Top Refrigeration Technician Degrees & Training Programs (2021-2022)

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Like so many careers, becoming a refrigeration technician can seem like an insurmountable goal for those who are at the very beginning of the journey. An average person opening up a refrigerator or air conditioning unit will have no idea what to make of the different parts.

But, unlike many careers, becoming a refrigeration technician does not necessarily mean committing four (or more) years to college or five years to entry-level jobs. Comprehensive refrigeration training can take less than a year, and even brand new technicians can start earning and working independently in a short period. Indeed, with the right education, this stable and lucrative career can be just around the corner.

Refrigeration and air conditioning technicians are in high demand. Virtually, almost every new building requires trained HVAC/R technicians for installing HVAC/R systems, to say nothing of the need for regular repair and maintenance. Certainly, HVAC/R provides a level of comfort, particularly in hot summer months, but it also helps in keeping hospitals safe, skating rinks cold, and groceries fresh.

So, HVAC/R can be vital and keeping these systems running smoothly requires an understanding of sophisticated temperature control systems. An understanding of installing and maintaining such systems requires the completion of either an apprenticeship program, which commonly takes four years or a certificate or degree program, typically a two-year associate degree program.

New refrigeration technicians must find a school that offers more than just a convenient location. Some schools are simply better equipped to provide the kind of job training necessary to secure employment in a competitive market. The following schools provide training to students through professional certification and employment and have third-party accreditation and unique program offerings.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021), the demand for HVAC mechanics and installers is expected to increase by 5 percent between 2020 and 2030. Further, the BLS (May 2020) lists the average salary for these types of technicians at $53,410 per year, which is quite comfortable for a job requiring no more than an AS degree.

The first step towards success in this career is education. The training programs included on this list are diverse, both geographically and academically. However, each of these programs offers refrigeration technician training that is among the best in the country. These schools are qualified to train brand new refrigeration technicians and get them prepared to start in the workforce with the proper knowledge and certifications.

AVTEC

Alaska Vocational Technical Center offers several career-focused programs, including a Refrigeration program. Combining classroom instruction with hands-on training, this fast-paced and challenging program ensures that students gain the necessary skills and knowledge and become good refrigeration technicians.

Focusing on both refrigeration and air conditioning technologies, the program is made up of 630 hours. Some of the courses in the curriculum include basic refrigeration, advanced refrigeration, employability skills, and electricity. During this program, students will receive training and testing for industry certifications such as the 10-hour OSHA Construction Safety Certification, Industry Competency Exam (ICE), EPA 608 Refrigeration Technician, and Industrial First Aid and CPR.

Students in this program train on several domestic as well as commercial refrigeration systems learning about installation, troubleshooting, and repair of refrigeration systems, air conditioning systems, heat pumps, compressors, evaporators, control valves, condensers, electrical wiring, electrical controls & motors, and control devices.

  • Location: Seward, AK
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education (COE); PAHRA
  • Expected Time to Completion: 630 hours
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,748

College of Southern Nevada

College of Southern Nevada offers five AAS degrees and four certificates in HVAC/R. Emphasizing hands-on techniques and practical skills, the program prepares students for analyzing, synthesizing, and solving HVAC/R problems.

The certificate programs include:

  • Air Conditioning Technology (40.5 credits)
  • Air Conditioning Technology: Central Plant (41 credits)
  • Air Conditioning Technology: Critical Systems (40 credits)
  • Air Conditioning Technology: Food Service Refrigeration (42.5 credits)

AAS degree programs include:

  • Air Conditioning Technology (60 credits)
  • Air Conditioning Technology: Building Automation (60 credits)
  • Air Conditioning Technology: Central Plant (60 credits)
  • Air Conditioning Technology: Critical Systems (60 credits)
  • Air Conditioning Technology: Food Service Refrigeration (61.5 credits)

The curriculum includes courses such as residential gas heating, introduction to HVAC electrical theory and application, commercial refrigeration, heat pumps, copper fundamentals, boiler operation and maintenance, HVAC automatic controls, equipment cooling, and industrial electricity, among others.

The college also offers an Entry-Level Air Conditioning Technician program which consists of 18.5 credits.

