How To Become an HVAC Technician

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Would you like to have a job that is highly in demand with no signs of stalling, you can receive training from an experienced mentor, and you can clearly see the results of a job well done?

Then look no further than the HVAC Technician.

This occupation might be one of the most important jobs in our technologically modern world, yet it probably does not get the recognition it deserves. However, when your air conditioning stops working at the start of summer or your refrigerator no longer refrigerates, who are you going to call?

 

In this article, we will go over an HVAC Technician’s education, salary, working environment, and employment forecast. So let’s begin!

What Exactly do HVAC Technicians Do?

 

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers (HVAC) are responsible for repairing the ventilation, refrigeration, cooling, and heating systems that control the air quality, humidity, and temperature in different types of buildings. These could include residential homes or even government-owned skyscrapers.

 

HVAC technicians generally tackle many of the systems that most people take for granted. For example, by providing proper maintenance of refrigeration systems, it is possible to transport and store medicine, food, and other types of perishable items. This makes the job of an HVAC technician incredibly important.

 

They are also responsible for machines found in residential homes such as window air conditioning units and household refrigerators. However, some technicians exclusively work in more specific areas of the job such as solar panels or large refrigeration units for commercial buildings.

 

It is the responsibility of the HVAC technician to respond to service calls and inspect parts of the unit such as filters and fans. They will also check the energy usage to make sure the system can maintain the temperature the client wants.

 

Sometimes the HVAC technician will have to replace some items such as thermostats that go out after many years of use and destabilize the temperature of the house. Other times they may have to recharge the air conditioning system with refrigerant. After the hard work is completed, they will then run diagnostics on the machine to make sure cold air is blowing and that everything else is running properly.

Where Do They Work?

 

It should be said at the beginning that working as an HVAC technician is not easy. While you might spend a good part of the day sitting in a cozy office waiting for a service call, after receiving one,  you might have to spend a long time on the road driving from one appointment to the next. Upon arriving at the destination, you may be required to carefully maneuver inside an attic, wedge yourself into a tight crawlspace, or work in extremely hot and cold temperatures. There is also a lot of physical exertion that comes with it.

 

In other words, the job of an HVAC technician requires getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

 

Not only this, but you could work in any number of settings, from factories, hospitals, schools, and grocery stores to residential and commercial buildings. Any place that has an HVAC system is sure to have a technician on call to keep up repairs.

 

In general, usual daily tasks for the HVAC technician include, but are not limited to:

  •       Installing HVAC systems and their components
  •       Inspecting HVAC systems and testing them if necessary
  •       Replacing or repairing old parts
  •       Discussing the cause of malfunction with clients
  •       Recommending solutions and offering tips for proper maintenance
  •       Keeping clear records of clients and accomplished work

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Is it the Right Job for You?

 

If you would like a job that is results-based where the positive outcomes of your hard work can be seen, then a job as an HVAC technician might be perfect for you.

 

This is also a great career for those who want an alternative to the traditional education pathway. We all know that tuition costs have skyrocketed in the past couple of decades with no sign of lowering in the future. Even worse, there is no guarantee of a proper job after you graduate.

 

Not only is becoming an HVAC technician far more affordable than attending a 4-year school, but you will receive hands-on training and experience that will support you when trying to find a job (which will be far easier for you since HVAC technicians are in such high demand). More on this later.

 

Here are some other important traits if you would like to pursue this career:

 

Excellent communication skills: You must be able to explain to a client exactly what went wrong when an HVAC system malfunctions and provide advice on how they can keep up maintenance at home until the next inspection

 

Flexible schedule: The HVAC technician may be asked to work mornings, evenings, weekends, and holidays

 

Good physical health: Lifting heavy machinery is common as well as maintaining an uncomfortable position (such as standing or crouching) for extended periods

 

Proficient reading skills: You must be able to adeptly read building schematics and floor plans

 

Adaptability to different environments: The HVAC technician can work in all types of environments and all types of weather conditions

 

 

What Kind of Education Should I Get?

 

There are three ways to receive the education necessary to become an HVAC Technician: an apprenticeship, a certification program, or a degree program.

 

Apprenticeship

 

Through an apprenticeship, you can acquire the skills needed as an HVAC Technician through on-the-job training and full-time paid employment. You will learn from a mentor (usually called a journey-level technician) as well as from structured classes provided by the company you work for.

 

Taking part in an apprenticeship is the easiest way to jump start your career as a technician because you will be working a full-time job from the beginning. As you master more skills your wages are likely to increase at 6-month to one-year intervals.

 

It usually takes 3-5 years to complete an apprenticeship, which is far longer than a certification or degree program. However, it is possible for novice technicians to also take classes to shorten the length of their apprenticeship.

 

Certification Program

 

Certification programs are perfect for those who want a combination of real-world training and a traditional education experience while taking much less time to complete than the other options.

 

Certification programs usually last less than a year (6-10 months) and are offered at trade and technical schools around the country, as well as some community colleges. After you have completed this program, you will be eligible to work as an HVAC technician

 

It is important to note that some certification programs will prepare you for an assistant role only, so please keep this in mind and do your research before choosing the best school for you. These programs also do not provide the same level of education as degree programs, but they are by far the fastest way to prepare you for a career in this industry.

