How to Become an HVAC Technician: The Definitive Guide

The health of heating and cooling components isn’t something the average person considers regularly enough.

It’s like the engine components in a car – until they break down, we don’t think much about them.

Often, it takes a mechanical fault or a system meltdown to remind us that the devices we rely on are fallible.

Without proper care and maintenance, they can get crabby and implode.

Then, we need the help of a professional to put things right.

The point is, HVAC systems break down.

There will always be a need for skilled technicians who can fix them.

So, why not take the chance to join an industry that’s always booming?


What Is an HVAC Technician?

The job of an HVAC technician is to install, clean, maintain and repair heating and cooling components in homes and businesses.

These components include refrigeration systems, domestic heaters, and air conditioning units.

These professionals operate at a high level of skill because they handle electrical circuits, weld pipes, vents, and complex wiring configurations.

As well as being technically proficient, they must also be meticulous and responsible to avoid workplace hazards.

When it comes to keeping cool or getting warm and cozy, there’s nothing a trained HVAC technician can’t handle.

Duties

  • Installation of HVAC units/components
  • Inspection of HVAC units/components
  • Repair of HVAC units/components
  • Diagnosis of electrical faults in HVAC units
  • Conduct warranty services
  • Perform emergency HVAC repairs
  • Maintain a record of all HVAC assignments
  • Comply with all safety regulations (state and federal)
  • Keep appropriate, well-maintained tools
  • Advise customers on HVAC care and maintenance

HVAC Technician Salary

The average salary of an HVAC technician depends on a number of key factors such as location, years of experience and type of certifications.

However, it’s generally agreed a skilled individual can earn around $46,575 per annum.

This may increase to as much as $52,000 or more as experience is accrued.

Average rates do vary from state to state so your location – and the areas in which you operate – will have an impact on how much you can earn.

Average National Salary: $46,575

$41K
10%
$43K
25%
$46K
50%
$48K
75%
$52K
90%

Average Welding Salaries by State

StateSalary
Alabama$41,188
Alaska$51,888
Arizona$45,420
Arkansas$43,000
California$50,241
Colorado$45,000
Connecticut$54,660
Delaware$48,831
Florida$43,640
Georgia$47,000
Hawaii$48,719
Idaho$44,446
Illinois$49,044
Indiana$43,102
Iowa$47,290
Kansas$44,532
Kentucky$44,065
Louisiana$42,738
Maine$46,681
Maryland$50,000
Massachusetts$56,520
Michigan$45,752
Minnesota$42,878
Mississippi$49,560
Missouri$45,552
Montana$44,751
Nebraska$44,179
Nevada$47,102
New Hampshire$50,653
New Jersey$52,429
New Mexico$40,981
New York$53,839
North Carolina$44,831
North Dakota$42,854
Ohio$40,000
Oklahoma$42,300
Oregon$48,840
Pennsylvania$45,915
Rhode Island$49,485
South Carolina$45,995
South Dakota$40,252
Tennessee$43,303
Texas$40,872
Utah$44,198
Vermont$46,093
Virginia$46,845
Washington$51,277
West Virginia$45,635
Wisconsin$46,326
Wyoming$43,141
* Salary information last updated 2019

How to Become an HVAC Technician

Step 1 Get Your Diploma and GED

Acceptance into the industry requires extensive learning and skills building in fields as wide-ranging as chemistry, physics and other elements of the physical sciences.

To become qualified enough to carry out HVAC work, you need to study on an accredited technician’s course that provides certification upon completion.

Step 2 Join an HVAC Program

Once you have finished theoretical and technical studies – and you have a relevant diploma – it’s time to look for some hands-on experience.

The most popular way to do this is to enroll in a practical HVAC apprenticeship program that provides opportunities to shadow or assist qualified technicians.

These programs come in a huge range of varieties.

Some last as long as three months and others stretch across several years of training.

Your choice of the apprenticeship will depend on how long you wish to spend on the formal study and the complexity of the jobs you hope to work on.

Pick a course that delivers a qualification or certification upon completion.

Step 3 Become an Apprentice

Extensive hands-on experience is required for any aspiring HVAC technician.

Thankfully, there are several ways to get it.

Some people complete an accredited apprenticeship or shadowing course (as described above).

Others skip this step and go straight to working as an assistant alongside a more experienced professional.

In some cases, trainee technicians do both – complete a course and work as an ‘on the job’ apprentice.

The important thing is that you start accruing practical experience.

Diplomas are essential but they’re not what customers consider when looking for reliable HVAC repair.

Step 4 Get Hired

Once you have the necessary skills and experience, you can start looking for a full-time role as an HVAC installer.

In most states, beginner technicians can earn around $40,000.

While some technicians do work as self-employed freelancers, we recommend starting out with a reputable local provider.

That way, you can build up a positive reputation of your own among local home and business owners.

Step 5 Get Certified

As you work, you may wish to continue boosting your skills and credentials.

One of the best ways to do this is with a specialization course.

