVAC technicians and mechanics. ICC classes include:
- Fundamentals of Electricity and Electronics
- Basic Compression Refrigeration
- Brazing and Piping
- Heat Load and Air Properties
ICC is home to the EDGE program and EDGE center. This program gives students free education and training, paid employment, expert counseling and guidance, and even transportation benefits. It is specifically designed for students who need financial assistance paying for college.