Achieving suitable indoor air quality wouldn’t be possible without an HVAC system. However, we often don’t think about just how important our HVAC is to our comfort until it’s no longer working. HVAC-R technicians are needed to not only keep these machines running, but also running efficiently.
As there’s always a need for HVAC services, the field tends to be a rather popular career path. That should come as no surprise given the benefits associated with the career. These benefits include job security, fast job growth, and plenty of work. If you’re interested in jumpstarting your career as an HVAC-R technician, here’s what you’ll need to do.
What is an HVAC-R Technician and How Do You Become One?
It’s an HVAC-R technician’s job to install, repair, and replace HVAC systems. The acronym HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, however, some industry professionals prefer the acronym HVAC-R. This is because repairing refrigeration systems has become a major part of the job as well.
Before you consider becoming an HVAC-R technician, there are a few basic things you should know. To be successful in this career path, you must:
- Go through the necessary education and HVAC training.
- Be able to move/lift large equipment.
- Be okay with working odd hours/on the weekends.
If the idea of becoming an HVAC-R technician sounds exciting to you, these are the steps you’ll need to follow to become one.
Earn Your Diploma or GED
The very first step to becoming an HVAC-R technician is to finish your high school education or receive your general education diploma (GED). In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can even get a head start on your HVAC education by taking classes in physics, math, chemistry, and other physical sciences courses. It may also help to learn what you can about plumbing, basic electrical work, and electronics.
Complete a Training Program
After you get your high school diploma or GED, you’ll have two options—attend and complete an accredited HVAC technician training program or pursue a degree program with a college of your choosing. The two mainly differ in the amount of time and cost invested to receive your degree or certificate. A training program can take about 10 months to complete, while an associate’s degree will take two years and a bachelor’s degree will take four.
Enroll in an Apprenticeship Program
Although this is an optional step, many aspiring HVAC techs choose to join an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are often offered by an HVAC union or contractor association. These programs offer the opportunity to get hands-on training and education—such as blueprint reading—to help you on your path to success. An apprenticeship will usually last between three to five years.
Once you have the education and experience you need, you can get licensed in your state. Each state has its own regulations, some don’t even require you to be licensed. You’ll want to check on what your state requirements are. If you do need a license, there are a number of standardized tests you can take across the country that will earn you different certifications. Some of the most popular certifications are offered by programs such as:
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
- Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA)
- HVAC Excellence
Each type of certification recognizes something different. For example, the NATE program offers more advanced certifications, while HVAC Excellence offers more generalized certifications.
Your journey doesn’t have to end with simply getting licensed, you can also choose to continue your education or complete other degree programs. If you’re interested in increasing your specializations and earning more money, this may be the route you want to go. Earning additional certifications in areas such as heat pump pool heaters, commercial furnaces, unit ventilators, and residential boilers, will open up new opportunities for you as a technician.
Join Southwest Pipe Trades Association for Your Apprenticeship
If you’re looking to advance your career as an HVAC-R technician, join Southwest Pipe Trades Association. At SWPTA, we offer comprehensive apprenticeship training where you’ll receive hands-on experience to help you prepare for a long, successful career in the industry. Contact us today to learn more.