There are millions of people living in the United States that would love to improve their living conditions. There is truly a wealth of possibilities, but many people overlook Blue Collar jobs, such as becoming an HVAC tech. This is truly a mistake.
Heating and air conditioning technicians are in high demand and these career positions come with good pay and decent benefits. In order to become a fully certified HVAC technician, you’ll need to meet a few qualifications and jump through a few hoops. It will be necessary to attend vocational school. You can couple this with an HVAC apprenticeship to speed things along and learn more about the trade.
What Is HVAC Apprenticeship?
This type of apprenticeship program is specifically designed for those that want to become heating ventilation and air conditioning experts in the future. An apprenticeship is truly a unique and very rewarding experience, which will give you the ability to get hands-on training, while still in HVAC school.
It is possible to find apprenticeship opportunities with unions or non-unionized companies. An apprenticeship can be thoroughly beneficial, because it’ll give the aspiring HVAC tech the opportunity to learn the profession from an expert, while also gaining experience.
These are things that aren’t usually available in a classroom.
HVAC Technician Job Duties
An HVAC or heating, ventilation, air conditioning technician is skilled in installation, repairs, and maintenance. After graduating from tech school, the professional will seek employment with climate control companies or set out on their own and work as an independent contractor.
While, some technicians will mainly work in the residential sector, others will work in both residential and commercial sectors. When installing a new system, the technician is responsible for installing new ductwork and an HVAC unit, with electrical wiring.
HVAC technicians must follow the building codes, regarding new installations. Most companies will not expect their technicians to do both installations and repair services. Instead, they often hire the technician to perform either installation or repair service, but if they have done time they may be expected to assist.
All technicians are responsible for maintaining each and every HVAC unit sold to the public. They will often schedule bi-annual appointments for replacing filters and ductwork cleaning.
HVAC units are continuously changing, thanks to new technology and design. Refresher training courses are necessary to introduce technicians to new products and regulations.
Why Become An HVAC Tech?
There is truly an abundance of reasons to want to become a full-fledged HVAC technician. Such a position will give you the ability to acquire a good job. And, the demand for heating and cooling experts will never diminish, so there is plenty of job stability.
At the same time, these jobs generally come with comprehensive benefits, including health insurance and access to a 401K. Finally, there is always room to grow as an HVAC tech. With additional experience, you could move up the ladder. Or, you may even be able to start your own repair business in the future.
Who Is Qualified For An Apprenticeship?
Some apprenticeships can be joined with little to no experience. Some media companies and radio stations will offer apprenticeship opportunities to students. These are normally filled by those that have no experience whatsoever.
This is not the case with an HVAC apprenticeship. The specific requirements will vary substantially from one HVAC company to the next. However, the mass majority will require potential participants to have some degree of heating and air training. A few may accept apprentices, who have no training, but this is extremely rare.
Although schooling can provide you with some knowledge of HVAC units and their inner workings, it is impossible to supplement hands-on experience. When attempting to apply for an HVAC job, you will find out very quickly that experience and on-the-job training are always pertinent.
You’ll have a terribly difficult time attempt to acquire an HVAC job, unless you’ve had a year or two of experience in the field. This is why becoming an apprentice is nearly a necessity. HVAC techs are very similar to doctors in this situation. Neither will go immediately from the classroom to the workforce.
Both require experience, skill, and precision. Therefore, working under a profession in the form of an apprenticeship is recommended, until you’re prepared to venture out on your own.
Finding Apprenticeship Opportunities
There are several different ways to find HVAC apprenticeship opportunities. First and foremost, you may want to approach local heating and cooling companies directly. Since these groups are focused solely on making an income, it may be difficult to find an opening.
Nonetheless, someone out there may be willing to give you an opportunity. When taking this course, you will need to remain patient and persistent. Be sure to have a copy of your resume on hand, because the company will want to analyze it to determine whether or not you’re up for the task.
If you complete an apprenticeship with a local HVAC company, you may very well be able to transition to a paid position, once the apprenticeship has concluded. You can also find apprenticeship opportunities through local unions.
The majority of unions will have in-house apprenticeship programs, which can train you for various positions, including HVAC. Some unions will also offer in-house schooling opportunities, so they’ll be able to help you kill two birds with a single stone. When attempting to become an apprentice, you will need to meet several requirements and will need a handful of documents.
