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Complete Guide to Online HVAC Certification

By Michael McCarthy | Updated 8/4/2022
Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Average Tuition: $24,730
Alumni Salary: $32,900

Online heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (commonly referred to as HVAC) certificates are available at a variety of schools. These programs discuss topics like energy management systems, ductwork, piping, HVAC design, LEED energy efficiency, and indoor air quality. Students learn how to design HVAC systems for residential and commercial buildings and how to troubleshoot existing HVAC issues. Most online HVAC programs require students to visit campus in order to participate in hands-on practicums. Graduates of the HVAC program can gain employment with building equipment contractors, hardware and plumbing wholesalers, and commercial equipment repair services.

Prospective HVAC degree students are advised to enroll in a program at an accredited school. Though there is no specific programmatic accrediting agency for the HVAC profession, attending an school that has received institutional accreditation will help ensure that you receive a high-quality education that will be valued by future employers.

Find an Online Degree:

Comprehensive List of Online Schools for HVAC Certificates

Full List Accreditation Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
Full List (4)
Penn Foster College DEAC Not Provided 59% (229 reviews)
47 Programs, 1 Certificate in HVAC (view all)
47 Programs, 1 Certificate in HVAC
  • HVAC Technician (Diploma)
Penn Foster Career School DEAC Not Provided 46% (160 reviews)
117 Programs, 3 Certificate in HVAC (view all)
117 Programs, 3 Certificate in HVAC
  • Automotive HVAC Essentials
  • HVAC Technician
  • HVACR Technician
Pinnacle Career Institute Online ACCSC $18,115 27% (15 reviews)
3 Programs, 1 Certificate in HVAC (view all)
3 Programs, 1 Certificate in HVAC
  • HVAC Technician - Certificate
University of California - Berkeley WSCUC $44,007 75% (4 reviews)
65 Programs, 1 Certificate in HVAC (view all)
65 Programs, 1 Certificate in HVAC
  • Certificate in HVAC

Online HVAC Certificate Programs

A certificate is the most common entry point to the HVAC industry. You'll find most options at community colleges, technical colleges, and vocational schools, but some four-year colleges also offer online HVAC programs. Some schools refer to their programs as "HVACR" because they include training on commercial refrigeration systems.

You should consider only schools that are either regionally or nationally accredited because accreditation can help ensure the quality of your HVAC education. States that require licensure to work in HVAC typically insist that applicants hold a certificate from an accredited school.

Program Outcomes and Curriculum

The goal of a certificate program is the same whether you study online or in person: Learn the knowledge and skills you need for HVAC installation and repair. Ultimately, instructors hope to prepare you to pass a certification exam — see HVAC Certifications below.

You'll get lessons on installing, testing, troubleshooting, and repairing ducts, pipes, and electronic systems. Below are a few of the common courses you might encounter in an online program:

Electrical Systems in HVAC

This course covers the fundamentals of electricity, such as voltage and current, as well as the electronics systems features in HVAC units.

Fundamentals of HVAC

Instructors discuss the major components of different types of HVAC systems, along with the equipment needed to install and maintain them.

HVAC System Design

Enrollees study different makes and models of furnaces and air conditioners, along with the considerations that go into their design and implementation. Teachers often consider LEED practices and how these differ from traditional design.

Refrigeration Systems

Some HVAC programs include a class on refrigeration service that covers how to install and maintain systems for preserving food.

Program Length and Format

Most online HVAC certificates take 9-10 months to complete. You may be able to enroll in a six-month fast-track program.

Online programs can take several forms:

  • Classes might be asynchronous, with weekly assignments but no set meeting times. In this case, you log in to a learning management system to watch lectures and demonstrations, respond to discussion questions, and take exams.

  • Courses may be self-paced, meaning that you can work your way through all lectures, content, and tests on your own time as long as you finish by a set deadline.

  • The coursework could be online but supplemented with live lectures over a video conferencing application.

The HVAC trade requires hands-on mechanical work, so even online programs will have a live component. During these sessions, instructors observe you troubleshooting and repairing various kinds of HVAC or refrigeration systems. The frequency of live sessions differs by program.

