HVAC Technician: A Career Guide

by Raja Tahir on July 18, 2018 · 9:00 am

HVACR technician program student at SJVC OntarioAre you interested in a hands-on career that requires solid mechanical and troubleshooting skills? If so, then becoming an HVAC (or HVACR) mechanic and installer might be the right career for you.

What does an HVACR technician do on the job?

HVACR technicians — which stands for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration — are tasked with installing, maintaining and repairing heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration systems that regulate the temperature and air quality in buildings and refrigeration systems.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), HVACR technicians will typically do the following:

  • Install, clean and maintain HVACR systems
  • Install electrical wiring and components
  • Inspect and test HVACR components and systems
  • Go over system malfunctions with customers
  • Replace or repair defective or worn parts
  • Improve system performance by recommending maintenance
  • Keep records of completed work

What are the pros of a career as an HVACR technician?

One pro is that it is an in-demand career. The BLS reports that the employment rate for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average of 7% for all occupations.

Some of the reasons for this expected higher-than-average growth rate?

  1. Construction of residential and commercial buildings is expected to propel employment growth.
  2. Demand for qualified HVACR technicians will also increase because of the growing number of sophisticated climate-control systems.
  3. Replacing and repairing HVACR systems is a big part of what technicians do. The demand for HVACR technicians will increase because of the growing importance of energy efficiency and pollution reduction. More HVACR technicians will be needed to retrofit, upgrade and replace climate-control systems.

If you’re in California and interested in HVACR training, the Occupational Employment Statistics shows that California ranks second in the U.S. in highest employment level for this occupation, which is promising for a future career.

Another pro of a career as an HVACR technician: The job also can command decent pay. The BLS shows that the median annual wage for HVACR mechanics and installers was $47,080 in May 2017. California HVACR technicians earn an annual mean wage of $56,350.

Where do HVACR technicians work?

HVACR technicians will work mostly in factories, office buildings, hospitals, stores, schools and homes. Technicians often travel to several different locations making service calls, and some will be assigned to specific jobsites at the start of each day.

Is a career as a HVACR technician right for me?

Successful HVACR technicians often have the following qualities:

  • Customer-service skills: HVACR technicians will deal with unhappy customers because their heating and air conditioning isn’t working, so it’s important for them to be polite, friendly and punctual when working in customers’ homes and/or business offices.
  • Detail oriented: HVACR technicians need to maintain records of all work that’s done and these records need to include what was worked on, the time it took to complete the job, as well as a list of equipment and parts that were used to do the work.
  • Math skills: To make sure that HVACR equipment heats or cools the space properly, HVACR technicians will need to be able to calculate the precise load requirements.
  • Mechanical skills: HVACR technicians must be able to understand all the HVACR components needed to properly assemble, disassemble and program them if needed, because they will be installing and working on complicated climate-control systems.
  • Physical stamina: HVACR technicians need to be able to walk and stand for many hours. The constant physical activity can be exhausting.
  • Physical strength: HVACR technicians need to be able to lift and carry heavy equipment, usually without any assistance.
  • Time-management skills: HVACR technicians need to be able to keep a schedule of all the daily maintenance calls that they get and be able to complete all of their tasks and repairs on schedule.
  • Troubleshooting skills: HVACR technicians need to be able to point out problems with malfunctioning cooling systems and then decide the best way to repair those systems.

One thing to consider: The BLS reports that HVACR technicians have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. These potential hazards include burns, electrical shock, muscle strains and injuries from lifting and handling heavy equipment.

Work schedules can also be irregular for HVACR technicians. They typically work full time, but this could include shifts during the evenings and weekends. During peak heating and cooling seasons, many technicians will work overtime due to the increase in demand.

Do I need to be licensed and certified to work as a HVACR technician?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all technicians who buy, handle, or work with refrigerants to be certified in proper refrigerant handling.

This certification, EPA Section 608 Technician Certification, is mandatory for all people nationwide who work with refrigerants.

In California, state licensure is mandatory for HVACR technicians working on projects that exceed $500. This license, known as the Warm-Air, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning Contractor license, is available through the CA Contractors State License Board.

How do I start my training to become a HVACR technician?

The first step is to enroll in an HVACR certificate or associate degree program at an accredited institution. These programs can take anywhere between six months to two years to complete, according to the BLS. These programs combine classroom instruction and labs to cover the fundamentals of electricity, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration.

The Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration program at SJVC prepares you for a job in the heating and cooling industry. Training focuses on theories of heating, refrigeration and air conditioning. Students study the operation, maintenance and repair of residential and commercial equipment.

Students can earn a Certificate of Completion in about 10 months, or an Associate of Science Degree in approximately 14 months.

Graduates also have the opportunity to earn Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 608 certification. SJVC will pay the fees associated with this examination for first-time test takers. (Payment for retakes and subsequent examinations are the responsibility of the graduate.)

Request more information or call 866-544-7898 to speak with an admissions advisor about SJVC’s HVACR Program.

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