  • Location: Henderson, NV; Las Vegas, NV; North Las Vegas, NV
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; PAHRA; Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificates (12 months); AAS degrees (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Lower-division courses ($109.75 per credit); upper-division courses ($180 per credit)

Coyne College

Coyne College offers an HVAC/R diploma program preparing students for entry-level employment in the HVAC/R industry. Students will be prepared to take the EPA 608 refrigeration certification exams.

Comprising 49 quarter credits, the program includes courses in introduction to electrical servicing, introduction to mechanical refrigeration systems, introduction to commercial controls, gas heating, commercial controls and applications, air conditioning, electric heat, and heat pumps, and troubleshooting systems.

The faculty of the program includes industry professionals who help students gain real-world skills through hands-on work training and benefit from individualized attention. Students also learn about the basics of installation, troubleshooting, and service of commercial and domestic systems.

Upon completion, graduates can take up entry-level positions such as HVAC/R mechanic, service technician, and installer.

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges(ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 42 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $16,170

Delaware Technical Community College

Delaware Technical Community College offers an associate of an applied science degree program in refrigeration, heating, and air conditioning providing students with the theoretical and practical knowledge of HVAC/R systems. Combining classroom instruction with hands-on experience in state-of-the-art labs, the program prepares students for professional career opportunities.

Made up of 66 credits, the program helps students acquire the skills and knowledge for successfully passing industry competency exams and analyzing energy systems. Classes include the fundamentals of refrigeration, residential climate control, introduction to energy management, industry competency exam (ICE) preparation, air distribution & balancing, sustainability & society, and building service systems.

  • Location: Georgetown, DE
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; PAHRA
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($152.50 per credit); out-of-state ($381.25 per credit)

Emily Griffith Technical College

Emily Griffith Technical College, which has campus locations throughout the Denver metropolitan area, offers studies in refrigeration technology as part of their College of Trades and Industry. The college offers an HVAC program providing students with hands-on training in addition to classroom lectures. Students learn several skills in fabrication & piping, including brazing, soldering, PVC piping, and threading.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as safety training, basic and advanced refrigeration, electricity & electrical components, hot water heating systems, the fundamentals of gas heating, HVAC and HVAC/R troubleshooting, residential and advanced air conditioning, HVAC & HVAC/R systems service and repair, piping, building automation, digital controls, and refrigerant recovery.

Students complete a total of 58.5 credits for this certificate. Graduates will be able to take up roles such as HVAC service technicians, building engineers, maintenance technicians, service managements, temperature control technicians, and facilities management technicians.

  • Location: Denver, CO
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education (COE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Nine to 10 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $7,939

Ferris State University

Ferris State University offers an associate of applied science degree in HVACR technology helping students develop the required knowledge and skills for becoming HVAC/R service technicians, laboratory technicians, system designers, or sales representatives. Offering a combination of lab activities and classroom lectures, the program helps students learn about refrigeration and electrical troubleshooting, HVAC controls, combustion analysis, system design, and airflow testing.

The program consists of 65 to 66 credits involving courses in advanced refrigeration and air conditioning, introduction to refrigeration and air conditioning systems, electricity, blueprints, and fabrication, advanced HVAC/R controls, fundamentals of heating and mechanical systems, and air conditioning applications.

Ferris State University also offers a bachelor of science in HVAC/R which is a continuation of the AAS in HVACR technology degree. Consisting of 124 credits, the program includes courses such as HVAC hydronic system select design, control theory and application, load analysis & energy modeling, direct digital control, commercial HVAC system design, and contracting issues in HVAC/R.

  • Location: Big Rapids, MI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $455 to $487 per credit

Harper College

Harper College offers an associate in applied science (AAS) degree in HVAC/R along with the following certificate programs:

  • Residential Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Certificate (19 credit)
  • Residential Comfort Systems Certificate (19 credits)
  • Refrigeration Service Certificate (19 credits)
  • Heating Service Certificate (22 credits)
  • Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Service Certificate (29 credits)

Students in these programs gain hands-on experience working in highly sophisticated Labs. They gain proficiency and experience with the supervision and support from highly qualified professional instructors in the HVAC/R field.

The associate in applied science degree is made up of 61 credits involving courses in introductory electronics, refrigeration fundamentals, heating principles, residential comfort systems, refrigeration systems, heating & cooling controls, pneumatic controls systems, refrigeration system design, and load calculations.

Graduates of the program can explore several job options in the areas of consultation, service, sales, installation/design, and more.

