HVAC Technician Careers 101

As a heating, ventilation, refrigeration and air-conditioning technician, commonly referred to an HVAC technician, you will be given the opportunity to steadily advance in your career while enjoying the benefits of a competitive market and high paying income.

HVAC technicians are in high demand and the industry is expected to continue to expand over the next few years. That makes now the perfect opportunity to start in this exciting industry. Unlike some of the other skilled trade careers, HVAC technicians have their choice of attending courses through a school or by participating in a paid apprenticeship program. These programs offer hands on experience and, while they do take longer to complete than college courses, these programs are paid. No matter what path you choose towards your HVAC career, it is important to first earn your high school diploma or GED. Additionally, it is important to understand the licensing and certifications that you will be required to earn throughout your career. To learn more about HVAC technician careers, review the information that has been provided within the sections below.

What does an HVAC technician do?

Heating, ventilation, refrigeration and air-conditioning (HVAC) technicians handle the installation, repairs and servicing of heating units, ventilation systems and air conditioning units in both residential and commercial buildings. Not only must an HVAC technician be capable of reading blueprints, but there are a variety of common tools that are included in their work such as:

  • Metal cutters.
  • Flow sensors.
  • Current meters.

Additionally, a HVAC technician must be able to cut wires, weld pipes, test electrical circuits and check testing pipes and tubing for any faults or leaks. When servicing a system, the HVAC technicians must be able to identify any issues or potential problems as well as ensure that controls are at their recommended systems.

The Essential Skills of a HVAC Technician

Having the ideal skills of a HVAC technician can help you to find a position and succeed in your career. In order to become a high quality technician, it is important to develop essential skills such as:

  • Good computer skills.
  • Troubleshooting skills.
  • Good interpretations of schematics and the ability to read blueprints and ladder logic.
  • Communication skills.

Fortunately, these are all skills that can be developed through learning and practice.

The Expected Work Environment for a HVAC Technician

HVAC technicians are needed in both residential and commercial environments. Therefore, whether you work in a residential or commercial setting will likely depend on the employer that you sign on with. While some technicians are assigned specific job sites, most technicians will be required to travel to different locations. While there is generally a large market for HVAC technicians, services are often needed far during peak heating and cooling seasons.

Job Outlook and Income for HVAC Technicians

In 2014, it was estimated that the growth of the HVAC industry would expand by 14 percent by 2024. This is a far greater growth than many other occupations, as there are many industries that are expected to shrink in the coming years. The growth in the need for HVAC technicians can be attributed to the worth of modern climate-control systems and advancement in technology. Therefore, this is a trade industry that offers promising futures to new technicians.

HVAC technicians often have the opportunity to make a large amount of income. In fact, estimates released in 2015 show that the median wage of a HVAC technician is $45,110 annually. Apprentices in the field typically earn about half that amount, but with experience often comes higher wages. Other factors that can effect salary include location, certifications and the amount of working hours completed.

Earn a High School Diploma or GED

In order to start your path on a career as a HVAC technician, you must first earn your high school diploma or GED. If you are still in high school, there are certain high school courses that can be aiding to an aspiring technician. Those courses include:

  • Computer science.
  • Chemistry.
  • Physics.
  • Vocational training classes that cover mechanical drawing, technical math, electronics and blueprint reading.

Obtaining a HVAC Technician License and EPA-Approved Certificate

The licenses that you will be required to obtain will depend on the state that you live in and the type of work that you would like to do as a HVAC technician. The requirements to gain a license will also vary within each state, but they generally include passing a written exam or completing a certified training program. In some states, these requirements can also be overcome by gaining between two and five years of work experience in a particular field.

Additionally, you will be required to earn an EPA-approved certificate. There are different tests available, depending on the type of equipment that you would like to work with. The types of EPA tests include:

  • Servicing small appliances.
  • Servicing or disposing of any high-pressure appliances.
  • Servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances as well as universal servicing all types of equipment.

Depending on the type of HVAC technician that you would like to become, you may be required to gain additional certifications or training later in your career.

Becoming a HVAC Technician Through On-the-Job Training

If you are seeking a career as an HVAC technician, there are three routes that you can take. The first is through on-the-job training. By assisting an experienced HVAC technician, you can earn the skills that you will need in order to obtain certification and licensing. Generally, you will be first taught how to cleaning furnaces and insulate refrigeration lines. In time, you will likely advance to learning how to cut and solder sheet metal and pipes as well as how to check electrical circuits. If you have no experience in the industry, your employer may provide you with classroom or self-study courses that can assist you along your career path.

Becoming a HVAC Technician Through a Certification or Degree

You also have the option of starting your career through schooling at a community college, technical academy or trade school. Depending on which of these options you choose, the program may take between six months and two years to complete, with trade school often being the quickest to complete. These courses offer both classroom instruction and some hands on experience, with many programs also providing you with access to internship programs where you can gain valuable experience.

Becoming a HVAC Through an Apprenticeship

Depending on the area that you live in, there may be a wide selection of paid apprenticeship programs that will have you working on an experienced HVAC technician. These programs typically take three to five years to complete and are a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. Upon the end of an apprenticeship program, you will be eligible to apply for your HVAC technician license. If you are interested in an apprenticeship program, check with your local chapters of HVAC industry contractors association. These associations may include:

  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America.
  • Air-Conditioning Contractors of America.
  • Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association.
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association.
  • United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry.

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