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