  • Location: Palatine, IL
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (24 months); certificate (less than a year)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($133.50 per credit); out-of-district ($390.50 per credit); out-of-state ($466 per credit)

Milwaukee Area Technical College

Milwaukee Area Technical College offers an associate degree in air conditioning and refrigeration technology. Students for this program must have at least one year of high school Algebra.

Consisting of 64 credits, the curriculum includes coursework in the introduction to the HVAC industry, principles of sustainability, electrical fundamentals, air conditioning fundamentals, heating systems, architectural & mechanical fundamentals, heat pumps, and digital energy management systems.

On successful completion, graduates will be able to service, install, evaluate, and troubleshoot HVAC/R systems. They will be ready to take up positions such as air conditioning technicians, sales representatives, refrigeration technicians, system design technicians, system supervisors, and system designers.

The college also offers a refrigeration, air conditioning, and heating service technician diploma comprising 30 credits. This technical diploma ladders into the AAS degree in air conditioning and refrigeration technology.

  • Location: Milwaukee, WI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Associate degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident (476.40 for three credits); non-resident (687.90 for three credits)

Guilford Technical Community College

Guilford Technical Community College offers several HVAC/R programs preparing students for entry-level positions in the heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration fields. Combining HVAC/R theory with practical application, the program provides high-quality education that will be valued by future employers.

The associate of applied science in the HVAC/R technology program is made up of 67 credits, while the diploma comprises 46 credits. The college also offers a basic Air Conditioning Certificate in HVAC/R technology consisting of 17 credits.

The curriculum explores topics such as HVAC/R electricity, introduction to refrigeration, heating technology, heat pump technology, comfort cooling, refrigerant certification, advanced comfort systems, indoor air quality, HVAC/R electronics, refrigeration design, among others.

  • Location: Jamestown, NC
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($76 per credit); out-of-state ($268 per credit)

Front Range Community College

The Front Range offers an associate of applied science degree in HVAC/R along with the following certificates:

  • HVAC/R fundamentals – 15 credits
  • Commercial refrigeration – 28 credits
  • Residential HVAC – 35 credits
  • Light commercial HVAC – 37 credits

The AAS degree requires the completion of 60 credits. Some of the topics students will delve into include introduction to air conditioning & refrigeration, basic electricity, basic refrigeration, electrical components, hot water heating systems, commercial refrigeration, advanced air conditioning, troubleshooting and customer service, and advanced air conditioning.

Students in these programs will learn about handling refrigerants, operating a gas fuel torch used in soft brazing and soldering, troubleshooting HVAC/R systems, performing general servicing and maintenance of HVAC/R systems, becoming proficient in compliance with HVAC/R safety guidelines by OSHA, and developing the highest level of professionalism and communication skills.

  • Location: Fort Collins, CO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); PAHRA
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS degree (four semesters); residential HVAC (three semesters); light commercial (three semesters); commercial refrigeration (two semesters); HVAC/R fundamentals (one semester)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($153.35 per credit); non-resident ($629.25 per credit)

Mount San Antonio College

Mount San Antonio offers an air conditioning & refrigeration technology degree as well as a certificate preparing students for a high-paying career in HVAC/R. The curriculum is divided between hands-on training in a lab and classroom lectures.

The certificate program consists of 31.5 credits including coursework in welding, technical mathematics, codes & standards, electrical fundamentals, refrigeration fundamentals, heat load calculations & design, gas heating, air properties, and commercial systems.

Degree students complete 61.5 credits that include all coursework mentioned above with the addition of science and math, public speaking and freshman composition, social science, art and humanities, lifelong understanding, and electives.

Students in these programs will be prepared for employment in this broad HVAC/R field leading to occupations in design, manufacturing, operation, sales, distribution, repairs, installation, controls, and maintenance.

  • Location: Walnut, CA
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; HVAC Excellence; Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (12 months); degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: AAS (in-state - $2,760; out-of-state - $20,040); certificate (in-state - $1,449; out-of-state - $10,521)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology

The Tennessee College of Applied Technology offers an HVAC technician diploma and an HVAC/R technician diploma. It also offers an HVAC mechanic assistant certificate and a domestic unit repairer certificate.

