The job done by HVAC technicians is a trade or vocation.
Typically, a trade is learned at an apprenticeship program.
It means that a new technician works under the mentorship of an experienced master.
The qualified mentor-technician is an expert in the field who teaches the apprentice the tricks of the trade.
Apprenticeship is a training program during which a newcomer receives on-the-job experience.
An apprenticeship program can be a substitute for a college or vocational school education.
Upon completing the apprenticeship program, the apprentice can pass for certification.
By receiving a certification, an apprentice can become a licensed HVAC technician.
At apprenticeship, people learn by watching the experts and performing the tasks on practice.
Apprentices can earn a paycheck if they perform the work excellent, which is usually a percentage of their mentor’s salary.
After particular periods the payment can be raised provided they do a high-quality job.
This is a good way to learn and work rather than paying for training at school.
How Apprenticeship Goes
The apprenticeship normally starts with testing of industrial and pre-technical knowledge and skills.
It includes the fundamentals that allow a technician to accomplish various tasks.
In the beginning, the basics of heating, refrigeration, plumbing, electrical work will be covered.
The apprentices will also learn how to install and maintain different equipment utilized in the industry.
An apprentice learns the application of industrial math to take measurements and perform daily tasks.
They will use different formulas and methods and learn safety protocols.
New apprentices will also learn to use various hand tools and specialty equipment.
The companies that employ HVAC technicians use the CAD software and computer-designed blueprints.
HVAC apprentices taking the training program can work with this software.
They will also learn how to design and analyze computer-made blueprints.
How to Enroll into HVAC Apprenticeship
Those who wish to become an apprentice to the HVAC expert have several options.
You can find an independent HVAC business that has an opening for an assistant.
Getting hired as an apprentice is one of the ways.
If no openings are available in your area, you can reach out to independent HVAC technicians and ask them to take you as an apprentice.
When you meet with a specialist, you have to be prepared to present yourself.
You should have your resume, driving license, and social security card with you.
For sure, take your school or college transcript with you.
You should be able to back up with facts why you desire to work as an HVAC technician.
You should also explain why you chose to work with a mentor instead of enrolling in a degree or certification program.
Keep it in a respectful manner and be prepared to explain why you addressed this mentor specifically.
If a mentor is unwilling to accept you as a paid apprentice, offer to work as an unpaid assistant for a trial period.
If the trial period ends successfully, you can get them to reconsider the terms.
You can also become an apprentice by seeking out a union.
You need to find a local union department related to the HVAC area.
It can be the plumbers or pipe workers unions.
For example, an apprenticeship program is available through the United Association organization.
The apprentices should apply to the union.
It is a Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, and Service Technicians.
The applicants should provide a high school diploma or an equivalent document (such as GED).
They should also pass a math examination and take a drug test.
A valid driving license is also required.
Joining the union is usually the best way to obtain an apprenticeship.
However, apart from independent contractors, some bigger companies can also offer apprenticeship.
The openings usually become available when there appears the need at local departments.
There are also state programs via which you can obtain an apprenticeship.
For example, CalApprentice has a program for HVAC techs.
You can get more information from a state HVAC licensing board.
Employment assistance organizations can also provide this info.
And of course, many HVAC-related schools include apprenticeship program in the training course.
The Advantages of the Apprenticeship Program
HVAC apprenticeship has multiple advantages starting with getting the practical on-the-job experience that will give you a good basis.
Some specific benefits of the apprenticeship include:
- Applying the skills of reading blueprints used in the construction and industrial areas.
- Getting fundamental knowledge in the refrigeration.
- Developing skills to identify refrigeration tools and materials.
- Learning how to install and service the parts of various AC and refrigeration systems.
- Learning about ventilation systems and requirement.
- Practice skills with air distribution and cleaning systems.
- Servicing of refrigeration and air conditioning control systems.
- Working with superior electrical systems and state-of-the-art equipment.
- Identifying the right piping materials for different purposes.
To choose the right HVAC apprenticeship program, you need to check if it meets the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT) requirements.
The program approved by the BAT is accepted by the majority of the employers.
Apprenticeship and/or School
Depending on your career goals and options, you may choose an apprenticeship program.
But it doesn’t mean that you can only either become an apprentice or take school training.
If you want, you can do both, and it’s a great solution.
Apprenticeship is required in many states.
However, if you attend classes, the apprenticeship time can be shortened.
In every state, the timing of either one will be different.
Apprenticeship is a wonderful choice because you can earn practical experience working with experts.
That’s why in many states you’d have to go with the apprenticeship program additionally to school courses.
Attending school can be of great value.
This type of training can help you improve your understanding of the theoretical aspects of the job.
Besides, some classes can help you expand your business knowledge of the HVAC industry.
That way if you aim at working as an independent contractor, you’ll have the necessary knowledge base and skills.
How Long Does Apprenticeship Last?
The apprenticeship regulations can differ in various states.
In some cases, apprentices are expected to complete a specific number of hours on the job.
Only after that, they become eligible for a certification exam and obtaining a license.
Some will complete a 3-to-5-year apprenticeship program while the others are required to log 3,000 hours.
If you wish to speed up the process, you can choose to work long hours and overtime.
Does Apprenticeship Require a License?
Since the apprentices are entry-level technicians, they aren’t required to have an HVAC license.
The apprentice works under the supervision of the qualified and licensed technician.
The mentor should fill out EPA required forms and supervise the work of an apprentice.
Some HVAC mentors require apprentices to have some training on-the-job.