- Be at least 18-years or older
- Must be a high school graduate or have a GED
- Have a valid driver’s license and social security card
- Should have a reliable form of transportation
- Be willing to take an aptitude test
- Should be physically fit enough to perform some strenuous tasks
- Be willing to take a drug trust
If you meet all of these requirements, you too can become an HVAC apprentice and can begin working your way to betterment. Those that work with unions may be required to pay union dues, when they begin generating a revenue. The good news is that union dues are minute and barely noticeable!
HVAC Education Requirements and Areas of Specializations
HVAC – Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning is the system used in providing heating and cooling services to homes and buildings. HVAC systems is the term for the required industry standard for providing these services (heating and cooling) when constructing new buildings. Sometimes, refrigeration is added to this acronym to make it HVACR or HVAC&R.
The HVAC industry is one of the few industries that are not yet saturated. In fact, there is the need to meet up with the growing demands for HVAC technicians and engineers. With the proper certifications, you can earn an attractive salary. You will also enjoy good working conditions if you follow this career path.
To be certified, you must have received enough training to make you perform installation and repair works within a state. This article will cover the education requirements needed to become an HVAC technician. You should note that requirements may vary between states.
HVAC EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS
The different levels in this field that need different levels of education. You can move from one level to another as you gain more knowledge and education.
HVAC TECHNICIANS: The lowest level of education required of an HVAC technician is a high school diploma or GED. The reason is that math and reading skills are important for you to be effective in this job. Having a diploma, however, does not guarantee you a job as a technician.
You need to have more training in the form of a certificate. You can get this from an accredited career training program in HVAC technology or technical academy. While training as an HVAC technician, you will cover a lot of topics. They include safety, system design and installation, the fundamentals of electricity, and plumbing.
Others are ducts and piping, solid fuel and oil boilers, furnaces, hydraulics, and worksite safety. After getting your HVAC certificate, you may need to be mentored for some time by an experienced technician to prove yourself.
If you wish to specialize in refrigeration services, you need other certifications. The Environmental Protection Agency is in charge of this type of certifications. You can also opt for the combined certification.
EPA Type I Certification: This is all you need if what you want to do is to service small appliances. During the course, you cover topics like the definition of a small appliance (a small window AC unit containing less than 5kg of gas).
You will also learn:
- How to use appropriate equipment for system evacuation
- Gas recovery techniques for systems with or without working compressor
- Safety considerations in handling refrigerants.
EPA Type II Certification: This is what you need to be able to service high-pressure systems. You will cover:
- How to detect leaks in high-pressure systems
- The need for leak test before repair
- Leak repair requirements for systems containing over 50 pounds of refrigerant
- Safety and how to use equipment safely
- Recovery techniques and good practice
- Understanding high-pressure refrigeration systems and gases
EPA Type III Certification: This teaches you how to service low-pressure systems. Topics to cover include detecting leaks in low-pressure systems, safety, recovery techniques and good practice, etc.
Universal EPA Certificate: To get this certification, you will cover all the topics in type I, II, and III. With this, you will be able to work on all types of system. You will also be able to work in any state in the United States with it. All you need to do is to meet the relevant state licensing requirement as needed.
If you don’t have an HVAC certificate, you need to undergo an apprenticeship with an experienced HVAC technician or engineer. Trade organizations have many members willing to take you under their wings and train you in becoming an HVAC technician. The Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, Air-Conditioning Contractors of America, and the National Association of Home Builders are examples of such.
The apprenticeship will expose to real-life situations. You will learn based on practicals and in the classroom. This may take between 3-5 years. Many people find apprenticeship quite attractive for two reasons. The first is that you will earn a paycheck while learning your skill. The other is that employers prefer to hire apprenticeship graduates as they don’t need to be supervised or mentored to deliver.
HVAC ENGINEERS: To be an HVAC engineer, you need at least a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical or Electrical engineering. You may also be required to have a Masters. As an engineer, you will most likely work in the research, design, and development of new HVAC systems.
You may also work in a supervisory role for the technicians. This will also give you the opportunity to gain knowledge through hands-on job shadowing. If you are business-minded, you may decide to work for yourself and become an HVAC contractor.
HVAC CONTRACTORS: As a contractor, you have to be licensed in residential, commercial, and residential/commercial practices as the case may be. For each classification, you need to pass a two-part exam relevant to your focus area.
If you are a residential HVAC contractor, you have to sit for the C-39 exam.
If you are a commercial contractor you sit for the K-39 exam. The L-39 exam is for the combination of residential/commercial contractor.
These tests seek to test your knowledge of business management. They will also test what you know about the practices related to your chosen area. To take any of these tests, you must have at least 4 years of relevant experience and pay a bond required by the state. The fee you pay is based on what they expect you to earn as revenue in a year. After you are successful in the exam, you get license for two years.
