Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) technology is a well established and respected career. Technicians deal of course with the installation, maintenance and repair of heating and cooling systems. The usual way to approach this career is either to attend vocational or junior colleges and get educated that way, or else get into an apprenticeship program, working directly with an experienced technician to acquire the necessary know how. These are both good methods of getting into the business. Both usually emphasize a combination of practical skill and theoretical understanding.
A less common way to approach this kind of career, however, is to take an online course. They do exist. The question is, are they a good way to begin a career as HVAC technician?
What Online HVAC Courses Consist Of
Courses in HVAC, offered by various online “schools” or “learning centers” are basically introductory in nature, regardless of what they may say. This is to be expected, because HVAC is an involved field that requires plenty of hands on experience. The entire field is physical, practical, and concrete. So all an online HVAC school can really do is to introduce a student to various concepts, terminology, and background knowledge.
That said, they can possibly take the place of the classroom portions of HVAC training. Just as distance learning can basically fulfill the function of a classroom situation in many subject areas, it can to a large degree do so with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
Some of these schools offer associate degrees in HVAC. These programs may work with local professional organizations or colleges for the practical portions of the training. Many of them claim to be accredited.
Practical Portions of Online HVAC Training
Often these online programs try to cover the practical portions of HVAC training as well by having students find local contractors who will evaluate their abilities. One such program called Ed2Go, for instance, offers a number of “modules” lasting about one month to which a student is expected to “subscribe.” During this period, the student is asked to complete the written or reading work. If they fail to do so in time, they must pay for an extension of the time.
In addition, students are asked have their abilities evaluated by an HVAC technician via various “competency check off sheets.” The student has an experienced HVAC technician evaluate them and check off appropriate items on the worksheet. Why a technician would wish to spend the time to do this is unclear. Perhaps simply to be friendly. But the more practical likelihood is that they would want charge some sort of fee.
These programs may also work with local community colleges or technical schools to give students the practical portions of the training.
Are Online HVAC Schools a Good Idea?
If this all sounds gimmicky, that’s probably the right impression. Online schools are famous for being, if not outright scams, then sketchy and driven by desire for quick profit. These schools often cost only several hundred dollars – perhaps $600 to $800. They promise to include books and any materials the student needs.
It’s pretty easy to see what the strategy is here. These schools seek to attract people on the basis of price and “convenience.” Individuals may like the idea of being able to do courses on a flexible schedule and not leave the house.
There is an obvious problem with this logic. If someone is serious about becoming an HVAC technician, they will have to get out of the house in a big way anyhow. This is a highly physical trade. It requires all kinds of practical skills like pouring concrete, cutting metal, drilling and screwing, electrical testing, cleaning fans, registers, and coils, and measuring temperature. Why would somebody who was actually interested in and capable of doing that want to do a lot online study just to avoid going to a school classroom.
Supposedly the reason is because people may work jobs and like the flexibility. But since they will have to put considerable time into the course anyway, and there are a variety of flexible options for ordinary classroom instruction, this doesn’t seem to be a reason that makes much sense. The minor amount of flexibility that will be gained is probably not worth the cost in interactive skill development and contact with people actually involved in the industry.
Though it is obviously up to the individual, it’s smart to use a lot of forethought before signing up for these types of courses if you sign up for them at all. If you’re interested in being an HVAC technician, why not do it right and get right into the hands on and direct classroom learning. As noted, you have to put in a lot of real world work time anyway. You might as well get your hands dirty at the outset and also meet people who can guide you in a more personal way.