How to Become an HVAC Technician: Career Guide

This abbreviation, “HVAC” stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.

HVAC technicians specialize in installing, maintaining, and repairing air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

Some HVAC technicians specialize in one narrow field, such as air conditioning, or refrigeration but others provide a range of services related to these systems.

When working with HVAC and refrigeration systems, technicians have to follow government regulations that explain how to handle and dispose of refrigerants.

If this career sounds interesting, we invite you to read this article to find out more about what HVAC technicians do and how to become one.

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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

Although job responsibilities vary depending on the place of employment and the size of the establishment, HVAC technicians usually do the following:

  • Layout and install HVAC wiring
  • Oversee installation
  • Follow HVAC codes
  • Respond to calls and troubleshoot problems
  • Provide technical support
  • Replace and repair parts that are worn out or defective

HVAC Technician Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage reported by HVAC technicians in the United States was $50,590 as of May 2020.

This is the wage at which half of all workers in this profession earned less than this while half earned more.

Salaries vary widely depending on the industry of employment, level of experience, region, and a variety of other factors.

The lowest 10 percent reportedly made less than $31,910 while the highest 10 percent made more than $80,820 annually.

The highest paying industry for this profession is the aerospace product and parts manufacturing, a sector where HVAC technicians made $80,850 per year on average.

If you want to work for manufacturers of aerospace products you should know that HVAC technicians hold only a few hundreds of jobs and you may need additional training and experience before being hired.

Another industry that pays well is natural gas distribution- a sector where HVAC technicians were remunerated with $79,320 per year on average.

Salaries for workers in these professions vary widely depending on the state of employment.

The top-paying states for this profession are Alaska, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii with annual mean wages of $79,630, $73,460, and $65,640.

On the other hand, HVAC technicians in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia earned less than $45,000 per year, on average.

In conclusion, you can improve your earning potential by relocating to a top-paying state or by specializing in a sector that offers higher salaries.

Average National Salary: $50,590

$31K
10%
$43K
25%
$50K
50%
$62K
75%
$80K
90%

Average HVAC Tech Salary 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 2021

How to Become an HVAC Technician

Step 1 Finish High School

Most trade schools require candidates to possess a high school diploma before admission to a post-secondary program.

Also, sometimes this is a state requirement so it is best to finish high school or earn your GED before starting to prepare for a career as an HVAC technician.

You can start learning skills that will be useful for this profession in high school by focusing on the following topics:

  • Computer science
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Metal shop and other shop classes
  • Blueprint reading
  • Mechanical drawing

Having some basic understanding of electronics, plumbing, and electrical work will also prove helpful.

Step 2 Finish Post-Secondary Training

Many HVAC technicians learn the ins and outs of this profession through post-secondary education at a technical school or community college.

These programs usually last between 6 months and 2 years and lead to a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree.

Step 3 Sign Up for An Apprenticeship/Complete On-The-Job Training

After finishing post-secondary training and finding their first job, HVAC technicians usually undergo an on-the-job training period where they work for several months under the supervision of an experienced technician.

Some technicians get their training through an apprenticeship that lasts between 3 and 5 years and is usually sponsored through a union or by a local employer.

Step 4 Become Certified

Technicians who work with refrigerants are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be certified in proper refrigerant handling.

Trade schools and community colleges usually offer programs that are designed to prepare future technicians for the certification exam.


Education Requirements

To become an HVAC technician you will need a post-secondary diploma and many states also require a license/certification.

Program length varies depending on the type of credential it offers and the way it is structured and you can finish training in a few months or 2 years.

Although curriculum varies depending on the school and the program, HVAC training includes classes such as:

  • Fundamental HVAC Maintenance
  • HVAC Diagnostics
  • Basic Electricity
  • Duct and Envelope Tightness Verifiers
  • Domestic Appliances
  • Air Conditioning Systems
  • Codes and Regulation
  • System Controls
  • Gas Heating Systems

HVAC training is offered at trade schools or community colleges and costs vary widely depending on the type of institution.

Trade schools offer tuition rates that vary between less than $2,000 and more than $15,000 while community college rates can be anywhere between less than $5,000 and more than $10,000 per year.

Most colleges offer lower rates for in-state students so you should check all your options before signing up for a program.

Another way to learn the ins and outs of this profession is through an apprenticeship.

These types of programs are usually offered through trade unions or private businesses and usually include between 8,000-10,000 hours of training.

In most cases, apprentices receive a salary for the labor they perform during training.

To qualify for an apprenticeship you need to be at least 18 years of age and to hold a high school diploma or GED.

