If you’re interested in becoming an HVAC technician, you probably have a lot of questions. Will you need to go to HVAC school? If so, how long will it take you to finish your training program?
From certification to starting your own business, there’s a ton of knowledge available that you should explore before diving in. Below, we’ve outlined some answers to a few of the most common and important things you'll want to know about the career outlook for an HVAC Technician and the industry you'll be joining.
What Is an HVAC Technician?
The abbreviation HVAC is short for "heating, ventilation, and air conditioning." A professional HVAC technician is the person responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing these things (plus refrigeration systems) within a building.
While some professional HVAC technicians do full service work, many others specialize in one particular step of the process- whether it be installation, maintenance or repair.
Similarly, while some technicians work on heating, ventilation and air conditioning collectively, many others concentrate on only one of these system types.
So while one HVAC tech might install, maintain and repair both heating and refrigeration systems, another professional in the same field might exclusively specialize in installing heating systems, both are still considered HVAC professionals.
What Does an HVAC Technician Do?
HVAC technicians are responsible for a range of heating and cooling-related skills, such as:
Repair or troubleshoot HVAC or Refrigeration (R) equipment
Uphold any local HVAC codes
Provide technical support to HVAC/ R customers
Work with company HVAC/R sales team to meet customer needs
Layout, design and install wiring
How Much Money do HVAC Technicians Make?
The amount of money you can make as a professional HVAC/R technician depends on several factors such as your location, your level of experience and your skills.
If you are not currently working as an HVAC technician but are employed in a related industry, getting trained as an HVAC technician is also a great way to upskill and qualify for a greater salary. This Ashworth graduate formerly worked in construction. But at the age of 60, he decided to take Ashworth’s HVAC training course in hopes of leaving behind a life living paycheck to paycheck.
“After completing the course, I got a $10,000 raise,” he shares. “On my second year evaluation, I received another $10,000 raise. Today I earn $67,000 plus bonuses. Thanks to my HVAC training at Ashworth College, I am one of the top maintenance supervisors/chief engineers at Castle Group. I don’t need a second job anymore.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVAC/R professionals report the following earnings in the most recent national surveys:
Median Annual HVAC Tech Salary: $47,610 ($22.89/hour)
Top 10% Annual HVAC Tech Salary: More than $76,230 ($36.65/hour)
Bottom 10% Annual HVAC Tech Salary: Less than $29,460 ($14.16/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
How to Become an HVAC Technician
If you are interested in becoming a professional HVAC technician, you should read the following carefully as you plan your HVAC technician training options and prepare to get certified:
The first thing you should do on your road to becoming an HVAC tech is earn your high school diploma or GED. If you are already past the traditional high school student age and have yet to complete your high school education and graduate, there are plenty of simple, convenient and affordable online high school options worth taking advantage of. This is a great first step.
Second, you need to enroll in an accredited HVAC training program. These typically take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to complete, depending on how much time you have to commit to your studies each week.
If you are currently employed or have existing family or personal obligations, you might be worried you’re unable to travel to a campus and attend in-person classes. Luckily, accredited online schools like Ashworth College also offer comprehensive, low-cost HVAC training programs that you can complete at your own pace, entirely from home.
Many HVAC technicians go on to complete apprenticeships after they receive their education. For most people, this apprenticeship period lasts anywhere from 3 to 5 years.
Generally, an HVAC apprentice will work towards completing 2,000 hours of hands on training coupled with 144 hours of education (the prior step on this list) while working towards membership in a national HVAC organization such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Inc., the Associated Builders and Contractors, or the US Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship USA program. Unlike many internships or externships, these are typically paid positions where you can recieve an HVAC apprentice salary.
From there, most HVAC professionals put about 1-2 years of on the job work in before seeking additional professional certifications or higher education in this field. This is the time when you gain hands on experience and learn what it takes to work as an HVAC professional on a day to day basis.
A final step in this professional’s trajectory might be to achieve a higher level professional HVAC certification. Again, the timeline for completing this step varies, but the majority of professionals tend to put in about 1-2 years of work on the job before seeking this certification.
HVAC technician certification requirements vary by state, but there are many popular industry certifications worth considering, such as the ones offered by North American Technician Excellence (NATE), the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA) or the HVAC Excellence (partnered with the Esco Group).
How to Get an HVAC Apprenticeship
Completing an HVAC apprenticeship is a great way to start earning money in this field while gaining crucial hands-on training as you learn more about the day to day requirements of this career.
A typical apprenticeship consists of a worker who is new to the industry and still learning the ropes works alongside a mentor as they receive direction and guidance and they continue to learn. In the HVAC industry, your mentor is considered a master journeyman, someone who has been working in the HVAC industry for long enough that he or she is considered an expert at the trade. This individual will take you under their wing as a newcomer and allow you to work alongside them as you watch and learn the ins and outs of the HVAC professional’s day to day.
You can apply for an HVAC apprenticeship the same way you would apply for a standard, entry-level job. If you complete a simple Google search for “hvac apprenticeship” in your area, you should find a multitude of apprenticeship opportunities involving various specializations and seeking various levels of education and skill.
If you are a graduate of Ashworth College’s HVAC training program, you can also work with your student services team if you need help securing the HVAC apprenticeship that’s right for you and your career goals.
How to Write an HVAC Resume
When it comes time to start putting together your HVAC Technician resume, here are the things you should include:
Add a List of Your Technical Skills
The first thing you need to add here is a defined list of all the technical skills you have. Do you know how to install a heating system? Do you know how to troubleshoot an air conditioning system? Here is where you need to make a concrete list of all the things you know how to do.
Include Any Relevant Hands-On Experience
After listing all the things you know how to do, you should follow up by sharing any hands-on experience you have executing these tasks. If you completed an apprenticeship or have any prior experience helping out with these duties in real life, list that experience here.
Add Computer and Personal Skills
Finally, you should add any relevant computer or interpersonal skills that an employer should be aware of. If you completed an HVAC apprenticeship in the past and during your time working there, you learned how to use a project management system, share that here. If you have experience working on a team or managing other technicians, list that here as well.
Always try to keep your resume simple, clean and professional.
How To Start an HVAC Business
In order to start your own independent HVAC business, you need to be proficient and experienced as an HVAC professional. This would typically involve having three to four years of beginner-level HVAC working experience under your belt.
From there, you should look into local requirements for earning your State Contractor's License. The content in this exam mostly covers basic HVAC installation and maintenance knowledge as well as information about the HVACl laws and regulations specific to the state in which you are seeking licensure. Once you pass this test you can apply for your Contractor’s License. In most states, it will cost somewhere between $100- $500 for you to obtain this license and get started.
What Tools Does an HVAC Technician Need?
If you are preparing to start your career as an HVAC technician, you will need to have some/all of the following items in your toolkit on a day to day basis, depending on the specific type of system you’ll be handling:
Reciprocating Saw Blades
Mobile HVAC Software
Pipe Wrenches and Pliers
Tin Snips and Shears
Multi-Meter and Voltage Tester
Learn How to Become an HVAC Technician With Ashworth College
The online HVAC training program at Ashworth College was built to provide a convenient, flexible learning experience to busy students who don’t want to put their lives on hold in order to go back to school. The program can be completed online, from the comfort of your own home, at your own pace.
The course was developed by HVAC subject matter experts with first-hand experience in the field who know how to help you succeed. Not only that, this program is affordable, allowing students to opt for 0% interest monthly payment options if they are unable to pay for the course in full. For more information on how to get started in this program, call to speak with an admissions counselor, and take this quiz to find out if HVAC training is right for you.