How to Become an Air Conditioning Technician

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If you’ve spent most of your life residing in a cold climate, you probably enjoy a short span of warmth during the summer.

People who live in the south feel differently.

It is common to see air conditioners in modern working environments, residences, and business locations. In a hot climate, the malfunctioning air conditioner can cause serious problems. Kids and seniors are vulnerable and may receive heatstroke.

That’s why AC technicians are a crucial part of any community.

Specialists who install new AC units, repair them, or work on their maintenance are called air conditioning technicians. The main factors that can motivate someone to work on air conditioning systems are usually practical. There is demand for air conditioning specialists, and the pay is not bad, either. AC technicians can easily find employment anywhere in the US and, if they conduct themselves properly, reap the benefits of their work.

Keep reading to learn more about the career outlook for AC technicians and how to start a career in this growing field.

If you’re interested in becoming an AC technician, comprehend this guide thoroughly.

What Does An Ac Technician Do?

Everyday duties of an air conditioning specialist are about the same as those of an HVAC specialist. However, AC technicians specialize in servicing conditioning units.

There are various tasks that might need to be completed by air-condition specialists every day. Most of their responsibilities are focused on servicing climate control units. HVAC technicians can complete many distinct types of tasks, while an AC specialist works only on cooling. AC technicians might have to replace air filters, detecting climate control problems, and installing new units.

It’s not uncommon to see an AC specialist being an employee of real estate companies or similar institutions. Still, most AC professionals have their own equipment and work independently. During the heatwaves, AC technicians are in particularly high demand, and they have to work almost twice as hard. The working hours are usually stable, but AC techs might have to respond to unpredictable calls during the summer and have to leave their home at any time.

AC Technician Career Outlook

There are many work opportunities for HVAC specialists. Statisticians report that the demand for AC technician labor is going to go up by 13% by 2028. That means possible 46,300 vacant positions within a decade. Compared to other professions, the demand for AC specialists is growing much more rapidly. However, statistics might be deceiving because the BLS doesn’t collect data solely for AC technicians.

In most locations, AC is seen as a necessity. Thanks to global warming, the climate is warm throughout all four seasons. A warm climate creates the need for AC conditioning, so the demand for AC technicians will always be in demand. The technicians who are familiar with the newest technologies can benefit from the increased complexity of AC systems. These units usually have complicated control panels and other advanced features.

Current industry trends put a lot of pressure on businesses to conserve energy and reduce their environmental footprint. Therefore, they have to upgrade outdated AC units to achieve this goal. This factor creates increased demand for highly skilled AC technicians.

Qualified junior technicians are always in demand because existing employees often get promoted and have to be replaced. AC specialists can reach the rank of a supervisor or even independent businessmen.

One specialty that is particularly in demand is a residential AC technician. Independent contractors usually hire these professionals to complement the building process. Sometimes, they are hired by civilians to perform certain repairs. In some cases, businesses with warehouses need to maintain climate control in their storage facilities, so they have to hire AC technicians as well. Sometimes a business might employ an AC specialist if it needs to ensure a stable temperature for the machines to work. The great news for prospective specialists is that almost all businesses get the help of AC tech at some point.

AC Technician Job Requirements

At the beginning of their careers, most AC specialists don’t have any experience. So when they’re starting out, AC specialists must prove their worth by demonstrating theoretical knowledge. At the very least, AC workers should have a high school diploma (or equivalent degree).

Skills & Personality Traits Of HVAC Technicians

Before you start working as an HVAC technician, there are important concerns to keep in mind. Without the proper education, HVAC technicians will not be able to perform their everyday duties. They must also have a knack for mechanics, be detail-oriented, and the physical ability to perform manual labor, such as carrying large tools.

In order to become a successful HVAC technician, It is necessary to have technical skills. Still, there are other supplemental personal characteristics that you need to succeed in this line of work.

Because of the inconsistent nature of their work, reliability is one of the most important traits an HVAC technician needs to have. To achieve success in this career, you must have the ability to simply explain the details of HVAC units to technically ignorant customers.

Except for hard technical skills, HVAC technicians might benefit from having soft skills as well. They must know how to sell their services efficiently. For instance, a customer might need to be convinced that they need to hire a professional to take care of their air conditioning problems. Having a charming personality and solid interpersonal skills can help you with communicating your thoughts.

Role Requirements For HVAC Professionals

Practical training and formal education are equally important to get started in this line of work.

