Looking for a satisfying career path? If you enjoy working on construction sites, repairing machinery, and applying science to practical projects, then heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) could be the right field for you.
HVAC technicians help keep buildings comfortable and safe through the movement of air. They also play a role in providing refrigerated environments for foodservice, laboratories, and even industrial installations. Because HVAC is so important to construction, demand for technicians in the field is steady. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for HVAC technicians should rise by 15 percent (up to 48,800 new jobs) over the next eight years. That’s more than twice as fast as the overall job growth rate of 7 percent for the entire economy.
As of May 2017, the entry-level salary for HVAC technicians was $29,120, while the median annual salary was $47,080. As with many other construction-related careers, HVAC offers plenty of opportunities for advancement as you gain experience and responsibility.
So, how do you get started?
Becoming an HVAC Technician
While there are no formal requirements for becoming an HVAC technician, today’s systems are becoming very complex. As a result, employers prefer to hire candidates who have:
- Graduated from a formal post-secondary training program, such as our HVAC diploma
- Completed a hands-on apprenticeship with an employer
- Obtained certification from the EPA (a must for working with refrigerants) and local or state licensure if required
HVAC Training Programs: What to Expect
To enroll in an HVAC diploma program, you’ll need to be a high school graduate or have completed a GED. Look for training that combines hands-on, supervised practice in a lab as well as classroom instruction from experienced HVAC and construction professionals.
The courses you’ll take are likely to include:
- Blueprint reading
- Basic laws of physics, including concepts around gasses, pressure, cooling, and more
- Electrical theory, circuit diagrams, and wiring basics
- Construction job site safety and operations
- Inspecting, diagnosing, and repairing HVAC components
- System controls and operation
- Jobsite management, customer service, and employability skills
After you’ve graduated, you may be able to begin working as an apprentice under a licensed HVAC professional right away. In some states, you may need to qualify for licensure first. Your chosen institution should be able to give you guidance about the steps to follow for your state.
EPA Section 608 Certification
While not every state requires HVAC licensure before you can start working, there is one national-level certification you must consider if you want to work in the field. If you are going to work with refrigerants, you must obtain Section 608 Certification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is because the chemicals and substances involved with refrigeration require careful handling and disposal.
According to the EPA, there are four types of 608 certification:
- For servicing small appliances (Type I)
- For servicing or disposing of high- or very high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and MVACs (Type II)
- For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances (Type III)
- For servicing all types of equipment (universal)
At Altierus, we include preparation for the Section 608 Certification examination and testing fees as part of your tuition.
State Licensure for HVAC Technicians
Most, but not all, states require licensure for HVAC technicians. To apply for a license, you will generally have to complete a certain number of hours of education plus on-the-job training supervised by a licensed HVAC contractor. Then, you’ll need to take and pass your state’s licensure exam.
Altierus Career College operates HVAC technician programs in two states, and both require licensure. These include:
- Florida: Air-Conditioning Contractor (Class A, B, or C) Licensure: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/construction-industry/#1489159935794-47166768-3ea7
- Texas: Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractor Licensure: https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/acr/acr.htm
Even if you don’t live in a state that requires licensure, you may need local licensure from a city or county to work. Check with your state and city so you know you’ll have the qualifications employers are looking for.
It’s important to note that even if certification is optional in your area, employers may prefer candidates who have it. Investing in certification could be a great choice for building your HVAC career.
Note: All job opening and salary data comes from nationwide projections and surveys provided by the U.S. Department of Labor. Local job markets may vary.