In a time when finding steady employment is a challenge for many people, deciding to become a professional HVAC technician can offer numerous advantages. As long as there are modern buildings and houses, there will be a need for professional HVAC technicians. With reports that the trade worker shortage could reach crisis levels in the United States, opting for a career as an HVAC technician means that your earning potential could be limited only by your personal drive. Plus, with American student loan debt totaling a reported $1.3 trillion in 2017, becoming a trade professional can offer financial stability and lead to a rewarding lifetime career. Discover the benefits of pursuing a career in the heating and cooling industry and learn how to become an HVAC technician.
HVAC contractor career benefits
If you’re interested in working with your hands, earning a competitive salary, growing your professional skills and potentially running your own business without attending a traditional four-year university, then becoming a professional HVAC technician could be the right decision for you. While no two careers are the same, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, shows that the career outlook for HVAC professionals is bright. Potential benefits include:
Competitive pay. In 2016, the median annual pay for HVAC technicians was nearly $46,000. This is about $9,000 higher than the national median pay in the same year. Depending on where you live, you could earn even more. For example, the BLS reports that the mean wage for HVAC pros in select areas of California was over $70,000 in 2016.
Pro tip: In addition to offering a salary that is likely higher than the national average, some HVAC technician employers offer benefits packages, paid time off and even signing bonuses for qualified employees.
Stable employment. According to the BLS, the rate for HVAC technician employment is projected to grow by 15 percent over the next decade. This is over twice as high as the national projected growth rate for all industries, which is 7 percent. By becoming an HVAC technician, you’ll have a greater chance of securing steady employment and income.
Career growth opportunities. A wide range of post-employment training opportunities are available for HVAC contractors. Certain types of heating and cooling equipment require installation and maintenance to be performed by technicians with special certifications, such as variable refrigerant flow, or VRF, systems. Once you become a professional HVAC technician, you can choose to earn various certifications and grow your HVAC career based on your interests.
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HVAC contractor training & education requirements
As mentioned above, the requirements for becoming an HVAC technician will vary based on where you live. Learn about the general steps you will likely have to take in order to become an HVAC technician.
High school education or equivalent. The first step to become an HVAC professional is to earn your high school diploma or equivalent education certificate, like a General Education Degree certificate.
Bonus tip: Heating and cooling work is highly technical. As such, a fundamental understanding and interest in STEM subjects, which include science, technology, engineering and math, will be helpful to your career.
Secondary education. After you’ve earned your high school diploma or equivalent certificate, the next step is to find a secondary education program. The length of time that it takes to complete your secondary education will vary, but can take between two to five years. Some institutions that offer HVAC technician training and education include:
- Community college
- Vocational schools
Bonus tip: Check with your local unions or trade organizations, such as the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors association, to get help with finding the right training program.
Refrigerant certification. Various HVAC systems involve the use of refrigerant, which is potentially hazardous if not handled properly. In order to protect the environment and ensure public safety, the United States Environmental Protection Agency requires any person who maintains, services, repairs or disposes of equipment that could release refrigerants into the environment to take a refrigerant handling test. Once you pass this test, you will earn your Section 608 Technician Certification which allows you to handle refrigerant as professional HVAC technician.
Other helpful qualifications. In addition to the education and certification requirements outlined above, there are other skills and qualifications that will help you find employment as an HVAC technician. These include:
- A valid driver’s license
- A clean driving background
- Ability to pass a criminal background check
- Ability to pass a drug test
Having these assets and qualifications will increase your marketability in the professional trade industry.
HVAC licensing by state
Once you’ve earned your high school diploma or equivalent certification, completed your secondary training, and earned your refrigerant certification, you’ll be ready to become a working HVAC contractor based on your local licensing requirements. Use the guide below to help you find informational resources about licensing requirements in your state.