What do a mall, a restaurant kitchen, a grocery store, and your home all have in common? They all require visits from an HVAC technician! From large commercial chillers to residential air conditioning units, HVAC techs learn the ins and outs of different types of equipment. Have you ever wondered how they come to know so much and be able to fix equipment?
While some techs have learned through experience while working for a family business…more HVAC techs are getting their degree to create a solid foundation for their career. What actually goes into an HVAC degree? We talked with Justin Herndon, the HVAC Program Coordinator at Tri-County Technical College, to get some behind-the-scenes information on what it takes to become an HVAC tech.
First of all, there are 3 different areas of the HVAC world:
- Includes furnaces, heat pumps, and air conditioning units used in homes
- Air conditioning and heating for large businesses
- Coolers and freezers found in commercial kitchens
Tri-County tech offers a 2-year degree which includes specific classes for each of these areas so their graduates receive a well-rounded education on all areas of HVAC .
Classes are small, with a 7:1 student ratio which allows students to learn on their own piece of equipment, instead of 3-4 students crowding around 1 piece of equipment. Since the classes are geared toward preparing for a career, the atmosphere is more relaxed and not formal as many sitting academic classes are.
Tri-County offers regular day classes (mostly attended by young students right out of high school) as well as night courses for techs who are already working in the field. The degree takes longer to complete for night class students, but it does offer a great way for current techs to be able to gain a degree while still keeping their income.
Financial aid is available for all Tri-County Tech students and many HVAC students are eligible for this extra help in getting their degree. Check out their website for information on tuition and financial aid.
Future for HVAC students
For Tri-County HVAC students, the future is bright! All students graduating this semester already have a job waiting for them—definitely not something you could say for many many other degree programs!
There will be no end to the need for heating and cooling equipment in homes and businesses, so job security is great! Though the field will grow and change there will always be a need for great HVAC techs. Also, though a degree is not required to be hired as a tech, the degree does provide an increase in pay. Most all HVAC companies will pay a new hire more if they have a degree or will increase the pay for an existing employee after they graduate.
Tri-County’s degree also practically prepares techs for their job by including EPA certification which is required for techs to buy refrigerant or refrigerant equipment. The curriculum also covers electrical wiring and the refrigerant cycle: 2 subjects that are difficult but integral to HVAC. Tri-County also has a collection of different HVAC equipment for students to train on (see below). This is a great way for students to get hands-on training during class time. They can also get involved with a summer co-op program and work for a local HVAC business to gain experience.
HVAC Tech Life After Graduation
The life of an HVAC tech is not always comfortable but can be very rewarding. Techs are outside in all different types of weather, from 100 degrees in the summer time to below freezing in the winter time with all manners of precipitation. They also must go into small crawlspaces and into attics where temperatures soar and bugs or critters may be hiding. Add to that the dangers of electric shock or other injuries while on the job and being a tech may not sound very attractive to some.
However, there are many more positives to being a tech. Working outside, going to new places to work everyday, and meeting new people are just a few things that our own Stiles techs have said is their favorite thing about the job. If you don’t like the idea of being cooped up in an office all day then the idea of traveling and working at a different house or business everyday is right up your alley. Customer service is also a big part of being a tech, especially if you are a residential tech. Fixing a problem for a homeowner and helping them understand what you did is very rewarding! Our residential techs especially enjoy talking with customers and creating a good relationship over their years of service.
Many techs also enjoy the challenges that the job presents. With new problems to solve everyday, techs learn something new and rarely get bored. Even if they are just completing maintenance on several houses, each system is a little different.
To learn more about becoming an HVAC tech, visit the Tri-County Tech website. If you are currently a tech and are looking for a job in Anderson, SC we at Stiles are always taking applications. Give us a call at 864-222-COOL!