For instance, you could choose to increase your knowledge of a specific area such as HVAC efficiency analysis or refrigeration performance.

These courses usually end in certification and, eventually, higher-paying jobs because your new skillset is more exclusive.

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Education

At the outset of your technician’s career, there are two routes into the industry.

The first is to enroll in a traditional bachelors or associates degree course.

This route is a formal study option and can take as long as three years.

The second option is to take a fast track route and pay to complete an accredited technician’s or electrician’s course.

The average course takes six months to complete but it does not deliver the same depth of knowledge as a full degree.

As a result, you may need to spend more time working as a trainee later.

Video About The Career


Certification

If you complete one of the options described above, you’ll get accreditation that qualifies you to carry out HVAC installation and repair work. Officially, this all that’s needed to legally conduct and get paid for industry services.

However, many employers now look for professionals with extra certifications and training. Additional learning is coveted because it shows a willingness to develop, mature and pursue a greater depth of knowledge.

If you would like to study for extra certifications, check out the following organizations:

The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society

This organization offers a variety of specialized accreditations to technicians who can pass an EPA Section 08 exam.

North American Technician Excellence

If you want to specialize in a particular aspect of heating and cooling systems, this organization delivers exams on Hydronics gas and oils, large scale refrigeration, oil and gas heating, and air conditioning circuits.

HVAC Excellence

This organization specializes in HEAT (heating, electrical, air conditioning technologies) based learning and accreditations.

All three of these providers can be found online.

Before you apply for a course or exam, make sure you know how much it costs, how long it usually takes and how it will affect your job opportunities as an HVAC professional.

Certification Example:

hvac certification

Average Training Program Duration: 1-3 Years


Popular Degree Programs

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Job Outlook

As explained, this is a field that is always in demand.

As long as homes and businesses continue to install HVAC systems, there will be lots of jobs for technicians.

The industry has a very positive, healthy outlook.

If anything, the need for HVAC specialists is only set to increase as national climates grow more unpredictable.

Employment Growth Projection: 15%

332,900
2016
381,700
2026

That's a higher than average projected growth of 48,800


Should You Become an HVAC Technician?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

Experienced, long time HVAC technicians report high levels of job satisfaction.

This is due to the healthy availability of work, the size of average salaries and the abundance of advancement opportunities.

While it’s not always essential for skilled technicians to continue gaining extra qualifications, many choose to do so because they find learning rewarding.

In time, you may decide to work towards self-employment as a freelancer or even start your own business.

HVAC work is spread evenly throughout the country so it’s rare for aspiring or trainee technicians to have to relocate to find jobs.

Average Salary

Average Salary: Medium

The average salary for a midlevel HVAC technician is $46,575.

Individuals with specialized credentials tend to earn more.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

According to industry forecasts and the BLS, employment in the heating and cooling sector will grow by around 15% by 2026.

This predicted growth is due to increased levels of commercial and residential construction and the jobs these projects will create.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 1-3 Years

As explained, there are various routes into the industry that aspiring HVAC technicians can take.

Each comes with its own unique requirements and responsibilities.

Generally, a trainee studies for between one and four years.

The route to certification and the right to legally practice can be as brief as six months.

However, employers value the depth of knowledge and a clear commitment to quality and personal development.

Therefore, it’s beneficial to consider a longer study period.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

To be a profitable HVAC technician, with consistent access to high paying jobs, an individual needs more than formal certifications.

They must have a range of personal traits to suit the nature of the work.

The following qualities are essential:

  • Reasonable mathematical knowledge
  • Understanding of industry terms and jargon
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Confidence working with members of the public
  • Knows how to interpret plans and blueprints
  • Neat, organized and punctual
  • Shows respect for safety rules and regulations


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What Is the Average Salary for an HVAC Technician?

The average salary per annum for a qualified HVAC professional is around $46,575.

It does depend, however, on the degree of specialization, type of accreditation, years of experience and the location in which a technician is operating.

Q. How Long Does It Take to Become an HVAC Technician?

It can take anywhere between six months to four years to become a fully qualified expert in HVAC installation and repair.

It is possible to take a fast route and earn a basic certificate in six months.

Or you can spend three or four years studying for a high-level bachelor’s degree.

The most popular option is an associate’s degree as this takes longer than a certificate but not quite as long as a bachelor’s (usually around two years).

Q. What Does an HVAC Technician Do?

The job of an HVAC technician is to install, inspect and repair the internal components of heating and cooling systems.

These components may be in homes or in businesses like restaurants, hotels or even cruise ships.

Q. What Is the Demand for HVAC Technicians?

The growth outlook for the HVAC industry remains extremely positive.

HVAC technicians are always in high demand because, in many regions, heating and air conditioning technologies are considered essential for daily life.

Q. How Much Does It Cost to Become an HVAC Technician?

Again, it depends entirely on the type of study course or route to certification you decide to take.

It can cost anywhere between $15 and $30,000 to train to be a fully qualified HVAC technician but this expense may be spread across a long period of learning and development.


USA HVAC Technician Training Schools by State

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