Others accept apprentices without previous experience.
HVAC technicians after a vocational school usually become apprentices because they need to gain practical experience in the field.
Usually, it’s a requirement for employment at some other company.
How to Compose a Resume to Get Hired?
The resume is what shows your potential employers who you are.
It should accurately reflect your background and skills.
It should show why and how you can become a successful HVAC technician.
While composing your resume, you need to focus on your positive qualities and demonstrate your experience in the HVAC industry.
List all of the previous work experiences.
It will demonstrate that you can successfully carry out your responsibilities.
If you had good grades or awards in math or physics in high school, be sure to mention that.
HVAC techs should be able to make measurements and calculations.
So, excellent math skills are important for the work of an HVAC technician.
They are also essential for potential employers.
You should also mention your willingness to learn new things in your resume.
Other beneficial aspects you can mention include being a quick learner and having a clean driving record.
If you are in good physical shape, it’s also worth mentioning.
HVAC technicians are expected to be able to keep accurate records of their work.
Excellent communication skills also essential too.
These qualities are beneficial for the HVAC technicians, so if you have them, list them as well.
HVAC technicians should be comfortable working under extreme weather conditions.
So if you can work in hot or cold temperatures, include it in your resume as well.
Having a pleasant personality is also important.
The work of an HVAC technician can take place in dark and tight places such as under the house or in the attic.
If you are not claustrophobic or aren’t afraid of the dark, mention it as well.
HVAC techs can be on-call for emergencies during the odd hours.
So, if you are flexible and willing to work at odd hours, mention it in your resume.
Being self-motivated and independent are qualities just as important as training and experience.
If you possess these qualities, be sure to add them to your resume as well.
HVAC Apprentice Salary Information
The HVAC apprentice salary varies from state to state.
Entry-level apprentices can make something between $0 and $10 per hour.
In some regions, the hourly payment can go as high as $18 per hour.
With more years of experience, apprentices can earn a higher salary.
By the fifth year of apprenticeship, some technicians can make over $23 hourly.
The apprentices enrolled with a union can make about 50% of their mentor salary.
They receive raises as they expand their experience.
Even though the HVAC apprentices salaries are low at the start, it is justified as you are learning and getting paid.
Earning a degree, you would have to get a student loan.
But in this case, you are getting paid for learning.
This is one of the factors that compensate for the low payment of an apprentice.
Career Opportunities After Apprenticeship
Career opportunities for HVAC apprentice are quite extended.
Upon completion of the HVAC apprenticeship, you can get employed by an HVAC company.
You can also choose to start your own business.
You can serve individual companies related to the HVAC field.
The work can include maintenance of coolers of refrigeration systems in supermarkets or food production facilities.
You can be employed by educational or commercial facilities as a maintenance person as well.
The workflow for the HVAC techs is usually steady and continuous.
You can deal with maintenance and repair of residential and commercial heating and air conditioning systems.
HVAC installers are in demand for renovation and new construction projects.
In the course of them, usually, a replacement or installation of HVAC systems are required.
The field is growing, so the career path of an HVAC tech is perspective.
Running Your Own Business
At some point, you might want to start your own business.
It’s a great option to increase your income, manage your hours, and develop your skills and reputation.
Independent contractors can work alone or hire/partner with other HVAC technicians.
An independent HVAC technician can work directly with the homeowners.
Also, you can be hired as a subcontractor to a general contractor.
There can be additional requirements for contractors in some states.
To run your own business, you will most likely need a business license.
In some state, and HVAC contractor license can be required.
Tools That Apprentices Need
To be prepared for different types of jobs, HVAC apprentices will need a set of necessary tools.
It includes the most used tools in the field.
A set of gauges will be necessary.
You will need them to check the refrigerant pressure in a serviced or installed unit.
Other necessary tools include a leak detector, a cordless drill, and Sawzall, hex-head wrench, extension cord, hammer, screwdrivers, flashlight.
Some of the specialized tools needed are a multimeter to measure the electrical charge of a unit.
A thermometer and a meter are necessary for measuring the humidity and air quality.
Refrigerant scale and recovery machine are also important.
Pipe fitting equipment can also come in handy.
Is There Age Limit for Apprentice?
If you are enrolling with the apprenticeship after high school, you need to be at least 18 years old.
However, you can’t be too old to become an HVAC apprentice.
If you are changing your career and decided to become an HVAC apprentice, the payment can be an obstacle.
But if you are highly-motivated and physically fit for an HVAC job, your age can be beneficial for the apprenticeship in HVAC.
Your attitude towards the work is a lot more important than your age when it comes to the successful completion of the apprenticeship program.
If you are apt for learning and can use the learned skills in practice, you will succeed.
If you can live on a tight budget without a huge impact on your lifestyle, the increased salary in the future will provide well for your family.
Eighteen years old is a perfect age to start the HVAC apprenticeship.
But even if you are older than that, you can still get successful in the industry.
The apprenticeship program is an extremely efficient way to learn the HVAC technician trade.
You can earn a paycheck while learning, and you receive essential practical experience in the field.
If you learn in practice better than in theory, the apprenticeship program is a perfect way for you to start a career in the HVAC industry.
You will learn the tricks and insider information from a qualified and experienced mentor.
You will also gain the on-the-job experience essential for the future career.
While a vocational school can be a valuable asset to your HVAC training and career, it can’t substitute the practical knowledge you get as an apprentice.
An apprenticeship program can prepare you well for your future career.