Admissions Requirements

Most HVAC certificate programs require only a high school diploma to enroll. You typically submit a nonrefundable fee with your application.

Are you unsure about pursuing an HVAC program? Check out our Complete Guide to Online Vocational Schools & Programs to explore other options.

HVAC Certifications

As HVAC systems become more technically complex, employers seek professionals with proven experience and up-to-date skills. An HVAC certification may help you demonstrate those skills to potential employers.

What Is HVAC Certification?

An HVAC certification is a credential that testifies to your competence in the trade. Each certification requires you to pass an independently reviewed exam. It's usually a good idea to study for certification exams in advance because they're designed to be difficult tests of complicated processes.

Certifications aren't always required for employment, but some employers may prefer candidates who hold certain credentials.

What Are the Different Types of HVAC Certifications?

Many organizations offer certifications to technicians who want to signal their competence in either general HVAC service or a narrow subject area. We name a few of these organizations below, though this list is not exhaustive. Available offerings range from entry-level credentials to certifications for experienced professionals.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides four types of Section 608 Technician Certifications for professionals who service refrigerant systems; you need different certifications for different systems. Unlike most certifications, these are legally required for technicians who perform these services.

HVAC Excellence runs a variety of technical certifications in areas such as heat pump installation and residential air conditioning.

North American Technician Excellence (NATE) features a Certified HVAC Professional (CHP-5) credential that attests to competence in five subject areas.

Which Certification Is Best for HVAC?

This tends to vary by employer, so there isn't necessarily one "best" certification. But NATE's CHP-5 is one of the most commonly held credentials nationwide, and the EPA's Section 608 Technician Certifications are required if you work with any type of refrigeration.

How Much Does HVAC Certification Cost?

Costs vary by organization. The basic NATE certification exam costs $50, and official study guides are $20. The EPA authorizes several dozen firms to provide its certification tests, and each company charges a different amount.

Note that some certificate programs include the cost of a certification exam in their tuition. This is usually the case for programs that are designed to prepare students for particular certifications.

What Can You Do With an HVAC Certificate?

HVAC certificate programs are narrowly geared toward producing HVAC service technicians, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calls HVAC mechanics and installers. The median annual salary for this occupation is $48,630.

What Is the Job Outlook for HVAC?

The BLS expects the field to grow by 5% in the 2020-2030 period. This growth rate is less than the average for all U.S. jobs combined, which is about 8%. But the BLS still projects 38,500 job openings per year during that period due to regular turnover.

Technicians may want to keep up to date on energy-efficient heating and air conditioning technology, which is increasingly popular because it has a smaller environmental impact and can lead to energy cost savings.

Unsurprisingly, the most populous states also have the most HVAC career opportunities: California, Texas, Florida, and New York. Technicians may want to keep up to date on energy-efficient heating and air conditioning technology, which is increasingly popular because it has a smaller environmental impact and can lead to energy cost savings.

FAQS About Online HVAC Certificate Programs

What Does an HVAC Technician Do?

HVAC professionals install, repair, and upgrade heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems. They may work primarily in residences or commercial real estate, such as office buildings or hospitals.

How Much Do HVAC Technicians Make?

The median wage for an HVAC technician is $48,630 per year. The highest paid professionals work in the education services industry, which can include both K-12 schools and colleges. But these jobs are relatively rare: According to the analytics company Emsi Burning Glass, educational employers posted about 3,600 job ads for HVAC technicians in the last 12 months, compared to 21,800 in construction and 7,264 in manufacturing.

How Do I Get HVAC Certified?

You first need to graduate from a certificate program, and then you can take an exam for whichever certification you're seeking. However, it's a good idea to study first to increase your chances of success if your program isn't specifically designed to prepare you for a certification. Most certifying organizations offer study guides for a small fee.

In addition, some more advanced certifications require you to demonstrate a period of professional experience. For example, HVAC Excellence's Professional Level Technician Certifications call for 2-3 years in the field as a prerequisite.

Can I Get My HVAC Certification Online?

The major certifications offer live-proctored online testing, including NATE, HVAC Excellence, and most approved EPA certification services. Some less common certifications might not allow online testing, so it's good practice to confirm what's required before paying any exam fees.

This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.

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