Working on HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems requires the right training. Therefore, you will need to learn how to become an HVAC technician before working in this field. However, it’s a growing career option and offers a decent salary, too.
If you want to work as an HVAC technician, you need the right training. Let’s look at the steps for how to become an HVAC technician.
How to Become an HVAC Technician in 6 Steps
Step #1 – Complete Your High School Diploma or GED
Most states will require a high school diploma or GED to become an HVAC technician. If you haven’t completed high school or you’re currently attending, make sure to choose the right courses, too. Some of the best choices include math classes, shop classes, computer science classes, and physics. If you can enter vocational training in high school, it’s a great step.
You should also look into courses, whether in high school or outside of it, in the following:
- Technical math
- Mechanical drawing
- Blueprint reading
These classes can help you get started on some of the day-to-day tasks you will likely encounter working as an HVAC technician.
Step #2 – Get your HVAC Certificate
After getting your high school diploma or GED, you will need more education. For example, if you want to become an HVAC technician, you will need to earn your HVAC certificate.
While federal law doesn’t require this, many states do. You cannot work on HVAC systems in most states without becoming certified. Even in states where it’s not required, many employers prefer certified HVAC technicians.
It will take you around nine months to complete the HVAC certification program. You will learn diagnostic training, principles of mechanics, electricity, electronics, and how to use the right tools and testing equipment. These courses will give you all the knowledge you need to become successful as an HVAC technician.
Step #3 – Finish an Apprenticeship
Once you have completed your certification program, you may need an apprenticeship. While this is not a required step, it’s a rather common one. You will get the on-the-job training you need to become a skilled HVAC technician.
This is very helpful for gaining experience. Most employers will prefer individuals that have completed an apprenticeship. You might need to spend three to five years in an apprenticeship to become an HVAC technician.
Most apprenticeships will include some type of pay, but some are unpaid. You will likely need to complete several thousand hours of on-the-job training to complete your apprenticeship. If you choose to complete an apprenticeship, you may not need to do an HVAC certification program.
Step #4 – Gain Additional Certifications and Licenses
After completing your apprenticeship and/or HVAC certificate program, you want to look into other certifications and licenses. One of the most popular certificates is called the Ready-to-Work certification. This certification is for heating, ventilation, air-condition, and refrigeration or HVACR.
You will need real-world working knowledge to gain this certification. Working with HVACR systems for a year or longer can help you gain the Ready-to-Work certification. This certification is for entry-level technicians. It will show that you have fundamental knowledge and skills for HVACR systems in areas including:
- Electrical Safety
- Basic Heat Transfer
- General Safety
- Component Identification
You can also get an HVAC Support Technician Certificate. This certificate can be earned early in your career. Often, HVAC technicians will earn this certification within 6 to 12 months of working. You will need to pass an exam including topics such as using basic science, tools, safety, construction terms, taking temperature measurements, taking humidity measurements, and more. The test is about 2.5 hours long and includes 100 questions.
Another certificate to consider is the Core & Specialty Tests Certificate. You will need a minimum of two years of work experience to get this specialized certificate. The test will cover many of the same topics as other certifications with 50 questions.
After gaining two NATE (North American Technician Excellence) specialty certifications, you can get the Senior Level Efficiency Analyst Certification. This certification requires at least five years of experience. You will need to pass a test including 100 questions. This test will cover:
- Load calculation
- Air distribution
- System performance
- Planned maintenance
- Hydronic distribution
- Indoor air and environment control
Along with this certification, you will likely want to get a refrigerant classification. This will require an additional examination. The exam will depend on the type of appliances you plan to service. You can get one of the following three refrigerant classifications:
- Type I – Covers the smaller appliances
- Type II – Covers high-pressure cooling and heating units
- Type III – Covers low-pressure cooling and heating units
Each exam for these levels will include 25 questions. You will need to get at least 18 correct to pass. If you pass all three examinations, you can gain universal certification. This is recommended for those looking to expand their HVAC technician career opportunities.
Step #5 – Get State Licenses & EPA Certification
You will likely need to check your state requirements for licensing. Some employers will require EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) certification, as well. Most states will only provide the Type I, II, or III licenses mentioned above. However, you should check your state’s requirements before going into a career as an HVAC technician.
Duties of an HVAC Technician
It’s important to understand what you will be doing as an HVAC technician. Before you choose this career path, it’s a good idea to understand what is involved. Some of the common duties of HVAC technicians include:
Using tools for cutting metal, repairing HVAC systems, and other duties
- Reading blueprints
- Connecting wires
- Welding pipes
- Testing Electrical Circuits
- Making sure all components of the HVAC system is properly working
- Testing pipes and tubing for leaks
As an HVAC technician, you’ll have many different responsibilities. These are just some of the many duties you will likely need to perform.
Key Skills HVAC Technicians Need
If you want to become an HVAC technician, you will need to either have or gain the right skills. Some of the skills you should have include:
- Time management skills
- Customer service skills
- Blueprint reading abilities
- Troubleshooting skills
- Mechanical skills
- Physical strength
- Manual dexterity
Some of these skills you can gain through the right training. However, you should be in good shape and have good hand-eye coordination to become an HVAC technician. If you love to work with your hands and you prefer to work outside of an office, this might be the right career choice for you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an HVAC Technician
How much can I earn as an HVAC technician?
As an HVAC technician, the hourly pay will range from $7.25 to $50.90. The average pay is about $23.45 per hour for an HVAC technician. Your location and experience level will help to determine your actual salary.
It’s possible to earn more money each year by working overtime and working on holidays. As you gain experience, your wage will likely go up, too.
Is the HVAC technician career growing?
Yes, and it’s growing rather fast. The outlook for this career is very positive, with a growth rate expected at about 15% through 2026. This field is growing faster than the average of all occupations.
How long does it take to become an HVAC technician?
If you want to become a certified HVAC technician, it will take around nine months to complete the initial training. However, you may also need to complete an apprenticeship and other certifications. Depending on the certifications and the apprenticeship, this may take a few years.
What is the difference between HVACR and HVAC?
If you become an HVACR technician, you will do similar things as an HVAC technician. The biggest difference is an HVACR technician specializes in installing and repairing refrigeration systems. An HVAC technician doesn’t work with the refrigeration portion of the industry.
What type of work environment will an HVAC technician work within?
Your work environment will likely include traveling between homes and workplaces. You will handle repairs and new installation of HVAC systems, typically both residential and commercial. It’s common to work throughout a large territory. Sometimes, you will be at the same facility for several weeks for a larger building project.
Sometimes, larger buildings and companies will hire HVAC technicians. They may be hired to handle all the HVAC issues that come up for the property or properties for the company.
What does an HVAC technician schedule look like?
Many HVAC technicians work a typical 9-to-5 schedule, but they will not be stuck in an office all day. It’s also common for HVAC technicians to work overtime or weekends, but not every single week.
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