These programs prepare students for troubleshooting, maintaining, and repairing commercial and residential HVAC/R systems, gas and electrical heating, humidifiers, and heat pumps. They also learn about the fundamentals of controls, electricity, and electric motors. Graduates of these programs will be well equipped to install refrigeration tubing, install duct systems, recover HVAC/R refrigerants, diagnose electrical problems, locate and repair leaks, and repair light commercial equipment.

The HVAC mechanic assistant certificate comprises 432 clock hours, while the domestic unit repair certificate consists of 864 clock hours. The HVAC diploma requires completion of 1,296 clock hours, while the HVAC/R diploma requires 1,728 clock hours.

  • Location: Knoxville, TN
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education; HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: 16 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $5,273

The Refrigeration School, Inc.

The Refrigeration School offers refrigeration and HVAC/R training in day and evening classes training and preparing students for entry as maintenance and service technicians in jobs that utilize technologies employed in the fields of HVAC/R. The faculty of the program includes dedicated professionals who program real-life troubleshooting problems using electronic equipment through classroom lectures and hands-on training in a modern lab.

The curriculum includes courses such as fundamentals of refrigeration, fundamentals of electricity, refrigeration systems and practices, advanced troubleshooting techniques, and residential and commercial comfort systems.

At the end of the program, graduates may be qualified to seek entry-level employment as HVAC/R service technicians, refrigeration service technicians, HVAC/R installation technicians, refrigeration installation technicians, commercial refrigeration technicians, restaurant & retail refrigeration technicians, and low-temperature field technicians.

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Six months
  • Estimated Tuition: $15,950

Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute

The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) is a trade association that acts as a training center and advocacy group for HVAC and refrigeration manufacturers throughout the U.S.

It offers many refrigeration technician training programs which include certification in such specialties as Reclaimed Refrigerant, Transport Refrigeration, and Refrigerant Recovery, among many others.

The transport refrigeration program, for example, applies to all mechanical transport refrigeration units that consist of factory-made assemblies. These include compressors, forced-circulation air-coolers, and electrical wiring.

The AHRI has over 300 member companies producing more than 90% of the commercial and residential air conditioning, heating, water heating, and commercial refrigeration equipment made in North America. Through their certification programs, advocacy, standards, and other activities, they strive to help improve productivity, ensure a better environment and save energy.

  • Location: Arlington, VA
  • Accreditation: N/A
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies
  • Estimated Tuition: Up to $4,500

Other Notable Mentions

Refrigeration Engineers and Technicians Association

The Refrigeration Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA) is a trade-specific organization where industry professionals can find tools, training, and networking opportunities as refrigeration technicians. RETA offers training materials as well as online courses that help prepare new refrigeration technicians for jobs and further the knowledge base for experienced workers.

Refrigeration Service Engineers Society

The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society is an organization specifically created for the training of refrigeration technicians and HVAC professionals. The RSES has been doing this type of work since 1933. The society offers several courses in both refrigeration and air conditioning.

Many of the courses are offered remotely, using self-guided eLearning while others are in person, instructor-guided courses at their main location in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The RSES also has an articulation agreement with the Pennsylvania College of Technology that allows students to transform RSES seminars into college credits.

Methodology

Anyone unfamiliar with the profession may be surprised at just how many refrigeration technician training opportunities there are in the country. It is a program offered at many technical schools and community colleges.

  1. Refrigeration-Specific: Training Many refrigeration programs are lumped in with HVAC degrees. This can be good for those who want to pursue a more diverse career path, but those courses can also require a much bigger time commitment. Students who know they want to pursue a refrigeration technician career can get a certificate from most of these programs in a fraction of the time it takes to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree.

  2. EPA Approval: One of the first steps towards finding employment as a refrigeration technician is having a Section 608 certificate from the Environmental Protection Agency. Every school on this list has been vetted and approved by the EPA for 608 certification training and testing, meaning students will have every opportunity to get certified before they complete their training program.

  3. Geographic Diversity: There are terrific refrigeration technician training programs in every state in the country. We wanted to be sure to include a spectrum of options and so chose programs that are scattered around the country.

  4. School Accreditation: Licensing for refrigeration technicians varies from state to state, but national accreditation programs exist to evaluate and approve all types of educational institutions. The programs on this list have been accredited by at least one nationally recognized accreditation organization, such as the Council on Occupational Education or the Higher Learning Commission.

Farheen Gani

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).

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