What is a Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, Heating and Gas Technology Degree?

Students who pursue training in this technology learn how to install, maintain, and repair refrigeration, air conditioning, and heating and gas systems. In short, they learn how to help keep us comfortable and healthy.

Heating and air conditioning systems control the temperature, humidity, and overall air quality in homes, office buildings, schools, hospitals, factories, stores, and other facilities. By providing a climate controlled environment, the refrigeration systems that HVAC technicians install make it possible to store and transport food, medicine, and other perishable items.

Program Options

Apprenticeship in Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, Heating and Gas Technology – Three to Five Year Duration
A refrigeration, air conditioning, heating and gas technology apprenticeship is the most common education path. The majority of apprenticeships are provided or sponsored by local unions and their affiliates, as well as by non-union contractors. The United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, and Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC), and Refrigeration Service Techs, for example, regularly offers apprenticeships.

Diploma / Certificate in Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, Heating and Gas Technology – Six Month to Two Year Duration
Associate Degree in Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, Heating and Gas Technology – One to Two Year Duration
These programs are offered by technical and vocational schools. Students should choose a curriculum that is made up of in-school hours followed by an apprenticeship.

Here are the common learning outcomes of both school programs and apprenticeships:

  • Basic concepts for reading blueprints and drawings used in the construction, industrial, and maintenance fields
  • Fundamentals of refrigeration
  • Identification and use of refrigeration tools and materials
  • Installation and service of the components of different types of air conditioning and refrigeration systems
  • Basic ventilation requirements
  • Fundamentals of air distribution and cleaning systems
  • Servicing refrigerant control systems and air conditioning control systems
  • Working with advanced circuitry systems and innovative instruments
  • Choosing the right piping materials for different applications
  • Testing pipe or tubing joints or connections for leaks
  • Testing electrical circuits or components for continuity
  • Repairing or replacing defective equipment
  • Improving refrigeration, air conditioning, and heating and gas system performance by changing filters, cleaning ducts, or refilling refrigerants
  • Installing, connecting, and adjusting thermostats, humidistats, or timers
  • Connecting equipment to fuel, water, or refrigerant sources
  • Adjusting system controls to balance system
  • Assembling, positioning, and mounting refrigeration, air conditioning, and heating and gas equipment
  • Cutting or drilling holes in structures to accommodate system installation
  • Lay out, design, and install low voltage electrical wiring
  • Record and report time, materials, faults, deficiencies, and other occurrences on work orders
  • Job Site Safety

Degrees Similar to Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, Heating and Gas Technology

Building Inspection
Programs in building inspection teach students the skills needed to examine structures and verify that they have been constructed according to building codes and other related laws and regulations.

Carpentry training programs teach the skilled trade of cutting, shaping, and assembling wood for buildings and other structures. Students of the trade learn about the two basic types of carpentry: rough carpentry and finish carpentry.

Civil Engineering
Civil engineering students learn how to design and plan civil infrastructure like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, railroads, and airports. Classes include math, statistics, engineering systems and mechanics, and building codes.

Engineering Technology
Engineering technology programs teach the engineering skills required to assist engineers in their work. Common classes are computers for engineering technology, construction methodologies, structural systems, strength of materials, and technical drawing.

Some of the subfields of engineering technology are civil engineering technology, construction engineering technology, aerospace engineering technology, and automotive engineering technology.

Plumbing degree programs teach the skilled trade of installing, maintaining, and repairing plumbing fixtures and systems. These systems include water, heating, irrigation, sewage, fuel, medical gas, and compressed air.

Welding students learn the process of joining metals using extreme heat. They study metallurgy, the properties of different types of metals, and different types of welding.

Skills You’ll Learn

After completing their studies and apprenticeship, refrigeration, air conditioning, and heating and gas technology grads are equipped with these transferable skills:

Physical Strength and Stamina
This is physical work that calls for physical strength.

Eye for Detail
The work requires attention to specifications and precise measurements.

Critical Thinking and Troubleshooting Abilities
When they encounter problems, these tradespeople must be able to think quickly and critically to come up with solutions.

Math Skills
Math skills are needed to interpret blueprints and calculate sizes, distances, and quantities of material.

Mechanical Skills / Hand-Eye Coordination / Manual Dexterity
Students who study this technology develop these skills through the use of tools and machines.

Communication Skills
Clear communication with clients and colleagues is essential to the smooth operation of a project.

What Can You Do with a Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, Heating and Gas Technology Degree?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the vast majority of refrigeration, air conditioning, and heating and gas technicians are employed by plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors. A small number are self-employed, teach at trade schools, or work in retail trade or wholesale trade. More precisely, these technicians work in the following industries:

  • Building Equipment Contractors
  • Direct Selling
  • Hardware Wholesalers
  • Plumping and Heating Equipment/Supplies Wholesalers
  • Commercial and Industrial Machinery and Equipment Repair/Maintenance
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools
  • Personal and Household Goods Repair/Maintenance
  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing
  • Natural Gas Distribution
  • Wired Telecommunications Carriers

Career Paths

Learn about your career prospects after graduation.

Read about Career Paths