Video About The Career


Certification Requirements

Not all technicians are required to be certified but if you want to work with refrigerants you will need to be certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA).

Moreover, some states require all HVAC technicians to be certified so it’s best to check the requirements that are applicable in your area before starting to prepare for this profession.

EPA offers four types of certification: Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, and Universal Certification.

HVAC technicians who hold the Type I certification can only work on appliances that are 5lbs or less.

Those with Type II certification can work only with Medium, High, and Very-High Pressure Appliances.

HVAC technicians with Type III certification work only with low-pressure appliances while those who hold the Universal Certification have passed all the other 3 exams and can work with all types of HVAC systems.

It is important to mention that only the Type 1 exam can be taken online.

Certification Example:

hvac certification

Average Training Program Duration: 1-3 Years


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Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for heating, air conditioning, and refrigerant technician is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.

This growth will stem primarily from the development of new commercial and residential buildings.

Technicians who are familiar with computers and electronics and those who keep up with the latest advancements in the field of heating, air ventilation, and refrigerants are expected to have the best job prospects.

Employment Growth Projection: 4%

376,800
2019
391,900
2029

That's a higher than average projected growth of 15,100.


Should You Become an HVAC Technician?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

What makes people satisfied about the professional path they are choosing?

This a complex question because many factors can determine if a career is fulfilling or not.

Factors such as salary, work environment, job-related stress, skills, meaning, and personality compatibility are usually taken into account when someone decides if they are happy or not with the path they’ve chosen.

According to CareerExplorer, the average career happiness reported by HVAC technicians is 3 out of 5 stars – which puts this career in the bottom 29% of all careers.

Even if the level of professional satisfaction reported by HVAC technicians is low, if you’re passionate about technology, you have good troubleshooting skills and you enjoy interacting with people, this can be a rewarding and lucrative career for you.

Average Salary

Average Salary: Medium

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary reported by HVAC technicians in the United States was $50,590 as of May 2020 – which means that half of all workers in this profession earned less than this amount while half earned more.

Salaries are influenced by a variety of factors, including the worker’s level of experience, education, and region of employment.

The lowest 25 percent of all HVAC technicians earned less than $40,000 while the top 25 percent made more than $64,000.

However, salaries are also determined by the region of employment, level of experience, and local economy-among other factors.

If you’re willing to relocate to a large city you may earn a higher-than-average salary but you should also take into account additional living expenses.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

If you want to start a career as an HVAC technician your prospects are looking good, especially if you have completed some post-secondary education and you hold all three levels of certification offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This career is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 1-3 Years

Depending on the institution and the type of program you choose, post-secondary training programs for HVAC technicians can last from a few months to two years.

Some HVAC techs learn this trade through an apprenticeship that lasts between 3-5 years.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

To be able to perform well at your job, as an HVAC technician you will need many skills besides technical abilities:

  • Customer-service skills
  • Math skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Physical stamina
  • Physical strength
  • Time management skills
  • Troubleshooting skills
  • Mechanical skills


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What Does an HVAC Technician Do?

Although job descriptions vary depending on the position and the field of employment, HVAC technicians are usually responsible for:

  • Installing, cleaning, and maintaining heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems
  • Installing electrical components and wiring
  • Discussing system malfunctions and explaining solutions to clients
  • Inspecting and testing HVAC systems and components
  • Replacing and repairing worn-out parts
  • Keeping records

Q. How Much Training Do I Need as an HVAC Technician?

Education and licensure requirements vary depending on the type of educational program and the credential you are seeking.

Many trade schools offer six-month-long programs that lead to a diploma or certificate.

If you want an associate’s degree then you should enroll in a 2-year-program at a community college.

Apprenticeships are also available for those who want to learn hands-on the ins and outs of this profession and get paid for the work they do.

Apprenticeships can last anywhere between 3 and 5 years.

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

Training costs vary depending on the program you choose.

Shorter diploma programs usually cost between $2,000 and $10,000 while community colleges usually charge between several thousand and more than $10,000 per year.

If you choose to enroll at an in-state college then you may be eligible for lower tuition rates.

Q. What Is the Demand for HVAC Technicians?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for HVAC technicians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Most new job openings will occur in the field of commercial and residential building construction.

Technicians who are certified and those who are familiar with sophisticated climate-control systems are expected to have the best employment prospects.

Being certified to work with different types of systems will make it easier for you to find a job.

However, it is important to mention that if you specialize in installing new systems on recently-built constructions you may experience periods of unemployment during the months when construction activity declines.

Those who know how to provide maintenance services on different types of HVAC systems will have work all year round.


USA HVAC Technician Training Schools by State

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