How to Become a HVAC Technician
HVAC technicians repair and maintain heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
This career has a solid median pay of $50,590 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is also one of the faster careers to get into since HVAC training certificate programs generally only run from 6 months up to a year. That means an HVAC technician can start working and earning at least four times faster than a bachelor's degree recipient.
Read on in our guide to learn how to become an HVAC technician.
What Does an HVAC Technician Do?
The BLS reports that much of the technician's workload can involve installing or repairing HVAC systems and disposing of fluids and gases in compliance with government regulations. HVAC technicians also have to explain complex systems to homeowners in a way they can understand.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
High school students can get a head start on their HVAC education by completing physics, math, and vocational education coursework. The BLS recommends that students complete high school shop courses in plumbing, basic electronics, or electrical work.
If you don't yet have your high school diploma, you can get a GED for up to $150 in most states.
Initial HVAC training programs award a certificate or college degree. The main distinctions between the options include the time commitment, program costs, and subjects covered during the training.
You can complete diploma or certificate programs in as little as six months, and they can cost as low as $1,200. Associate degrees take two years to complete and cost upwards of $7,500 on average. There are also bachelor's degree programs for HVAC training, but this is less common and much more expensive.
Coursework in HVAC training can include:
- Studies in residential systems
- HVAC controls, such as voltage, air quality, and resistance
- Tools, such as calibration instruments
The BLS reports that employers prefer HVAC applicants that have completed postsecondary education and an apprenticeship program that can last three to five years. Contractor associations and unions offer apprenticeships, which involve on-the-job training, which comes in handy in your search for HVAC technician jobs.
Apprentices work with trade professionals and, in some cases, may earn a stipend during their apprenticeship. Apprenticeships lead to industry savvy in blueprint reading and tool applications and safety practices.
Individual states require HVAC professionals to hold licenses and certifications to work HVAC technician jobs. Check with your state's regulations. Community colleges, technical institutes, and trade schools typically offer programs ending in certification. One industry-standard certifying agency is North American Technician Excellence (NATE).
To specialize and increase earnings, HVAC technicians can pursue an associate or bachelor's degree, or complete certification programs in:
- Heat pump pool heaters
- Commercial furnaces
- Unit ventilators
- Residential boilers
The greater your educational bandwidth, the more HVAC technician jobs available. An associate degree can add professional competence in electricity for HVAC systems, technical physics, heat pumps, and metal fabrication. A bachelor's degree program can add skills and expertise in control theory, energy audit and analysis, hydronic system design, contracting issues, and commercial HVAC system design.
HVAC Technician Salaries and Job Growth
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Projections Central, a U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored website.
Top 10 Areas With the Highest Job Growth:
- Utah: 31.1%
- Nevada: 30.1%
- Colorado: 29.7%
- Guam: 26.3%
- Arizona: 21.4%
- Iowa: 18.5%
- Montana: 18.5%
- Oregon: 18.5%
- Arkansas: 16.3%
- Florida: 16.2%
Career Paths for HVAC Technicians
At this level, you may work as an intern, gaining HVAC training, and the job may or may not pay a wage. This is the entry-level step into the career where you are still learning the basics of the job in the work setting.
These are the professionals that install the equipment, as the name suggests. However, they may also repair, replace, and maintain HVAC systems. At this stage, you'll work at a more independent level, and you should expect a decent wage.
An HVAC technician mainly deals with maintaining and repairing existing systems. If you need someone to repair or maintain your AC or heating unit, a technician most likely comes out to your home.
At this level, you oversee the technicians, ensuring they do the job properly and on time. You might attain this level after years of working as an HVAC technician, and you might need an associate or bachelor's degree to perform in the role.
Eventually, you might think about starting your own HVAC company, or you might buy the company you work for from the previous owner. At this level, you need skills for running a business, like marketing, finance, and human resources skills.
These professionals own an HVAC business that is part of a larger network of HVAC businesses. You might run your own office as part of the franchise or even run the whole franchise itself and allow others to buy into the HVAC business brand.
Courses in HVAC Technician Training Programs
- Work with refrigeration systems as part of HVAC training, known as HVACR
- Learn how refrigeration systems work
- Covers how to handle refrigerants in an environmentally responsible way
Math and Electrical Basics for HVACR
- Covers the math and electric skills an HVAC professional needs, like conversions and common electrical terms
Fundamentals of HVACR
- Learn the technical skills needed
- Often offered in a hands-on approach
- Learn how to troubleshoot systems
- Gain a greater understanding of electric systems
Components of a Successful HVAC Technician Career
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