Before offering paid services, most HVAC technicians go through instructional courses that prepare them for the work. These days, most HVAC technicians graduate from a community school or specialized school that offers courses in HVAC. You can go through the shorter programs and get your HVAC license in six months, or you earn a two-year degree and graduate as an associate. If you decide that you want to be an HVAC specialist while you’re still in school, you can prepare for a career in this industry by learning relevant subjects such as math.

In some states, HVAC specialists might be obligated to get licensed once they’ve graduated from an educational institution.

Certain licenses can be used anywhere in the country.

EPA specifically demands that any HVAC specialists who work with refrigerants to be educated in handling these dangerous chemicals. HVAC specialists can choose to specialize in small units, low or high-pressure systems. Alternatively, they can apply for a universal license which will permit them to work with any refrigerant system. To qualify for such a license, you’ll have to pass an online test offered by independent organizations.

HVAC technicians are not obligated to join any nationwide organizations, joining one might give an opportunity to advance in their career.

NATE is a famous testing organization that allows individuals to take Industry Competency Exams in HVAC-related professions.

Most other organizations acknowledge the validity of these exams. The list of organizations that acknowledge the exams includes AHRI, ACCA, and HARDI.

HVAC technicians are not obligated to pass any exams or receive any certifications, but getting certificated can benefit their career, so a lot of them make sure to receive HVAC certifications. HVAC specialists encounter barriers to advancement if they lack formal education. An HVAC specialist who doesn’t specialize in any field will not be able to advance in his/her career without the certification. To advance in their careers and supervise entire buildings, HVAC technicians must have formal education.

Except for relevant education, the biggest factor that can enhance your career progression as an HVAC technician is practical experience.

Licensure & Certification For AC Techs

Whether an AC technician needs to have a license or not depends on the state where he/she offers his/her services. Some states don’t have any laws governing AC or HVAC specialists who wish to work in the industry. The rest of the states might have rules that only apply to the contractors who are supposed to earn a certain sum of money or work on large projects.

Before getting started in this career, beginner AC specialists must thoroughly research the local laws that govern licensing issues in the state. To obtain a license, a candidate must cover the associated fee and register with the agency. They’ll also have to participate and pass an exam. In some cases, getting licensed requires prospective candidates to have working experience as well.

AC Technician Salary

The average compensation for HVAC specialists in this nation is $47,610. That number is the median salary for all professionals. Half of them earn less, and the other half earn more than the specified sum. Less qualified AC technicians with little experience are expected to earn around $30,000 every year. The income of advanced specialists can go past the $76,000 figure.

An HVAC professional’s earnings might be affected by his/her geographic location.

The highest-earning AC specialists in the country make $69,610 and they live in Washington D.C. Other states where AC technicians get paid handsomely are Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. Technicians who operate in less developed states such as West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, tend to earn less. The average HVAC technician salary in Arkansas is just over $40,000.

As you accumulate more experience as an HVAC technician, you start to earn more money. Inexperienced technicians, on the other hand, tend to make less. It is not uncommon for an AC technician to start off as an apprentice. Novice technician who is hired as an apprentice will make a fraction of his/her supervisor’s income, but their rate will increase as time goes on and they show signs of promise. Sometimes, apprenticeship leads to getting employed as a technician full-time.

One way to receive high compensation as a beginner HVAC technician is to graduate from an educational institute and have a degree. Still, the experience will have more influence on your level of compensation than educational credentials.

PayScale collects the salary data and its reports indicate that a beginner AC specialist with experience that falls between 0 to 5 years is capable of having an average yearly income of $32,000. A professional who has more sizable experience (10-20 years) can reach a yearly income of $55,000. Throughout his/her career, a technician’s professionalism will influence how far he/she gets promoted and starts to command more respect and salary.

Pros and Cons of being an AC Technician

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the profession, we can go over the advantages and disadvantages of becoming an HVAC technician.

PRO: HVAC Has Great Job Outlook and Compensation

The future looks bright for HVAC professionals because people will always need help with refrigerators, cooling, and heating units. This is the biggest factor that can influence the future employment of AC professionals. Statistics published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics department predict that by 2026, employment in the HVAC industry will go up by 15 percent.

As construction companies continue to build new buildings for trade or living purposes, the demand for HVAC professionals is going to increase. The good news is that this is the most stable income for HVAC technicians. Businesses book AC professionals in advance to come in and have a look at their cooling or heating units.

