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What Does an HVAC Technician Do?

Almost every building in the U.S. has a heating or air conditioning system, and HVAC technicians keep them running efficiently. That’s one of the reasons HVAC technicians have such job stability. 

If you have a knack for solving mechanical problems, this career is worth a look.

HVAC technicians — sometimes called HVAC mechanics or HVAC installers — install, service, test and repair heating and air conditioning and filtration systems in residential and commercial buildings. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. (You’ll also sometimes see HVACR, which includes refrigeration.) 

Whatever you call them, these skilled techs make sure the equipment that regulates indoor temperature, humidity and air quality is in good working order.

Sometimes, technicians work on all systems. Other times, they specialize in one area, such as air conditioning. HVAC technicians or mechanics typically fix and maintain systems, while HVAC installers set them up.

HVAC work is typically an emergency situation. On the bright side, people are always happy to see the HVAC technician show up! But this also means evening or weekend work is likely. 

Keep reading to learn more about how to get started in this in-demand job. 

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$ 29,000 - $ 81,000
$ 51,000
37,170+
Female HVAC technician in a hardhat and safety gear works on a rooftop HVAC unit
When there’s a problem with the heating or cooling, the HVAC technician can save the day by fixing it quickly. (Credit: sturti/iStock)

Becoming an HVAC Technician Pays Off

Becoming an HVAC Technician Pays Off

Many HVAC companies offer paid on-the-job training, so you don’t have to pay to learn a trade. Just ask Anthony Strada, who is busy installing air conditioners in homes in Sanford, Florida. “You’re generating income out of the gate while you’re learning a very valuable skillset,” he says.

Watch the video or read more about why becoming an HVAC technician is a smart move.

Job Responsibilities

  • Install new HVAC systems in residential and commercial buildings
  • Diagnose and fix existing HVAC systems, often using computerized tools 
  • Install electrical components and wiring
  • Clearly explain HVAC problems and solutions with customers
  • Inspect and clean ducts
  • Follow government rules on proper handling and disposal of fluids and pressurized gasses

How To Become an HVAC Technician: FAQs

What steps do I need to take?

First, you’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent. Any kind of mechanical training you can get in high school will pay off, whether that be in a vocational class or in your spare time.

There are two parts of the next step, which will provide the majority of your HVAC training. Some technicians earn a certificate or associate degree from a technical college. Others go directly into an apprenticeship.

An HVAC apprenticeship is immersive, and many employers prefer job candidates with this level of training. This game-changing opportunity is typically offered through businesses, unions and contractor associations, such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). 

An apprenticeship consists of on-the-job training under the supervision of trained professionals. In many instances, you’ll get paid while you learn the trade

Both pathways will include classroom and hands-on training. 

Courses will cover the various HVACR systems, diagnostic training, safety procedures, tool use, blueprint reading, math, HVAC controls (voltage, air quality and resistance), and electrical system troubleshooting.

The hands-on training will start with simple tasks and move on to more advanced skills, such as soldering or checking electrical circuits. 

Once you’ve completed your training, it’s time to get your state license. Not all states and cities require license, but it’s a worthwhile step that validates your skills. It may involve a written test. 

You’ll also need to earn entry-level certifications, such as Section 608 Technician Certification, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires for anyone who handles or works near refrigerants. There are three levels, Type I, Type II and Type III, and they are all intended to increase technician knowledge and to keep them safe. (When released, refrigerant gases can lead to low oxygen levels.)

To understand the rules in your state, see the licensing and certification box below or go directly to the licensing requirements tool.

As you progress in the job, you can boost your expertise by earning advanced certifications. Many organizations offer certifications. For example, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) offers several optional certificates, including the Ready-to-Work Certificate for entry-level HVAC techs and the Core & Specialty Tests Certificate for more skilled technicians. Manufacturers also offer certification to work on their equipment.

Areas of specialty include residential boilers, radiant heater systems, commercial furnaces and commercial refrigeration.

Your preparation will pay off with a rewarding career and a steady paycheck!

Are there any other HVAC tech qualifications to consider?

You’ll need a driver’s license so you can easily get to job sites. Some employers will require a background check.

How long does it take to become an HVAC technician?

Certificate programs last from six months to a year. An associate degree takes two years. An apprenticeship can last from three to five years.  

Continuing education is ongoing. The more you learn, the more job opportunities available to you. Plus, you may want to run your own HVAC business someday, and everything you learn will help you work toward that goal.

Are HVAC technicians in demand?

Yes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be 40,100 openings every year from 2021 to 2031. The pace of new construction will keep qualified techs busy. In addition, as climate-control systems become more efficient, older units will need to be replaced. 

What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

Successful HVAC techs tend to share these traits: 

  • Good problem-solving skills
  • Excellent communication and customer service skills
  • Able to lift heavy materials
  • Stamina and flexibility to work in hot and cold climates and tight spaces
  • Good basic math skills
  • Mechanically inclined and good with their hands
  • Safety-conscious
The bottom line on becoming an HVAC technician:

If you want job security but aren’t interested in a desk job, HVAC and HVACR offer a bright future. This is a hands-on profession for someone who is mechanically inclined. Plus, you can start earning quickly in this growing profession and do your work in any area of the country. Ready to get started? Check out the training options near you and take the next step toward your new career.  

HVAC Technician Training in Your Area

Coordinates

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology, A.A.S.

Ivy Tech Community College - Kokomo
Kokomo (0.0 Miles)
Blue Ridge Community College logo

Heating and Air Conditioning I & II Training

Blue Ridge Community College-NC
Flat Rock (0.0 Miles)
Bay de Noc Community College logo

HVAC/R Technician Certificate of Completion (Online)

Bay de Noc Community College
Escanaba (0.0 Miles)
Austin Community College District logo

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Technology Level 1 Certificate

Austin Community College District
Austin (0.0 Miles)
Gaston College logo

Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Technology - Heating Certificate

Gaston College
Dallas (0.0 Miles)
First Coast Technical College

Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning/Refrigeration

First Coast Technical College
St. Augustine (0.0 Miles)
Southeast Technical Institute logo

Residential Heating and AC Technology Diploma

Southeast Technical Institute
Sioux Falls (0.0 Miles)
Red Rocks Community College logo

Hydronic Heating-AHRHH Certificate

Red Rocks Community College
Lakewood (0.0 Miles)
Central Piedmont Community College logo

Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Technology - Specialization in Refrigeration Systems Certificate

Central Piedmont Community College
Charlotte (0.0 Miles)
Salt Lake Community College logo

Heating Certificateooling, & Refrigeration (HVAC) Apprenticeship, A.A.S.

Salt Lake Community College
Salt Lake City (0.0 Miles)
Mid-Plains Community College logo

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology Heat Pump Certificate

Mid-Plains Community College
North Platte (0.0 Miles)
Somerset Community College logo

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Mechanic Diploma

Somerset Community College
Somerset (0.0 Miles)

Ask the Expert

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Erin Izen in Home Depot store with apron

Ask the Expert

Erin Izen is Director of Workforce Development and Military Relations at The Home Depot. She has seen some big changes in the construction trade in recent months.

“The opportunities in construction now are unprecedented," she says. "There are lots of options, so you can always find a training program that suits your lifestyle. There will be millions of jobs open in these roles in the next eight years.”

Read more about the opportunities in construction and why she's such an advocate for trade jobs.

The Home Depot
The Home Depot is proud to support the Construction industry on SkillPointe. We are partnering to bring you expert information about the highest-demand skilled trade jobs.