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HVAC Training: Vocational Courses Vs Apprenticeships

HVAC Training: Vocational Courses Vs Apprenticeships

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

In the United States, the HVAC industry employs more than half a million workers and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, by the year 2020, the industry is estimated to be worth $130 billion.

It’s certainly a career with many potential prospects, whether you see yourself as a future HVAC technician, contractor, distributor, or business owner.

Begin with HVAC Training

Due to the ever-changing nature of the HVAC industry, driven largely by advancing technology and new regulation, formal HVAC training is becoming more important for prospective job seekers and those who want to excel in the industry.  Getting an edge over the competition to win the trust of both prospective employers and/or clients is a clear way to make it possible.

If you are considering a career in the HVAC industry, you have probably come across the various routes that can be pursued to attain the required credentials. This typically includes enrollment into an accredited HVAC apprenticeship or through the completion of an accredited HVAC training course at a vocational college or trade school.

Vocational Colleges & Trade Schools 

A training program at a vocational college or trade school is normally composed of various modules that provide a solid foundation of HVAC knowledge. This can be in classroom-based teaching of basic electrical wiring, blueprint reading, basic electricity, thermodynamics, appliance repair, gas safety, refrigeration, and more.

Many institutions also offer the opportunity to gain hands-on experience via onsite labs, where you can learn how to fix and circuit complex HVAC equipment. Check out this page for more information about the course structure.

EPA Certification

Acquiring particular HVAC certifications is also a key part of accredited HVAC courses. The exact type of certification required largely depends on your specific role and state requirements. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all HVAC technicians who work with refrigerants and air conditioning systems to attain the appropriate Section 608 Certification. There are four types of EPA certification, Type I, II, III, and universal.

The majority of vocational courses cover Types I and II EPA certification, which is sufficient for many HVAC roles. Additional training and exams are usually pursued at a later stage to attain Type III and Universal certification.

How Long Does it Take to Complete HVAC Training?

HVAC training can be completed as quickly as 9 months at some colleges. However, since this is not always suitable for everyone, there are part-time programs and custom programs for individuals with busy lifestyles or those who already work full-time hours.

Main Benefits of HVAC Training Courses

Attending a vocational college or trade school means you can potentially acquire HVAC training and some level of certification in as little as 9 months, depending on your level of experience and commitment.

Since there are various training programs with flexible schedules, they are also suitable for individuals who already work full time or have other time-limiting commitments. This means that you can also achieve training and certification at a steady pace, which some people find is a more appropriate choice for their lifestyle.


The second major route into an HVAC career is an apprenticeship offered nationwide by many different institutions, including the Air-Conditioning Contractors of America and the United Association.

During an apprenticeship program, the majority of time will be spent on the job, where practical experience will be attained with the supervision and guidance of a licensed master of the trade. As the apprentice, you will also become familiar with common HVAC business practice, terminology, tools, and materials, gain experience interacting with customers and advance your communication skills.

In-class training will also be part of an apprenticeship schedule, which you will usually attend for a few days each week. This is typically held at a local college or trade school. You will attend classes on important HVAC concepts, gain theoretical knowledge and learn about important laws, codes, and regulations.

How Long Does it Take to Complete an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships can take anywhere from 2 to 5 years to complete. The exact duration depends on various factors, including the level of industry experience, local state regulations, and licensing requirements.

To graduate as an apprenticeship, there are usually a certain amount of hours required to complete before sitting and passing the necessary HVAC certification exams and applying for licensing.

Main Benefits of HVAC Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship provides many benefits; it enables you to train, learn and earn all at the same time. You also have the advantage of being mentored by a master who is experienced in the field. Being completely immersed in the HVAC industry is bound to provide a unique and valuable learning experience.

Additionally, you also attend college simultaneously so that you will benefit from theoretical knowledge taught in the classroom. Daily communication with co-workers, clients, and customers is also an advantage that will help build excellent interpersonal skills that will always be useful in the HVAC industry.

In Summary

You can take many HVAC training paths that will help you in your pursuit of an HVAC career or starting a business; the one you choose is largely a question of personal preference and circumstance.

Vocational training at a college remains a popular choice. It is certainly the best route for those who want to gain a good balance of theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience to give themselves an advantage when looking for a suitable job.

Graduation can be achieved in less than a year. After which, you can pursue a rewarding career in the HVAC industry, whatever role that may be, or potential business route you may eventually want to follow.

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4 years ago

very interesting article.thank you

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