How to Become an HVAC Technician

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An HVAC technician specializes in the installation, maintenance and repair of heating, refrigeration and cooling systems for both residential and industrial buildings. In North America, the standard designation you'll need to become a certified HVAC technician is the successful completion of the Air-Conditioning Excellence or the North American Technical Excellence program. Read on to learn more.

Achieve HVAC Certification

  • Get your high school diploma, or pass an equivalency examination. It will make you a more attractive applicant if you choose to do your training at a trade school or community college.

  • Seek an unskilled, entry-level helper position with a licensed, certified HVAC installation, maintenance or repair company in the city where you live. You may have to pound quite a bit of pavement before you get hired, though you can help your cause by showing an aptitude for technical, hands-on work in your employment and education background. Expect your starting wages to be on the low side.

  • Learn as you work. Many people who go on to become HVAC technicians did so without any formal training in a classroom environment, instead choosing to master HVAC technologies through a conscientiously applied program of on-the-job training.

  • Get in-class training from a community college, vocational or trade school in the field of heating, refrigeration and air conditioning. General programs lay the groundwork for more specialized education by delivering a comprehensive look at the entire HVAC process. Such courses usually take anywhere from 2 semesters to 2 academic years to complete.

  • Work at a company that will sponsor a formal apprenticeship, as recognized by the Air-Conditioning Contractors of America, the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors or another nationally-recognized trade organization. Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with supplementary classroom instruction, and take a minimum of 3 years to complete.

  • Become a certified HVAC technician by completing an apprenticeship, or fulfilling the requirements for professional designation as laid out by the North American Technician Excellence program or the Air Conditioning Excellence Coalition (see Resources below). Both organizations are recognized across North America as the leading HVAC trade institutes.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can specialize in one type of HVAC equipment (oil burner, solar panel or residential central air conditioning, for example), or in one facet of HVAC technology (installation, maintenance or repair).

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