How to Become an HVAC Technician
Could HVAC provide some cool opportunities for you? Learn about the industry and what it takes to succeed.
HVAC (meaning heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) is a technical trade pertaining to indoor air and climate control. So if you like to make people comfortable, learn how to become an HVAC technician and you'll be a welcome sight.
Few things are more unpleasant than sitting in a sweltering hot office in the dead of summer. When an air condition unexpectedly breaks down, resorting to window fans just won’t do the trick. Of course, if your heat dies in the middle of winter, you’ll be wishing you were back in that toasty office. That’s why businesses and private residents rely on skilled HVAC technicians to help beat the heat and kill the chill.
What Is HVAC?
Building and vehicle occupants rely on HVAC systems for clean air, temperature control, and comfortable humidity levels. Additionally, HVAC is used in refrigeration systems so perishable items such as food and medicine can be stored.
HVAC systems are often found in homes, cars, trucks, factory buildings, schools, hospitals, restaurants, and most other establishments.
What Is an HVAC Technician?
An HVAC technician is someone who works on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems used to regulate indoor air quality and temperature. HVAC technicians may specialize in one specific area, such as heating and cooling systems, refrigeration, ventilation, testing and balancing, or solar panels.
When hiring an HVAC technician, employers often look for the following skills and qualities:
- Attention to detail
- Good customer service skills
- Adequate math and mechanical skills
- Physical strength and stamina
- Ability to manage a schedule
- Ability to solve problems
What Does an HVAC Technician Do?
HVAC technicians are responsible for ensuring that heating, air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration systems work properly. The duties performed by HVAC technicians require technical skill and keen attention to detail.
The most common tasks performed by HVAC technicians include:
- Install, clean, inspect, test, and maintain HVACR systems
- Install wiring and other electrical components
- Clean ducts and/or replace filters
- Replace or repair defective or worn components
- Discuss HVACR system defects with customers and make recommendations
- Log all work performed
How to Become an HVAC Technician
Now that you get the gist of what an HVAC technician does, starting your career will take some dedication. Having a high school background in math, physics, and vocational education can be helpful when pursuing the requirements needed to become a qualified HVAC technician.
But a high school education alone (even at a technical high school) simply won’t cut it in this trade. Most employers look for candidates who possess postsecondary education or experience from an apprenticeship.
Several vocational institutions and community colleges offer postsecondary HVAC school. Common courses you can expect to take during HVAC technician school include:
- Overview of the HVAC field
- Use of tools, testing instruments and service equipment
- Heating and cooling systems
- Refrigeration systems
During the course of your HVAC technician training, you’ll learn safety practices, how to read blueprints, and how to use tools.
Need some help finding schools? Check out this list of programs and scholarships that can help partially cover the cost of your education.
Depending on which state you live in, you may need to obtain HVAC certification and pass a background check to become qualified.
Furthermore, you must be certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to purchase, handle, or work with refrigerants. This will require you to pass an EPA certification exam, unless you’re an apprentice closely supervised by a certified technician. Fortunately, there are training programs for the exam offered by many trade schools, unions, and employer associations.
There are four types of EPA certification:
- Type I for those who service small appliances
- Type II for those who service and/or dispose of high- or very high-pressure appliances
- Type III for those who service and/or dispose of low-pressure appliances
- Universal for those who service all types of appliances
How Long Does It Take to Become an HVAC Technician?
It depends on which course of action you choose to take after graduating high school. It generally takes six months to two years to complete an HVAC technician certification program or associate degree.
If you choose to get your HVAC training through an apprenticeship program, you can expect to become fully qualified within three to five years.
How Much Do HVAC Technicians Make?
According to Monster data, the average HVAC salary is $23.57 per hour. However, your HVAC technician salary will depend on where you work and how much experience you have.
For example, the median pay in wholesale trade was $52,430, while contractors made an average of $47,380, according to the BLS. Additionally, the lowest 10% of HVAC technicians earned less than $30,610 and the highest 10% earned more than $77,920.
You can look up the average salary for HVAC technicians in your location by using the Monster Salary Guide.
How to Find HVAC Jobs
Most HVAC technicians work as contractors or are self-employed, servicing homes, office buildings, schools, hospitals, and municipal buildings. Some work in wholesale trade, retail trade, or in educational services. Certain HVAC technicians may work on specific job sites each day, while others travel to different locations and provide on-call services.
After learning how to become an HVAC technician, you'll want to seek out a good-paying job. Having a well-written resume that highlights your skills and qualifications can help you stand out to potential employers. Check out Monster's HVAC technician resume sample for tips.
When you’re ready to start applying, there are tons of HVAC technician jobs listed on Monster.
The top five states with the highest levels of HVAC employment are:
The top five U.S. metro areas with the highest levels of HVAC employment include:
Got the Tools You Need to Start Your HVAC Career? Do This Next
Knowing how to become an HVAC technician is the first step to launching your career. Now it’s time to put your tools of the trade to work. Upload your resume for free at Monster to allow recruiters to find you. We’ll also keep you updated with new job alerts and tips on how to land your first HVAC job.