Welcome back to our blog series highlighting some of the hottest jobs in the skilled trades. In previous posts, we have discussed the career prospects for plumbers, electricians, carpenters and maintenance technicians. This post is focused on the folks who work on heating, ventilation and air conditioning and how to become an HVAC technician.
As you probably already know from personal experience, it’s an essential job. You may not be aware of all the opportunities to explore, including residential, commercial and industrial work sites and service and installation projects.
Don’t worry I’m going to walk you through all of them as well as how to join the field and your expected earnings.
How to become an HVAC Technician
Working as an HVAC technician is a career that is open to almost everyone. The basic requirements are manageable, and the education and training program costs are affordable. Many companies are providing scholarships or internal training programs as well.
The list of requirements begins with a great work ethic. This field is hard on your body, so an HVAC technician must be mentally and physically prepared to put in a tough day. You will also need a high school diploma and good math skills for calculations relating to installation and repairs. A driver’s license is also a must so you can drive the company vehicle to work sites.
Good HVAC technicians understand that they are in the customer service business. Regardless of the work environment, you will most likely interact with the customer at some point, so you have to be prepared for professional interactions.
In commercial and industrial work environments, you must be comfortable working alone for extended periods. You may be the only person working in an isolated part of a manufacturing facility or a large building. At the same time, you must also know how to be very personable when you interact with your supervisor or customers.
During peak season, or based on the number of contracts, you won’t be working a normal 9-5 schedule. You should be prepared to log lots of overtime during the hottest summer and coldest winter months.
HVAC technicians should also be quick thinkers and very analytical. You will need to work quickly and efficiently to get HVAC systems back up and running. Diagnosing problems and getting things right the first time is crucial when the temperature is above 100!
There are a variety of work environments, so there is always something new to learn. All of us are familiar with the residential environment, but commercial and industrial environments have larger and more sophisticated systems.
Commercial work includes structures like office buildings, corporate campuses, government buildings, and college facilities. Industrial environments are manufacturing and research facilities that require more specialized temperature and ventilation infrastructure.
For all of these, there are both installation and service opportunities. There are a few key differences between service and installation work. Service projects are more focused on problem-solving and the mental aspect of the job. When you are tasked with repairing HVAC systems, you are on call, and the volume of work is weather driven. Most of the people working in these roles are more experienced HVAC technicians.
Installation work is for HVAC professionals who enjoy more physically challenging tasks and a fixed schedule. More junior HVAC technicians usually hold these jobs. The work and the schedule are more fixed. and the people who enjoy installation work are workmanlike, neat, and efficient.
HVAC Technician Training and Certification
An HVAC apprenticeship is one of the ways to enter the field. Typically an apprenticeship program will include 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. At the end of the apprenticeship, you will receive a certificate that indicates you are ready for fieldwork, and then you have to take the 608 exam.
Every HVAC must pass the Sec 608 exam covering how to safely handle refrigerants. There are multiple levels depending on what type of work you do:
- Type I: For servicing small appliances.
- Type II: For servicing or disposing of high- or very high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and MVACs.
- Type III: For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances.
- Type IV: For servicing all types of equipment.
After completing the 608 exam, you may also be required to get licensed in your state. The state requirements vary by location, so you should read up on them to ensure your bases are covered.
HVAC Technician Schools
Like most skilled trades, there are a few ways that you can enter the field. The primary ways to enter the HVAC industry are through education or on-the-job training. After earning your high school diploma, you can continue your career in vocational school, community college, or company training program/apprenticeship.
Vocational school programs provide HVAC training programs that last between 6 months and a year. Their facilities have systems set up so you can get hands-on experience repairing refrigeration systems and learning air conditioning technology. At the conclusion of an HVAC certificate program, you will enter the job market, ready to get to work. While you won’t be an expert, you will have a strong base to start your career.
Community colleges also have HVAC programs. Unlike trade schools, their programs also include other education requirements and they typically offer an associate degree. The programs take 2 years and there is usually a mix of courses that can be taken in person and online.
Companies also have apprenticeship programs. You will learn on the job and go to class as an HVAC apprentice. An apprenticeship program typically lasts 3-5 years and can take up to 2,000 hours. Those requirements will vary by the company and the location.
How much does an HVAC technician make?
Here is an overview of HVAC technician salaries. The median pay for an HVAC technician is $48,630 per year or $22.38 per hour. The bottom 10% have an average salary of $34,320 while the average salary of the top 10% is $78,210.
In the US, there are 394,100 HVAC technicians; by 2031 the latest forecast suggests there will be 414,400. That’s an increase of 20,200 HVAC technician jobs in the next 10 years.
FAQ list for reference:
- What does an HVAC technician do?
- Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the temperature and air quality in buildings.
- How long does it take to become an HVAC technician?
- If you go through a trade or vocational school, it will take a couple of years. Apprenticeship programs take 3-5 years.
- How much does a certified HVAC technician make?
- The top 10% of HVAC techs make more than $78K.
- What makes a good HVAC technician?
- A good technician has great customer service skills, attention to detail, and is a problem solver.
- How hard is it to be an HVAC technician?
- You will need to complete an apprenticeship (3-5 years) or formal training through trade school (6-12 months) or a community college (2 years). those programs can take up to 2 years.
- What skills are needed to be an HVAC technician?
- Great work ethic, ability to work alone, willingness to learn,
- What is the average hourly wage for an HVAC technician?
- The median wage is $23.38.
As you can now see, working as an HVAC technician is a financially rewarding career with lots of options. An HVAC career will require you to learn constantly, think on your feet and provide excellent customer service. It’s a career where you can earn while you learn, but that also means you will need a great work ethic. After completing your certifications, your future options include working in a variety of environments or even opening your own business. If you are looking for an HVAC technician job, be sure to sign up on BlueRecruit. We have lots of companies that are looking for you on the platform every day.