How to Become
an HVAC Technician
Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications
HVAC technicians are known for their maintenance skills. They work on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. These professionals are usually self-employed, but some work for companies that manage large residential properties or businesses.
Do you want to pursue a career in this field? This guide will highlight how to become an HVAC technician. You will learn about the training programs and apprenticeships required to qualify.
What Is an HVAC Technician?
HVAC technicians are responsible for installing, maintaining, heating repairs, refrigeration system repairs, and air conditioning repairs. HVAC is an abbreviation for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
Experts in this occupation may choose to specialize in one skill rather than do all. Some may choose repair and maintenance while others work with the installation. However, some technicians focus on a single system like air conditioning, heating, or refrigeration. Others work across all the systems.
What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become an HVAC Technician?
HVAC technicians do not need to attend a university, and in most cases, a high school diploma is enough. However, students may need to take courses in basic electronics, plumbing, or electrical work in a vocational school.
A trade school or vocational school, as it is popularly known, is the best way to enter the industry. Most of these programs include apprenticeships to give students an opportunity to learn on the job.
Best HVAC Technician Education Tracks
There are so many ways to learn the trade. Most involve technical training rather than academic teaching. The best way to master the skills is by learning from others.
Below are the best education tracks to consider on the way to becoming an HVAC technician.
This is the most important step. Vocational schools teach you everything you need to start working as an entry-level technician. Many of these training sessions last for up to two years. They also include apprenticeships to give students hands-on training on the job.
If you choose to use the vocational school route, you will learn to read and understand blueprints, calculate loads in British thermal units, and troubleshoot commercial equipment.
In addition, students learn to connect electrical wiring, follow safety protocols, and solder pipes and fittings. In addition, you will handle refrigerants. This is the gas or fluid used in both the refrigeration cycle of air conditioning systems and heat pumps.
Community colleges also offer associate degrees for technicians. However, it has a broader training scope and includes general education courses for a well-rounded experience. The programs usually last for two years and are quite similar to diplomas or certificate programs.
This training method may require an extra apprenticeship to become an entry-level HVAC technician. But the extra time invested at this point can qualify you for supervisory roles when you have notched up some work experience.
HVAC Technician Degrees
You do not need a bachelor’s degree to become an HVAC technician. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employers prefer technicians with post-secondary education. Some opt for applicants who have gained several years of apprenticeship experience.
While technicians do not need to attend a university, they still need technical training. HVAC systems are more complex than ever and people who work in this field still require up-to-date information about the technology.
HVAC Technician Courses
Whether you choose a certificate or diploma for your training, there are some courses that prepare you for the job as a technician. You will learn about basic electricity, theories of ventilation, heating, refrigeration, air conditioning, and heating fuels.
You may also need to learn to interpret mechanical diagrams and drawings, safety practices, building codes, and piping. In addition, students will study installation and services plus venting and duct systems.
How to Become an HVAC Technician: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you want to become an HVAC technician, you need to consider the path to get there. Do you want to go to a vocational school or a community college? Also, think about the years you will spend on an apprenticeship.
Below is a step-by-step guide to becoming an HVAC technician.
Earn your high school diploma
To start this career, you need to complete high school. Some experts recommend taking technical classes in high school to prepare you for vocational education.
Enroll in a technical training program
After high school, you must enroll in a training program. It could be a vocational school or a community college for an associate degree. Certification is the fastest way as you can be done in less than a year.
Complete an apprenticeship
Employees prefer to hire someone with some experience and only an apprenticeship can give that to you. Some apprenticeships take up to three years and are provided by associations and trade unions.
You need to be licensed to work as a technician and the requirements vary by state. However, the Section 608 Technician Certification is mandatory in all states.
Apply for jobs or advertise your services
After getting your license, you can choose your career path. Do you want to be self-employed? You can also choose to work for a company that maintains systems in your field. It’s your decision.
Key HVAC Technician Skills
To thrive as an HVAC technician, you need some special skills. You must be familiar with HVAC systems and know the fundamentals of cooling and heating systems. As an entry-level employee, you should also know how to install gas piping, and how duct systems are arranged.
The more technical skills you have, the better. Here are some essential requirements for the job.
Knowledge of HVAC Safety Standards and Protocols
Safety skills are vital to protect you from injuries on the job. You also protect others who come in contact with the machines you’re working on. You must understand safety procedures and apply them for working with scaffolding, at heights, and other confined spaces.
HVAC companies look for candidates that are grounded in safety regulations. This keeps you, the company’s reputation, and other team members safe.
Physical Strength and Communication Skills
You need physical strength to handle some jobs. It is an important bonus in this career. Sometimes, you may need to work solo and this will mean lifting heavy parts on your own. You can get colleagues to help if you are not alone.
