HVAC technicians repair and maintain heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. To become an HVAC technician is to belong to a profession with a solid median salary, steady career projection, and significant growth potential.
If you’d like to pursue a career in this field, you’ll be glad to know that the process involved is as direct. To help you get acquainted, below is a quick overview of everything you need to know about becoming an HVAC technician, including the job description, work environment, and how to become one.
What HVAC Technicians Do
An HVAC technician’s primary workload involves installing and repairing HVAC systems. They also perform occasional maintenance activities to ensure these systems remain in optimal conditions.
Specific tasks include replacing faulty filters, cleaning vents and ducts, and disposing of fluids and gasses - a task which must be carried out in a way compliant with government regulations.
HVAC technicians are also encouraged to develop strong communication skills, as they often have to explain complex systems to homeowners in regular, easy-to-understand language.
Becoming an HVAC technician thus requires dedication, attention to detail, and a passion for learning and explaining how complex systems work.
HVAC Technician Work Environment
An HVAC technician may work in an array of environments. The most popular place you’ll find one, however, is in an existing structure like a residential building. Here they are found replacing old systems, fixing a fault, or adding new systems to supplement the old ones.
Of course, they are also found in new buildings where they operate as a part of the construction team whose job is to add an HVAC system to the new structure.
It is also possible to find the same group of HVAC technicians working in large territories, for example, a large facility with multiple buildings.
How To Become an HVAC Technician
There are a few universal steps anyone looking to become an HVAC technician must follow. They include:
Earning a High School Diploma
HVAC technicians must attend and complete a respectable HVAC technician program before practicing. Most, if not all, of these programs require a high school diploma.
It is also acceptable to provide a GED in place of a diploma. Students can gain additional advantages by attending a vocational school instead of a conventional high school or taking courses in a high school geared towards teaching mechanical skills.
Completing a Training Program
After obtaining a diploma/GED, the next step is to complete a training program. You can apply for a certificate program or an associate’s/bachelor’s degree program.
All three approaches have their pros and cons. Certificate programs can be completed in 10 months, and graduates can enroll in certification exams. For this reason, those who prioritize speed often go with this approach.
Degree programs, on the other hand, take between 2 - 4 years, but they offer a more robust curriculum and more job opportunities upon completion.
Apprenticeship & Work Experience
It is advisable for an aspiring HVAC technician to complete an apprenticeship program, not because it is mandatory but because it offers many benefits beyond what a certificate or degree program can offer.
This includes the opportunity to get real-world training and acquire practical experience that will be useful in the future. For this reason, employers tend to favor HVAC technicians who have completed an apprenticeship program.
Trade unions and associations run most apprenticeship programs.
Licensure & Certification
Requirements for licensure for HVAC technicians vary based on specific states. The importance of getting licensed also differs from state to state. It is possible to practice as an HVAC technician in some states without being licensed, albeit with limited scope of duties.
However, the most crucial certification requirement for HVAC technicians is the EPA Section 608 Technician Certification, which is compulsory regardless of state. With this certification, technicians can work with refrigerants - an integral part of the job.
Apart from the mandatory certification, an HVAC technician may also consider additional certification to distinguish themselves. One body that offers the opportunity for other certification is the North American Technician Excellence.
The organization offers four certification classes: the Ready-to-Work Certificate, HVAC Support Technician Certification, Core & Specialty Tests Certificate, and Senior Level Efficiency Analyst Certification.
HVAC Technician Specializations
A career as an HVAC technician offers opportunities for growth through a handful of levels and specializations. A typical career path includes starting as a trainee and becoming an installer, technician, and technician manager.
A technician manager can then move on to become a company owner. And if the company becomes successful, it can become a franchise.
An HVAC technician can also specialize in heat pump pool heating, commercial furnace, unit ventilators, and residential boilers. A trendy field is the HVACR technician field, specializing in refrigeration systems.
Average HVAC Technician Salary
The 2021 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that HVAC technicians earned a median pay of $48,630 annually, which amounts to $23.38 per hour.
Factors that affect how much an HVAC technician will earn include years of experience, location, and critical skills.
While technicians with more than ten years of experience can expect to earn about $35 per hour, those with less than one year of experience make about $24 per hour.
San Diego, California; Denver, Colorado; and Anaheim, California, are the cities where HVAC technicians earn the most.
HVAC Technician Job & Career Outlook
As of 2021, the country had about 394,000 HVAC technician jobs. This number is projected to increase by 5% between 2021 to 2031, adding more than 20,000 jobs.
The career outlook also differs by state. Utah has the highest HVAC technician job growth with 31.1%, while Nevada follows closely with 30,1% growth.
The top five are Colorado, Guam, and Arizona, with 29.7%, 26.3%, and 21.4%, respectively.