How to Become an HVAC Technician
Do you enjoy a diverse day full of a variety of challenges – away from a desk? Are you detail-oriented and like to figure out how things work? Do you like to fix what’s broken?
If so, consider a career as a key player in the successful climate control functioning of homes and offices: an HVAC technician.
What is an HVAC Technician?
HVAC is an acronym for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. An HVAC technician is a person skilled in installing, repairing, and maintaining the HVAC systems that control the temperature and air quality in buildings (both residential and commercial).
HVAC technicians are especially important to businesses with a lot of computers and servers, and to healthcare facilities storing medical equipment or pharmaceuticals, since those things often need to be kept at a constant or specific temperature.
Specialties exist within the field: Some HVAC technicians focus on installation, some on maintenance, and still others are well-versed in both. Some may also specialize only in heating systems – or even certain types of heating systems, such as solar or water-based ones. The same is true with those who focus only on cooling or refrigeration equipment. They may work mainly with certain types of cooling systems, or they might only install and maintain commercial refrigeration equipment.1
One thing is for certain: you’re rarely bored! And you’re not sitting in a cubicle all day.
What Does an HVAC Technician Do?
A day in the life of an HVAC technician is diverse and interesting, requiring frequent shifting from designing and installing wiring to working patiently with customers who need service in the field. Some of an HVAC technician’s duties include:1
- Conducting or overseeing installations
- Applying local HVAC codes for installation
- Troubleshooting and repairing HVAC equipment
- Providing customer service and technical support
An HVAC technician must also be able to use blueprints or design specifications in order to install and repair equipment, connect systems to fuel and water supply lines, and test individual parts and components to see if they are working correctly.2
How Do You Become an HVAC Technician?
During high school, it may be helpful to take classes in math, shop, electronics, and physical science. (You can take those courses later if need be.) After high school, many community colleges or vocational technical schools offer six-month-to-two-year HVAC technician training programs.
Sometimes, a high school graduate can learn the trade on the job as an apprentice. An apprentice shadows a technician, learning the details thoroughly over a period of time before becoming an official HVAC technician. .
Once schooling or apprenticeship is complete, an HVAC technician must take certification exams to show competency. Some states also require that HVAC technicians be licensed.3
How Much Does an HVAC Technician Make?
According to the most recent government statistics, the median annual pay for HVAC technicians is more than $44,000. Apprentice technicians make about half that.
Here, as with other fields, experience and dedication count: Top-earning technicians can make more than $70,000 per year.4
Keep in mind employment and income cannot be guaranteed by any educational institution for students or graduates. Additionally, salary data cited in this article is based on median data provided by the United States Department of Labor, does not reflect starting or entry level salaries, and can vary widely based on geographic location.
Most HVAC technicians work full-time, and some have evening and weekend shifts. Hours can be irregular, especially if a technician is doing repair work. They may also include outdoor work, even in bad weather! Many HVAC technicians work for air conditioning, heating, or plumbing contractors. But because the skills are specialized, some are able to start their own businesses and can make their own hours.
A career as an HVAC technician offers a variety of interesting challenges. If you like the idea of fixing problems, maintaining critical systems, and not having a desk job, then take steps to explore this potential rewarding career today.