AC Tech

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We commonly use air conditioners in residential and commercial buildings to escape the unbearable heat.

That’s why regular maintenance is needed to ensure the AC system doesn’t break down.

Here’s where an AC technician comes in.

An AC technician has overlapping responsibilities as an HVAC technician, but their work focuses solely on cooling systems.

Read on to learn more about this lucrative career, which can bring high potential earnings to the right person.

Career Overview and Outlook

Since AC and refrigeration systems are widely used, AC technicians are sought-after in the US.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 5% employment growth for HVAC/R technicians as of May 2021.

This means an average of 38,500 new job offers will become available each year from 2020 to 2030.

The reason for such growth lies in three factors:

  • Increasing demand for sophisticated climate-control systems (to alleviate climate change)
  • Increasing concerns for indoor air quality
  • Increasing construction of residential and commercial buildings

Working as an AC technician, you’ll be responsible for the service and maintenance of the AC systems.

Most of the time, your work assignment will come from your employer.

However, you can choose to work as an independent contractor, especially if you’ve gained more experience and expertise.

Although you’ll have a steady stream of work throughout the year, you’ll become more in demand during the summer.

In that period, expect emergency calls to help fix overheated AC systems anytime.

Also, this job can be hazardous since you’ll…

  • Have to work with large objects and dangerous materials
  • Sometimes get assigned to work in inhospitable conditions, like bad weather

Responsibilities of an AC Technician

As mentioned, your work as an AC technician may have some commonalities with that of an HVAC technician.

But your responsibilities will focus on the cooling system only.

Some of the tasks you’ll perform are as follows:

  • Install, repair, and maintain AC systems
  • Review blueprints
  • Test systems for proper functioning
  • Perform emergency repairs
  • Make routine adjustments for maximum operational efficiency
  • Recovery and proper disposal of refrigerants
  • Record important data (e.g. temperature, fuel consumption, operation hours, etc.)

Potential Salary of an AC Technician

Like most careers, entry-level AC technicians, including apprentices, will receive less salaries compared to their seniors.

That’s because education and experience will be taken into account when considering your salary.

Plus, depending on your performance, you’ll receive a raise at regular intervals, along with other benefits.

Overall, your experience and dedication will determine your advancement on the career ladder.

The table below shows the average hourly pay according to the level of experience from Payscale:

Experience LevelNo. of YearsAverage Hourly Pay
Entry levelLess than 1 year$14.59
Early career1 to 4 years$15.78
Mid-career5 to 9 years$19.73
Late career10 to 19 years$20.69
Experienced20 years and above$26.50

Salary rates were as of July 2022

Steps to Becoming an AC Technician

Pursuing an AC technician career will need you to follow certain steps before becoming qualified to work in the field.

So here’s how you can become an AC technician:

Step 1: Get Your High School Diploma or GED Equivalent

Although this career has no strict minimum educational requirements, you’re expected to at least finish high school.

In some cases, many aspiring AC technicians will take related vocational courses in high school to give them a head start.

Step 2: Receive an AC education and training

You have two options:

2-year AC technician program

You’ll enroll in a post-secondary certificate or associate’s degree focusing on AC systems at a trade or vocational school.

Some of the topics you’ll learn include:

  • Fundamentals of refrigeration
  • Parts of an AC system
  • AC installation
  • Electrical components
  • Industrial safety

2- to 5-year AC apprenticeship program

Private organizations usually sponsor this apprenticeship program.

Here, you’ll receive a mix of on-the-job training and classroom instruction to consolidate your learning.

Training content and hours will vary from state to state.

Step 3: Earn Your Certification and/or License

Upon training completion, you should work on getting your Technician Certificate and/or License.

Having this will prove that you have the competencies to work as an AC technician.

Depending on your state, you will have to get the following:

EPA Section 608 Technician Certification

This is a mandatory national certification required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Passing this means you have the skills to handle and dispose of potentially hazardous refrigerants.

Some AC courses and apprenticeship programs will include this in their offer, some may not.

So check with the school or company if they have this built-in to their program.

State-regulated AC Technician License

Some states require you to have a license.

So make sure to inquire about the local licensing requirements you need to sit for the competency exam.

Career Advancement

After some time, AC technicians will wish to advance their career once they have enough experience and skill level.

Typically, you can advance by…

  • Getting an additional certification in relevant fields, such as HVAC technician
  • Move to managerial positions, such as HVAC/R service manager or systems administrator

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