To make up for increased demand, HVAC technician salaries tend to be higher as well. Compared to other workers in the US, AC technicians are compensated very well. BLS statistics suggest that, as of spring 2016, HVAC technicians earn a median income of $45,910. The top 10 percentile of earners in this profession has an income of $73,000.

According to BLS statistics, beginner HVAC specialists who graduated with a relevant degree were more likely to be high earners than those who did not have educational credentials. Ultimately, participating in some kind of instructional course can improve your odds of becoming a successful HVAC technician.

PRO: HVAC – Work and Live Almost Anywhere

For most Americans, air conditioning is part of everyday life. The number of people using temperature control and ventilation units in the United States is immense. A lot of skilled professionals are required to ensure the maintenance of these air conditioning systems. Because of their skillset, HVAC technicians are in particularly high demand.

People use air conditioning and ventilation units everywhere in the US, so you aren’t limited by geography if you’re an HVAC technician. You can move between states whenever you want and still find work. HVAC technicians tend to make a great living everywhere, but especially in California, Ohio, Florida, Texas, and Illinois. These states are referred to as the five best states.

PRO: With HVAC – Get Paid While You Learn the Job

If you decide to become an HVAC specialist, most of your knowledge after graduation will be accumulated on the job while you’re working as an apprentice. However, as a beginner HVAC technician, you will only earn 50% of the experienced technician’s earnings.

The good news is that as you gain more experience and expand your skill set, your compensation will increase as well. The best way to learn the craft and get the proper training is by observing HVAC technicians who have already accumulated enormous experience. These people can give you a wealth of practical advice that you need to become an expert HVAC specialist.

PRO: HVAC Makes a Difference in the Environment and in the Lives of Customers

HVAC specialists are often responsible for fixing HVAC systems to make them more efficient and reduce their environmental footprint. Here’s a shortlist of tasks that HVAC technicians do to drive environmental damage to a minimum:

  • Replacing non-functioning filters
  • Detecting the need for dehumidifiers and arranging for them to be installed
  • Installing thermostats with the aim of conserving energy
  • Arranging heat pump installations to decrease carbon emissions

By properly installing HVAC systems, technicians ensure energy conservation. By performing their duties, they also help consumers save on utilities and allow them to spend time at home comfortably. It is obvious that HVAC professionals provide a lot of value.

CON: HVAC Occasionally Has Long Hours

Just like most areas of work, the employment of HVAC technicians varies depending on the time of the year. If you follow the path to becoming an HVAC professional, you should expect to work a lot during the summer and winter.

HVAC technicians perform the type of work that can be considered difficult, but they are compensated very handsomely. The salary makes up for some of the difficulties associated with a job.

CON: HVAC Has Occupational Safety Hazards

Throughout their career, HVAC technicians are exposed to many dangers. Their work usually involves lifting heavy items, working in freezing cold or overly hot temperatures. Sometimes HVAC specialists even have to deal with poisonous chemicals.

HVAC technicians can obtain various certificates proving their ability to work with various types of machines. Learning about machines before you start working on them can significantly reduce the chances of getting injured. To work with refrigerants, you are required to prove your eligibility by passing the test conducted by Environmental Protection Agency. Although certificates are a step in the right direction, they can’t guarantee total protection from workplace accidents. Every prospective HVAC technician should acknowledge the dangers associated with the job.

Now that you’re affiliated with this specialty’s advantages and flaws, you are probably wondering where to start.

Steps to Becoming an AC Technician

Regardless of their profession, people’s career paths are rarely the same.

HVAC technicians aren’t an exception to this rule. Still, we decided to summarize the most common paths to becoming an HVAC technician.

Prospective candidates can skip some of the steps if they wish, but that decision may affect their future employment prospects.

Step 1: Complete high school diploma or GED (four years).

Most established HVAC specialists are high school graduates or have a GED. However, there are no rules that specify that AC professionals must have certain credentials. If you’re a high school student interested in this career, you can participate in vocational training courses. The experience you accumulate throughout those courses will be valuable down the line.

Step 2a: Enroll in a technical training program (two years).

Most successful AC technicians have participated in some sort of training course at one point or another. Prospective AC technicians in California can enroll in a training program offered by Los Angeles Trade-Tech College. The course takes two years to complete and graduates receive AS degree in refrigeration and AC. This training program will give you the technical knowledge you need to succeed as an AC technician. You’ll still need to start getting practical experience at the very base level though.

