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Heating, ventilation, air-condition, and refrigeration (HVAC) technicians are responsible for installing, repairing, and performing general maintenance on different indoor climate control systems. HVAC technicians most commonly work in commercial settings, but there are some situations where residents require their services. During the planning staging of a new building, HVAC technicians are always brought in to determine and install the best system. HVAC technicians are in high demand no matter where you live.

How much you make as an HVAC technician greatly varies depending on where you live. On average, technicians make $24 an hour and earn up to $50,000 each year. In larger states, where there are often more commercial properties, technicians may make closer to $75,000 a year. Where you work may also determine what certification you need to be a technician. No matter where you live, you must complete the necessary training and complete the basic EPA certification. Some programs are only 6-weeks long.

HVAC Tech Education Requirements

In order to become an HVAC technician, you must complete a basic training program. This includes a general certificate course, associate or bachelor’s degree program. Which option you choose largely depends on your personal preference. All of the courses cover the basics of what you need to become a technician. This includes HVAC system design, energy management, industry safety standards and regulations, and load calculations. You also learn about air quality and conditioning, managing ductwork and piping systems, and general HVAC theory and practice. Financial assistance is available to those who may need it. 

Community colleges and vocational schools both offer HVAC programs. A certificate program typically takes six months to a year to complete, while earning your degree takes two to four years. If you prefer traditional classroom learning, getting a degree is a better option. Getting a degree also loots better on a resume, and often results in a higher starting wage. Certificates are better if you want to work as soon as possible. If you decide to get a certificate, make sure the course is accredited by either HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). There are programs that offer free courses online. 

HVAC Tech Apprenticeship

While it is not required, many HVAC technicians first work as apprentices to qualified technicians. Apprentices are different from internships. With an apprenticeship, you are considered a full employee. You have the same responsibilities as a technician, but you work alongside a mentor. This is an excellent way to develop real-world experience and also network with HVAC companies. Many apprentices go on to work for the company where they apprenticed, but this is not always the case. Completing an apprenticeship requires 2,000 hours of work and 144 hours of technical education. On average, it takes between three to five years to finish an apprenticeship.

Completing your HVAC Certification

Once you graduate or complete your apprenticeship, the next step to becoming an HVAC technician is getting certified. There are several different types of certification available. Which certification you need depends on your specialization and state requirements. At a minimum, you must complete EPA certification.

There are four different categories of EPA certification, Types 1-3 and universal certification. Each certification test consists of 25 multiple choice questions, which must be completed within 30 minutes. Type 1 focuses on small appliances, including air conditioners, vending machines, and domestic refrigerators. Type 2 is for high-pressure appliances, like heat pumps and air conditions. Type 3 is for low-pressure appliances. Some college programs include the EPA certification as part of the course.

  • Mount San Antonio Community College

Mount San Antonio has an HVAC certificate program as well as an associate degree course in air conditioning and refrigeration technology. All of the courses are accredited by HVAC Excellence and PAHRA. Both of the programs include hands-on training, allowing students to get practical experience with a number of HVAC systems. The certificate program is 31.5 credit hours, while the degree is 61.5 hours.

  • Institute for Business and Technology 

IBT is one of the top colleges for HVAC technicians, focusing much more on working on commercial units than residential ones. In addition to general HVAC lessons, the program includes lessons on electrical theory and controls as well as welding, soldering, and plumbing. The school also prepares students to take the EPA certification exam. The college is located in California, which is one of the most in-demand locations for HVAC technicians.

  • Georgia Piedmont Technical College

GPTC is part of a larger technical college system in Georgia. The school has two separate HVAC programs, one that focuses on residential work and one for commercial jobs. There are four total programs available, two for certificates and two for an associate degree. While the school covers all of the necessary skills to become an HVAC technician, it places a greater emphasis on air conditioning repair and maintenance. 

  • Grand Rapids Community College

Grand Rapids provides certificate and degree courses. The degree program not only covers basic HVAC material, but it includes additional lessons on blueprint reading and design. The credits you earn from your certificate course can also be applied to getting an associate degree at a later date. Both of the courses allow students to work in an HVAC lab, getting practical experience installing systems and performing general maintenance repairs.