Most higher-paying construction jobs not only require an extensive education background but also plenty of experience in the field. While entry-level jobs in the HVAC industry may not pay as much as other entry-level positions in construction, the route to get there is certainly one of the fastest. In fact, you can learn how to become an HVAC tech in under a year.
To give you a better idea, below we’ve outlined everything you need to know about becoming an HVAC technician, and the different paths you can take to getting that first job.
What is an HVAC tech?
HVAC technicians are trained to install, repair, and replace all the different forms of HVAC systems. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Sometimes the acronym is abbreviated as HVAC/R to include refrigeration systems.
HVAC technicians can work as part of a contractor’s team, or work on their own independently. As their careers progress, it is common for HVAC technicians to specialize in a certain system. For example, a technician might specialize in repairing heating and ventilation as opposed to air conditioning or refrigeration systems.
What it takes to be an HVAC tech
There are certain skills and personality types that are good fits when trying to pursue a career as an HVAC technician. Strong candidates are detail-oriented, have knowledge of mechanical skills, and are physically fit in order to handle working with large equipment.
Technicians also need to be reliable, and have to be able to explain HVAC systems to customers in the case the customer is unfamiliar with the repairs they need. Lastly, HVAC technicians who mainly work to fix repairs have to be able to sell their services and have the ability to convince their customers that their repairs are necessary.
Here’s How to become an HVAC tech in under one year:
1) Earn a high school diploma
The first step to becoming an HVAC technician is to obtain a high school diploma or GED. Your coursework should have an emphasis in classes like chemistry, physics, math, and other physical sciences. More competitive candidates coming out of high school will have volunteer experience assisting an HVAC tech.
2) Complete an accredited HVAC program
If you are trying to go for the one-year career path, you will have to find one of the shorter programs, which can be as little as a few months. Coursework can feature energy management, ductwork and piping systems, load calculations, industry code standards, refrigeration, HVAC system design, and air quality and conditioning.
Not only will you learn theory and practice in the classroom, but you could also get the chance to get hands-on training with a professional technician. You can usually find these programs at technical or trade schools. Two programs you can check into for accreditation are HVAC Excellence and Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).
3) Get licensed
After you earn your certificate, you will have to see if the state you want to work in requires getting an HVAC license before you can begin actual work in the field. The process of getting the license usually involves passing a state-administered exam. However, not all states enforce getting a license, so you may be able to skip this step.
4) Get your EPA certification
If you plan on handling refrigeration equipment, you will have to pass a written exam administered by the U.S. EPA.
5) Get the job
Once you gain your certificate and pass all necessary federal and state exams, you can get hired into the field with an entry-level job. Make sure the accredited HVAC program you get into can provide you with this opportunity.
If you want to take a more gradual approach to enter the workforce, there are other routes in learning how to become an HVAC tech. For one, your education path can be longer. Candidates with stronger resumes will have an associates or bachelor’s degree in a related field. After your schooling, you can also gain experience through obtaining an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are typically paid and can last anywhere from three to five years. Your pay will depend on where you work, your level of experience, and the employer.
While the career path to getting an entry-level job as an HVAC tech can be faster than most, there are lots of different certifications and licenses involved in order to get there. If you want to learn how to become an HVAC tech, it’s important to remember that a one-year career path is possible, but having more education and experience will advance you further in the long run.
Be sure to look into gaining more professional certifications as well, as this will be more attractive to employers, and increase your chances of earning a higher income.