Step 2b: Apply to an apprenticeship program (two to five years).

It is common for prospective AC professionals to start as apprentices. This way, you can get practical experience and learn the craft under the guidance of an experienced HVAC technician. You’ll be getting paid throughout your apprenticeship.

Your apprenticeship duration and compensation will largely depend on which organization is sponsoring it. Californian HVAC technicians can choose to participate in a five-year apprenticeship program that gives them 8,000 hours of experience. The program is offered by California Apprenticeship Coordinators Association. Of course, there are contrarian cases, but most states will have similar organizations that can arrange the apprenticeships for beginning HVAC technicians. It’s possible to get more detailed information with the US Department of Labor’s tool, Apprenticeship Finder.

Step 3: Complete EPA Section 608 Certification.

If your work involves dealing with refrigerants, the US law requires you to have EPA Section 608 certification. This certification permits AC technicians to handle and get rid of these dangerous chemicals.

Most apprenticeship and instructional programs include this certification, but some don’t, so you should double-check before you enroll in a program. If an educational or practical course doesn’t include this certificate, a prospective HVAC professional must obtain it before working on anything related to AC. You can find the references by visiting the section 608 technician certification programs page.

Step 4: Obtain locally required licensure (timeline varies).

Except for Section 608 certification, federal law doesn’t obligate AC technicians to have any licenses or certificates. However, there may be local laws imposed by the state or the county. If there is a requirement to obtain a license, you’ll usually have to provide proof of your competence, pay an application fee and pass an exam to get one.

Step 5: Pursue advanced certification (timeline varies).

Several industry organizations, such as Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), also provide training and certifications. These types of certifications are not required by law but can demonstrate advanced skills for those looking to progress in their careers.

Resources for HVAC Technicians

Working HVAC professionals should keep an eye out for government regulations, changes in technology and keep an eye out for chances to increase their expertise. We’ve compiled a list of organizations that offer information about industry changes and training possibilities. Few of them were created with the intention of helping veterans and women involved in this profession.

EPA Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

This organization is governed by the U.S Office of Air and Radiation. It usually provides information about the relation of the HVAC industry and the environment. Here are a few of the topics that this organization deals with: emissions, hazardous chemicals, reducing footprint, risks to professional’s health, waste management.

Women in HVACR

Founded in 2003, this organization helps women to establish themselves in HVAC industry roles. The most common roles are sales, managing a business, and technical professions. Prospective women technicians aren’t obligated to pay any fees. They can join this organization to make full use of networking, instructional and other opportunities.

HVAC Talk Forum

This tool is organized in a similar fashion to the bulletin board. It allows HVAC professionals to share their insights and other information with each other. Most recently discussed topics were: contractor aid, finding employment, reducing footprint, and technological issues.

HVAC Service Mentor

This organization describes its aim with the motto “From Mystery to Mastery.” You can join it after paying a fee and enjoy the benefits of technical instructions by qualified specialists, employment opportunities and online classes.

Consortium for Energy Efficiency

Founded over 20 years back, this organization is made up of North American HVAC managers who advise governments, technology producers, and other businessmen on how to implement programs that promote energy conservation.

Helmets to Hardhats

This organization helps former military members to transition into new jobs. HVAC is one of the professions that military members can choose. They will receive proper training and have employment opportunities open to them. It is the trade organizations that offer apprenticeship opportunities approved by the US federal government.

Common Questions about Becoming an AC Technician

Are continuing education credits a requirement of the field?

Some states might have this requirement. Alabama has it (4-8 hours), as does Georgia (4-8 hours), Oklahoma (6 hours), Texas (8 hours), and Virginia (3 hours). States usually have a continuing education prerequisite in various types of contracting. Learn the specifics of your state at HomePrep.

What is the difference between HVAC and HVACR?

An HVAC specialist has a broader area of work and can resolve heating, ventilation, and cooling problems. HVAC-R technicians are more specialized and their work involves only refrigerator installation and repairs. If they acquire the necessary certifications, they can also work on commercial freezing, solar energy, and climate control systems.

What are some of the most common job duties for HVAC technicians?

According to BLS, most of the technician’s everyday tasks include repairs and maintenance of heating, refrigeration, and ventilation units while adhering to the government’s rules. In some cases, HVAC professionals might also have to clean ducts, reviewing unit efficiency, checking the chemicals, and other minor tasks.