HVAC CONTROL SYSTEMS: To work in HVAC control systems, you need a wide range of knowledge. It may cover training in networking, electronics and signaling, ladder logic or block computer programming, fluid dynamics, etc. Most employers would want you to have an associate’s degree in electronics and a Cisco networking certification. You will also need experience in the HVAC field.
Examining The Top HVAC Apprenticeship Programs
Have you ever thought about becoming an HVAC technician? Many have, but only a handful will succeed. To become an HVAC expert requires dedication and patience. You’ll need to apply yourself in the classroom and complete your homework, once the school day has concluded.
Of course, it is true that nothing can fully replicate the hands-on experience. In order to excel as an HVAC tech, you’ll need to get your hands dirty.
In order to do that, you’ll need to get training underneath an expert. The best way to do this is by entering into an apprenticeship. Work experience isn’t optional. In order to acquire any HVAC job, you will need the appropriate schooling and a sufficient amount of experience.
The best way to acquire that experience is by entering into an apprenticeship program. Thankfully, apprenticeships can often be completed alongside the required schooling.
And, it is possible to find apprentice positions with various organizations. The majority will come from local unions, but you might also be able to find opportunities with HVAC companies and independent HVAC techs. Depending on your state of residency, you may be required to complete three to five years as an apprentice, before you’ll be able to get licensed and begin working on your own.
Best HVAC Apprenticeships Program within the country
Air Conditioning Contractors Association Of Central Florida
Florida is full of new construction developments and HVAC technicians are always in high demand.
The ACCACF, Air Conditioning Contractors Association of Central Florida, offers a unique opportunity to get trained properly in just 3 years.
The program is certified by the Florida Bureau of Apprenticeship, so you can rest assured knowing it is worth your time and your effort will be rewarded.
American River College
American River College is a well-known school located in Sacramento, California. This school offers a wide variety of apprenticeship opportunities, including HVAC, Electrical, Ironworker, and Sheet Metal. As an apprentice with American River College, you will learn about heating and cooling systems, sheet metal, and electrical work.
The HVAC apprenticeship program consists of on the job training and classroom instruction. The program can ultimately result in an Associate of Arts degree, if you complete all the general education requirements.
Anne Arundel Community College
If you like working with your hands and looking for opportunities of a lifetime you should consider a HVAC apprenticeship with Anne Arundel Community College. Whether you are new to the field or just looking to upgrade your skills you can’t go wrong with this program.
While attending classes, you learn about theory, maintenance, repair, and installation of HVAC equipment and components. AACC is located in Arnold, Maryland, and works in conjunction with two different HVAC apprenticeship companies.
Independent Electrical Contractors and Associated Builders and Contractors are the two companies. Each company offers a four-year apprenticeship program, which consists of 144 hours of classroom training and 2,000 hours of fieldwork.
Arizona Sheet Metal Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee
While the program does not specifically focus on heating and cooling technician training, HVAC installation and repair is a huge part of this apprenticeship program. Apprentices receive hands-on experience, with classroom instruction.
Residents of California have access to Cal Apprenticeship. This group offers a wide assortment of apprenticeship programs to those that have a GED or high school diploma.
The good news is that there are few other requirements. Previous HVAC training is not needed, in order to qualify for the apprenticeship program.
Visit Cal Apprenticeship portal for more details.
Associated Building And Contractors
ABC, or Associated Builders and Contractors, is an industry trade association with has nearly 21,000 members and 70 chapters. The group also offers HVAC apprenticeships at various facilities throughout the United States.
ABC’s apprenticeship program is recognized and approved by the North American Technician Excellence. Attendees will be required to completed 8,000 hours of training. During their time, they’ll work alongside veteran HVAC professionals.
Delaware County Technical High School
The Delaware County Technical High School is located in Folcroft, Pennsylvania. Aside from offering a variety of classes, the school also provides students with access to an HVAC apprenticeship program.
Participants will be required to attend the school for one year.
After this duration has passed, the student will be shifted over to a local HVAC contractor, where they will finish the remainder of the apprenticeship.
Johnson Controls is well known for producing HVAC equipment. It is believed that the company employs around 170,000 individuals. They also offer HVAC apprenticeships at their facilities, which are located throughout the country.
Applicants only need a GED or a high school diploma and must be willing to work hard. This independent company only accepts apprentices, when there is a need for it. No experience is required.
Lane Community College
Lane Community College offers an abundance of possibilities for those seeking betterment. And, they have put measures in place to make it possible for students to find local apprenticeship spots easily.