 

Upon completing a certification program, you will receive accreditation from one of the two main HVAC agency programs: HVAC Excellence or Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

 

Degree program

 

You could also go the associate’s degree route earning an Associate of Applied Science degree (AAS).  The length of the program depends on the school, but they generally last two years and require 60 credit hours. Because it is a college degree program, you will also be required to attend courses in science, math, language arts, history, etc.

 

The AAS degree is perfect for those who would like to receive a comprehensive education instead of jumping headlong into the workforce immediately. You will also receive a larger breadth of knowledge about HVAC systems while completing a program in a relatively short period of time. If you are so inclined, you can also continue your education and receive a bachelor’s degree, but it is not necessary to become an HVAC Technician.

 

Professional Certification

 

No matter which option you choose, in order to become a full-fledged HVAC Technician, you must pass a test for Section 608 Technician Certification.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency states:

 

 “Technicians who maintain, service, repair, or dispose of equipment that could release refrigerants into the atmosphere must be certified. Technicians are required to pass an EPA-approved test to earn Section 608 Technician Certification.”

 

Please keep in mind that the certification programs mentioned earlier are different from professional certification.

 

Schools, Location, and Tuition

 

The five best states with the highest demand for HVAC Technicians are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. If you would prefer to go the education route rather than straight into an apprenticeship, below is a list of schools from each of these states to give you a feel for how much a training program will cost.

 

 

Technical Schools (will receive HVAC Excellence or PAHRA accreditation upon completion)

 

Lively Technical College                 Tallahassee, FL                  $3,606

 

Lincoln College of Technology       Grand Prairie, TX                $24,943

 

Brownson Technical College          Anaheim, CA                       $17,220

 

Electrical Training Center, Inc      Copiague, NY                     $10,580

 

Greater Altoona Career Center      Altoona, PA                         $13,300

 

Associate Degrees (will receive AAS degree upon completion)

 

Cypress College                             Cypress, CA                        $3,082

 

Vernon College                               Vernon, TX                          $3,000 

 

CBT College                                   Miami, FL                            $29,880

 

Suffolk Community College            Selden, NY                          $14,592 

 

Whether you would like to join a technical school where you can get certified more quickly or if you prefer the more traditional education experience that comes with an associate’s degree, there is a long list of programs that can fit any budget or preference.

 

This list is not exhaustive, so be sure to do your due diligence and perform your own research before choosing the right school for you. 

 

Courses

 

  •       Reading Blueprints
  •       Reading Schematics and Symbols
  •       Industrial Safety and Health
  •       Electrical Safety and Protection
  •       AC Control Equipment
  •       The Refrigeration Cycle
  •       Heating System Equipment
  •       Energy Losses in Buildings
  •       Chemical Hazards

 

Source: the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing

Career Overview for an HVAC Technician

 

Because the HVAC technician is such an in-demand job, becoming one allows you to live practically anywhere in the country.

 

Fortunately, the HVAC Technician does not have to worry about job security. Because of the steady increase in commercial, medical, and residential buildings, this occupation will remain in demand for several years to come.

 

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics:

 

“Employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2021 to 2031.”

 

The HVAC Technician position will continue to have steady demand as well as projected job growth, making it the perfect job for those who don’t want to worry about employment.

How Much Will I Get Paid?

 

Per the BLS, in May 2021 the median annual wage for an HVAC Technician was $48,630. That is higher than those in related industries such as general maintenance and repair workers who only average $43,180. You will also receive benefits that include a 401(k) plan and a comprehensive medical program with vision and dental.

 

Those HVAC Technicians in the top 10 percent of earners receive over $78,000.

 

Below is a list of the five states mentioned before that have the highest employment levels for HVAC Technicians as well as the average hourly and annual wages:

 

California:  $29.65         $61,670

 

Texas:   $24.65         $51,270

 

Florida:   $22.52         $46,850

 

New York:  $31.82         $66,180

 

Pennsylvania:    $25.89         $53,840

 

According to the New York Building Congress, New York City commands the highest wage because of an increase in infrastructure projects everywhere in the city. There is also an anticipated increase in residential construction work in 2023.

The HVAC Technician: Job Summary

 

During these times when uncertainty is pervasive in many occupations, you can feel confident in your job security as an HVAC Technician. This occupation is forecasted to remain in demand for years to come and there is predictable job growth in the future. Add to this a competitive salary, on-the-job training, and the satisfaction of knowing you truly helped others and it is no surprise that many people choose this profession.

 

On the other hand, others might not like how physically demanding the job is. You might sometimes have to be on-call and work weekends and/or holidays. It is also common to work in all types of environments, from the pleasant to the not-so-pleasant.

 

Pros:

  •       Very high level of job security, demand, and stability
  •       Training with a mentor and receiving real-world experience
  •       Certification in a relatively short amount of time
  •       Result-based, satisfying work

 

Cons:

  •       Higher risk of injury than in other professions
  •       Physically demanding and potentially stressful

 

If this job sounds like the perfect fit for you, begin your job search for an HVAC apprenticeship or find a technical school or college within your budget and start your career as an HVAC Technician today!

 We also have other related occupations that you might be interested in on our website. Take a look at our articles on how to become an electrical lineman or a heavy equipment mechanic. Be sure to check back in the coming days for other articles on excellent careers.

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