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Does the idea of sitting at a desk day after day make you squirm? Do you loathe the idea of a traditional office job? Do you want to work in a fast-growing industry with lots of growth potential?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, a career as an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) technician might be right for you.
Not sure what an HVAC technician does? Not sure what is required to start working in this field? Keep reading.
Explained below are five simple steps that will help you begin your journey toward becoming an HVAC technician.
What Does an HVAC Technician Do?
Before getting into the steps required to become an HVAC technician, let’s take a minute to clarify what HVAC technicians do on a day-to-day basis.
HVAC technicians perform a number of duties related to installing and repairing HVAC systems and equipment.
Some of the specific responsibilities of an HVAC technician may include:
- Reading blueprints
- Use various tools (metal cutters, current meters, flow sensors, etc.) to repair HVAC systems
- Ensure that all components of the system (motors, pumps, fans, compressors, switches, thermostats, etc.) are working properly
- Connecting wires
- Testing electrical circuits
- Welding pipes
- Testing tubing and pipes for leak
There are a lot of responsibilities associated with this career. But, if you enjoy fixing things and working with your hands, you’ll find it very rewarding.
Job Outlook for HVAC Technicians
The job outlook for HVAC technicians is very positive. In fact, the number of jobs available in the field is supposed to grow by 15 percent between now and the year 2026 (according to the BLS as of January 2019).
This field is growing much faster than other career fields in the U.S. So, if job security is important to you, it’s a great career to get into.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
Does a career as an HVAC technician interest you? If so, follow these five steps to start pursuing your new career.
1. Start with a High School Diploma (or Equivalent)
In most states (like California), a high school diploma or GED is required before you can begin pursuing this career.
If you’re still in high school, you may want to focus on taking courses that focus on subject matter relevant to HVAC technicians. Such courses include:
- Computer science
- Shop classes (wood shop, metal shop, etc.)
If your high school also offers vocational training, take advantage of it.
It would be especially beneficial to look into courses like blueprint reading, technical math, and mechanical drawing. All of these classes will teach you the skills that you will use every day when working on HVAC systems.
2. Pursue an HVAC Certificate
Once you’ve obtained your high school diploma or GED, you’ll need to take some additional classes to earn an HVAC certificate.
It’s true that federal law does not require an individual to have a certificate before they can work on HVAC systems. But, many states (including California) do have their own laws relating to education and training.
Because of this, most people find that it’s best to go ahead and pursue a certificate, regardless of the requirements in their own state.
It takes less than one year — approximately 9 months — to complete an HVAC certificate program. While participating in the program, you will learn a variety of technical skills, including:
- Diagnostic training
- How to use testing equipment and tools
- Principles of mechanics, electronics, and electricity
These courses will teach you everything you need to know to become a successful technician.
3. Complete an Apprenticeship
After you’ve completed your HVAC certificate program, you may want to consider an apprenticeship.
While completing an apprenticeship, you will gain on-the-job training and experience so you can learn from other technicians. While apprenticeship may not be required, it may be helpful to you in terms of gaining additional experience.
Employers are also more likely to hire individuals who have completed apprenticeships. Apprenticeships typically last between three and five years. They often involve a combination of coursework and practical on-the-job training.
Some apprenticeships are unpaid, but many of them come with a stipend so you can earn a living while learning on the job.
4. Look into Certifications
There are a number of certifications you can obtain, such as NATE Certification. NATE is the nation’s largest nonprofit certification organization for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians. NATE tests represent real-world working knowledge of HVACR systems and validate the professional competency of service and installation technicians. Contractors, manufacturers, and HVAC distributors across the industry partner with NATE to develop knowledgeable, competent HVACR technicians. Passing the NATE Ready to Work Certification means the HVAC Technician student has demonstrated the fundamental job knowledge and skills for an entry-level technician in the areas of component identification, tools, measurements, electrical safety, general safety, and basic heat transfer.
If you plan to handle refrigerants, you want to take an additional certification exam. The specific exam you take will depend on the type of appliances or equipment you are planning to service.
There are three refrigerant classifications:
- Type 1: This is a certification for servicing small appliances
- Type II: This is a certification for servicing high-pressure systems
- Type III: This is a certification for servicing low-pressure systems
- You can also earn certifications to work on specific systems, including the following:
- Commercial furnaces
- Residential boilers
- Heat pump pool heaters
- Metal fabrication
You might also want to consider pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. With these degrees, you’ll be able to offer a wider range of services. This, in turn, provides you with more opportunities to increase your income and potentially run your own HVAC business.
Start Becoming an HVAC Technician Today
As you can see, the process of becoming an HVAC technician is a pretty straightforward one. Are you interested in starting your training?
If you’ve already attained your high school diploma, it’s time to move on and pursue your HVAC certificate.
If you live in the Rancho Cordova or Fairfield areas, come study with us at InterCoast College!
We offer a great HVAC certificate program, along with several other programs to help you achieve your career goals. Contact us today to learn more about what we have to offer.