You need to have strong communication skills as well since you will be working with a lot of people. You should be able to explain the problem to a homeowner or client and suggest solutions.
Problem-Solving and Troubleshooting Skills
You need to be able to diagnose a problem quickly and brainstorm solutions. Your troubleshooting skills can come in handy in these cases. Diagnosing the problem on time means you will deliver quick and efficient services to the client.
As a technician, you should be able to think on your feet. Being familiar with new testing equipment can help as well.
HVAC Technician Salary and Job Outlook
This professional has a higher-than-average salary in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for HVAC technicians was $50,590 in 2020.
The BLS also predicts that the employment of HVAC technicians will rise by four percent in the next decade. This growth is the average for many occupations.
Entry-Level HVAC Technician Job Requirements
You need a high school diploma or a GED equivalent as well as physical skills for lifting equipment. In most cases, you will need extra post-secondary education like a vocational school or associate degree. You may also need an apprenticeship to gain hands-on experience. Lastly, you need to be licensed.
What Does an HVAC Technician Do?
These experts are responsible for maintaining appliances like heating systems, air conditioning, and refrigerators. They may also install these systems when required.
Below are some other roles HVAC technicians fulfill.
Installation and Upgrade
These technicians install new systems in commercial buildings or homes. You will assess the area and ascertain what the client needs. This includes measuring dimensions and distances.
HVAC technicians also inspect blueprints and specifications. You will drill holes to connect electrical equipment. You will also work on enhancing the energy efficiency of existing equipment and machines.
These professionals also offer technical advice to clients on how to manage their appliances. This can include teaching them how to prevent problems in the future or how to maintain the appliance in the short term.
HVAC technicians also show clients how to change filters and oil parts that may cause problems someday. You will also record faults and other occurrences to help understand the history of an appliance.
Improving HVAC System Performance
Some simple maintenance can improve system performance. As time passes, dust can block airways and reduce the performance of the appliance. HVAC technicians improve performance by cleaning ducts and changing the filters.
You may also refill refrigerants, connect and adjust thermostats, install humidistats or timers, and connect the equipment to water or fuel. This can also enhance its performance.
HVAC Technician Certifications
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification for HVAC technicians is compulsory. Without this license, you cannot work with refrigerants in HVAC units. Like many other professions, certifications can also increase your job prospects.
The Section 608 Technician Certification is required by the EPA before you can work in this field. It has four different types of certifications and each is specific to the equipment. You will need to undergo an exam and pass before you can be certified.
North American Technical Excellence (NATE)
Aside from the EPA-required certifications, you can add the NATE certification. While not a legal requirement, this qualification will enhance your skills and make you more attractive to potential clients/employers.
How to Prepare for Your HVAC Technician Job Interview
The interview is rarely ever academic. It is more about what you can do. Your practical experience will come in handy during interviews. You may also be asked about your work ethics and your safety knowledge.
Below are some potential interview questions to expect.
HVAC Technician Job Interview Practice Questions
- What can you do to make a disgruntled customer happy?
- How would you advise a client that uses outdated heating systems?
- How do you help a client with energy or environmental concerns?
- How do you diagnose the problem with a specific appliance?
How Long Does It Take to Become an HVAC Technician?
To become an HVAC technician, you may spend around two to four years or more, depending on the training path you choose. Community colleges take two years or less while vocational school may be shorter or longer.
Apprenticeships may also lengthen the process. Sometimes, they take up to five years and students learn on the job. After this process, you can get certified and start seeking employment.
Should You Become an HVAC Technician in 2021?
If you prefer a career in a technical field, you should become an HVAC technician in 2021. The career option is a good one because it has a decent salary as well as a wide range of opportunities for employment.
The profession is quite fulfilling and it means you will not be burdened by student debt. It is also a good choice if a regular desk role is not for you. The job will not become obsolete because people will always need to maintain and repair their heating and cooling appliances.
HVAC Technician FAQ
How long does it take to qualify as an HVAC technician?
Two to four years. It depends on the route you prefer. With a community college, you can be done in two years. Vocational schools may be longer or shorter because they include apprenticeships.
What does an HVAC technician do?
As the name implies, these experts handle heating and cooling equipment like air conditioners, heaters, and refrigerators. They install, maintain, and repair these appliances when the need arises.
Is an HVAC career safe?
Part of the certification process involves learning all about safety precautions. Therefore, as long as you adhere to these, you will not put yourself at risk of an accident.
How do I start a career in HVAC?
To begin with, you need a high school diploma. Then, you can choose to attend a vocational school or community college. The next step would be apprenticeship and certification.