The school has set up a unique HVAC apprenticeship program, which is integrated with their current curriculum.
Students, who enroll in the apprenticeship program, will be able to work in the field and earn money as an HVAC apprentice, while earning credits towards an Associates of Applied Science.
Local Union #58
The Local Union #58 is based out of Southeast Colorado. The Union comprises of a variety of different professionals, including those within plumbing, pipefitting, and HVAC.
The union provides training and apprenticeship programs for each of these occupations. Aspiring HVAC techs will need to complete a 5-year course, which includes hands-on training in the field, as well as classroom lessons.
You will be required to attend class sessions two nights each week, until the five-year duration has concluded.
Lanier Technical College
Those residing in Georgia will definitely want to consider enrolling in the HVAC apprenticeship program at the Lanier Technical College.
The facility, which is located in Oakwood, will help you earn a TCC, Technical Certificate of Credit, so you can begin earning money as an HVAC tech.
The school’s NCCER approved curriculum is designed to help you become an HVAC Installer.
Joint Apprentice Training Committee (Local #392 Training Center)
The Local 392 Training Center, which is located in Cincinnati, Ohio, offers a wealth of possibilities for those looking for a better career. The facility offers apprenticeship programs for plumbers, pipefitters, and HVAC technicians.
The apprenticeship program lasts a total of 5 years. At the conclusion, apprentices will have the option of transitioning to a Journeymen spot and begin earning higher wages.
Steamfitters Local 420 Union Association
The Steamfitters Local 420 Union also offers apprenticeship programs for those, who wish to gain HVAC training. The Union, which is based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hosts a Mechanical Equipment Apprenticeship program.
The program touches on specific HVAC-related skills. No prior experience is necessary. The program extends over a period of 5-years. Once completed, you’ll be able to enter the union as a full-fledged member and begin accepting union jobs.
Mechanical Trades Institute
Do you reside in Georgia? If so, you’ll definitely want to check out the Mechanical Trades Institute. In order to become a member of the facility’s HVAC apprenticeship program, you will need at least 2 years of commercial construction experience.
Of course, the institute also accommodates those without any experience whatsoever. If you have no experience, you can enroll in pipefitters or plumbing apprenticeship. After two years, you will be able to apply to enter the HVAC apprenticeship program.
Local Union 25 Plumber and PipeFitters
The Local Union 25 is based out of Rock Island, Illinois. The Union offers a comprehensive HVAC apprenticeship program, which consists of nearly 10,000 hours of on-the-job training. Those that enroll in this apprenticeship will also be required to attend 1,250 hours of lessons in a classroom.
These lessons are taught by certified HVAC journeymen. The apprenticeship is registered with the Bureau of Apprenticeship Training and the United States Department of Labor. Once you’ve completed the training, you will receive journeyman status.
Minneapolis Pipefitters Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee
The Minneapolis Pipefitters Joint Apprentice Training Committee is a part of the Local Union #539. The group offers apprenticeship training programs for pipefitters and HVAC technicians.
While completing the 5-year program, you will also be able to acquire credits towards an Associate Degree.
During the 5-year period, you will also earn a paycheck and union benefits. The Training Committee does not discriminate based on age, sex or race, so everyone is eligible to enroll in the apprenticeship!
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Those that are interested in working as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor will definitely want to check out the apprenticeship program from the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. Participants will need a GED or high school diploma.
You must also complete at least one year of high school Algebra and receive at least a grade of C or higher. The program expands over 7,500 hours and includes 500 hours within the classroom. Participants are also encouraged to attend night classes, which offer safety, CPR, and first aid training.
Pipe Fitters Local Union #211
Apprenticeship programs are very beneficial, because they allow individuals to earn a wage, while receiving hands-on training and class instruction. This is a 5-year Welding, Pipefitter, and HVAC Service Apprenticeship. Apprentices are working under union contract protection, with healthcare insurance, pension, and welfare benefits.
You must attend two-night classes each week throughout the program. After completion of the program, you will be a licensed Journeyman, with the opportunity to obtain top-scale pay and rewarding career.
Sheet Metal Worker International Association Local #206
The Sheet Metal Worker International Association #206 offers HVAC Journeyman apprenticeship programs. This 5-year program consists of 8,000 hours of on the job training, with 960 hours of classroom instruction. All applicants that are accepted into the program will need to undergo drug testing.
Apprentice will receive instruction on blueprint reading, drafting, welding, computer-aided drafting, HVAC service work, and green technologies. Safety training, CPR, and fall protection is provided and required for all apprentices.
Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 17
The Sheet Metal Workers International Association is located in Boston, Massachusetts. The program offers a once in a lifetime apprenticeship opportunity that will result in a rewarding career, with top scale pay.
If you choose to take on this apprenticeship you can learn a wide variety of sheet metal work including HVAC service.
However, before you can enter the program you must meet several requirements. You will be required to be over the age of 18 and submit three letters of recommendation. After you have met these requirements, you could be presented with the opportunity of a lifetime.
Refrigeration And Air Conditioning Contractors Association
The Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association was established in the Tampa Bay, Florida region. RACCA offers a unique apprenticeship opportunity to anyone that is looking to get into the HVAC field.
The program offers students a 4-year training program that includes on-the-job training, as well as classroom training, during the off-season of September to March.
The program offers two different unique apprenticeship programs, residential/light commercial HVAC installer/service tech, and commercial refrigeration mechanic. While undertaking this program, students will attend classes 2 nights a week while they work full-time for their employer during the day.
UA Local Union No. 21
The UA Local Union No. 21 HVAC apprenticeship program consists of 8,500 hours of on the job training, with 246 hours of classroom instruction. Apprentices are required to attend classes for 7 consecutive weeks each year. All apprentices will earn 32-college credit that can be applied to a postsecondary degree in Construction Supervision.
You must be at least 18 years of age, resident of Putnam, Dutchess, Ulster, or Westchester County, and have a high school diploma to be eligible for this apprenticeship program.
Western Washington Sheet Metal JATC
Many people find it difficult to attend a vocational school for personal or financial reasons. Apprenticeship training is much more suitable because it gives individuals the opportunity to grow and learn while studying an HVAC license.
The Western Washington Sheet Metal is a non-profit apprenticeship-training program. The HVAC Service Tech program is 5-years in length. The apprentice will receive 9,000 hours of on the job training and 200-hours annual classroom instruction.
Choosing A Career In HVAC- A Guide
It is no secret that careers in HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industry are a very lucrative proposition for those of us who are technically strong. With more and more HVAC systems getting installed around the country, the job opportunities in this industry keep increasing.
As the lawmakers keep leaning towards an environment-friendly way of living, new regulations for HVAC operation are constantly thrust on the public and this means a great boost in business for those working in the HVAC industry.
With that being said, the big question on the mind of someone who is eager to enter the HVAC industry is this- what is a more lucrative option? Specializing in a career in HVAC installation or one in HVAC maintenance.
On average, an HVAC technician earns $20.13 per hour with the top experts commanding as much as $44 an hour. Given how financially rewarding this line of work can be, it is even more crucial that you make the correct career choice right from the outset.
It all depends on the state of the economy
Like most everything else, whether or not individuals and businesses buy new HVAC systems depends on the state of the economy. While new and upgraded HVAC systems keep getting launched in the market on a regular basis, people won’t be so excited to spend their hard earned money on buying them if the economy is in a recession.
Since a technician who specializes in HVAC installation depends on the sale of new units to earn his or her bread, their fate is directly related to a booming or a regressive economic state of affairs.
Maintenance work never stops
It doesn’t matter to the maintenance specialist whether the economy is in a good state or not. When it is booming then people are more willing to buy new HVAC systems and with the installation of new systems come the maintenance contracts.
If the economy is in recession, then people are that much keener to keep their old systems working, which once again works in the favor of maintenance workers as there will be much more demand for their services.
As mentioned above, most individuals as well as business-like to hire maintenance workers on a contractual (usually a year-long) basis so that their services can be had at a moment’s notice. This way one could say that maintenance jobs provide a steadier form of income.
Maintenance workers work unusual hours
This is probably the only downside of working in HVAC maintenance. As mentioned above, a client will want to get their HVAC system fixed as soon as there is a problem which means that a maintenance worker can get a call at any time of the day or night.
For installation specialists however, this is not a concern as they can make their own appointments when it comes to the installation of a new unit. But when that unit faces problems, later on, the maintenance guy has to be there at the convenience of the owner and not otherwise.
As we mentioned above, new laws safeguarding the environment are being passed all the time. Since many of them also address the dangers that refrigerants from some of the old HVAC units present to the earth’s atmosphere, there is no dearth of working opportunities for both installation and maintenance specialists.
Careers in the HVAC industry are projected to grow 21% by 2022 and it is undeniable that demand for HVAC technicians will rise in the years to come. Hence, the final specialization you choose depends on the kind of work you want to do and what seems convenient to you in the long run.