If you have the desire to become an HVAC technician, you are selecting a trade that offers many opportunities and rewards today and for the near future. Those opportunities and rewards will come to you by getting the proper training. Here is how to get into this profession and begin opening doors to your future.
The General Steps
At a general level, becoming an HVAC technician means you must fulfill the requirements for the following categories:
- Basic education
- Vocational education
- Experience and Apprenticeship
Take note that entry into this field via the worksite helper or unskilled route is not mentioned. This route typically follows the scenario of completing high school or equivalency and getting hired with a company to basically watch the other technicians and help them with whatever they need to do their jobs. While these opportunities do exist, they are rare and those with formal education will have the best chances.
Characteristics of an HVAC Technician
The characteristics of a person who will fit well in this trade are those that any employer would desire plus an aptitude for this type of work. Any employer desires an employee who is dependable, responsible, polite, respectful, likes to learn new things, and can work as part of team. An HVAC technician must also deal with customers thus interpersonal skills are a must.
With HVAC, a person should also have an aptitude for work that is mechanical in nature. This person should also be flexible and a problem solver because in this field not everything goes as expected. For example, there may be surprises in a building that were not on the blueprints when fitting ductwork.
Once you are satisfied that you have passed the self-test of aptitude and characteristics, finish your high school education if you haven’t done so already. If you haven’t finished this basic educational requirement, see if your high school offers a vocational course in HVAC technician training. It will give you a head start before furthering your education. If you dropped out of high school, study for and take the high school equivalency exam. It also helps if you take courses in high school such as computer programming and other vocational courses such as plumbing and those that are electrical in nature.
After high school, enroll in a program to receive training in HVAC through an accredited vocational trade school, technical school, or two-year college. One possible variation to this is by enlisting in the Armed Forces for a military HVAC specialty. The military will send you to the equivalent training plus you will be able to get hands-on experience while in their school.
HVAC Experience and Apprenticeship
Now that your formal education is complete, you can find a job with an HVAC installation, repair, and maintenance company that has an apprenticeship program. This will be your start at gaining on-the-job experience preparing you for later certification and licensing. Look for companies that sponsor apprenticeships through organizations such as the National Association of Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling Contractors, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, or another that is nationally recognized.
Certification and Licensing for HVAC Technicians
Naturally, you will want to get certification as this opens the door to the best future opportunities. Achieving certification happens after you have fulfilled the requirements of the various certifying agencies such as Air Conditioning Excellence Coalition or the North American Technician Excellence Program. Usually a test is required plus a specified number of years experience.
Licensing depends on the state where you will be working and their requirements vary. Also expect to take an exam and have a specified number of years experience (anywhere from 2-5 years).