What is an HVAC Technician?

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HVAC technicians play an important role in ensuring that we’re all able to live comfortable lives. It’s their responsibility to install, repair, and maintain refrigeration, air conditioning, and heating systems.

Though almost everyone uses the technologies that HVAC technicians work with, few understand the true nature of the job.

Keep reading to learn what an HVAC technician does, why they’re so important, and how you could start a career in this industry. 

An HVAC Technician’s Day 

KEY ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

HVAC technicians may perform a wide variety of tasks during an average day. The specific tasks that someone in this position carries out will depend on the exact nature of their position.

That being said, here are some of the most common daily tasks for an HVAC technician:

  • Perform routine maintenance on HVAC systems
  • Install new HVAC systems
  • Troubleshoot and repair problems with HVAC systems
  • Maintain records of the tasks performed throughout the day
  • Answer customers’ questions about their HVAC systems
  • Read technical documents and blueprints to better understand HVAC systems
  • Drive to and from customers’ houses in-between these tasks

WORK ENVIRONMENT 

An HVAC technician can work in any location that uses an HVAC system. This could include homes, schools, commercial buildings, and hospitals, among other places.

Some HVAC technicians may spend their entire day in a single location, working on a single HVAC system. Others will drive themselves from one client’s location to another and work on multiple HVAC systems throughout the day.

Many HVAC technicians work standard hours, from about 9:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. However, sometimes an individual in this role will have to work outside of those hours when an HVAC emergency comes up.

It’s also important to note that HVAC technicians have one of the highest rates of workforce injuries and illnesses. 

Hazards may include electrical shocks, burns, and muscle strains. That being said, the risk of sustaining these injuries drops significantly if proper safety procedures are used.

AVERAGE SALARY 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for an HVAC technician in the United States is $50,590, or about $24.32 per hour.

However, the amount that you might earn as an HVAC technician could be much higher or lower than this depending on factors such as location and the HVAC niche you work in.

For example, HVAC technicians that work in educational services make $54,260 per year, while those working in plumbing make $49,240 on average.

Similarly, HVAC technicians working in New York can expect to earn $63,080 per year on average, while those working in Florida will only earn an average salary of $45,450 each year.

How to Become an HVAC Technician in California: Career Guide | SJVC

How to Become an HVAC technician 

Most HVAC technicians complete some type of post-secondary training before looking for jobs in the industry. There are a few different options for this and we’ll explore each of them in this section.

EDUCATION 

The first option that you have if you want to become an HVAC technician is to pursue post-secondary education in the field. You can typically do this at a trade school, technical college, or community college.

HVAC technician programs typically take between 6 and 24 months to complete. When you do finish one of these programs, you will often earn either a certification or an associate’s degree.

Once you complete one of these programs, you will be able to begin looking for entry-level HVAC technician positions. However, you will likely need to spend at least a few months working alongside an experienced HVAC technician before your employer trusts you to begin seeing clients on your own.

APPRENTICESHIPS

Another option that you have is to pursue an HVAC technician apprenticeship. These allow you to study the trade while working alongside someone who is an expert in it.

When you first begin an HVAC apprenticeship, the tasks that you complete will usually be quite basic. Over time, you will develop your skills and get to start carrying out more complicated tasks that are a closer approximation of the work that you’ll do as a practicing HVAC technician.

Apprenticeship programs usually take about 3-5 years to complete, which means that they’re often a bigger time commitment than pursuing post-secondary education. However, they also provide those who complete them with more hands-on experience than what they would usually get from completing a certification program.

LICENSES AND CERTIFICATIONS

The EPA requires anyone who works with refrigerants to be certified in the proper handling of them. You’ll usually get this training through either an apprenticeship or the completion of an HVAC degree program. You will also need to pass the EPA’s certification process before you can work as a licensed HVAC technician.

Some states may also require HVAC technicians to hold professional licenses, so it can be a good idea to check the requirements in your state to see what you need to do before finding a job in this field.

SKILLS YOU MAY NEED

Employers that hire HVAC technicians tend to prioritize applicants who have certain skills that will allow them to excel as HVAC technicians.

For example, it can be important for an HVAC technician to have strong customer service skills. That’s because HVAC technicians spend a lot of their time talking to customers and being in their homes.

Additionally, it can be important for HVAC technicians to have excellent mechanical troubleshooting skills. That’s because workers in this role regularly need to find and resolve mechanical problems that aren’t always straightforward.

Other skills that it may benefit HVAC technicians to have include:

  • Time-management
  • Physical strength and stamina
  • Basic math skills
  • Excellent attention to detail

Pros and cons of being an HVAC technician 

YOU’RE UNLIKELY TO FALL INTO A RUT

No two days are ever exactly alike for an HVAC technician. 

Given that you’ll spend your time responding to different types of HVAC problems, for various types of customers, it’s unlikely that you’ll face the exact same situation two days in a row. 

Additionally, instead of sitting behind a desk all day, you’ll usually be on the move. This can help to keep things fresh and make it more difficult to fall into a rut or get bored with your work as an HVAC technician.

YOU USUALLY WON’T NEED TO COMPLETE A 4-YEAR DEGREE

Another great aspect of this career is that you typically won’t have to complete a four-year degree to become an HVAC technician. This means you can typically enter the workforce faster — and begin earning a salary earlier — than you would be able to in a profession that requires a bachelor’s degree.

YOU’RE UNLIKELY TO HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT OUTSOURCING

We live in a world in which many professions are at risk of losing some of their employment opportunities to automation and outsourcing. But this isn’t something that should ever be a problem for HVAC technicians.

That’s because HVAC work requires a real person to be physically present where the HVAC system is. It would be pretty difficult to outsource this job, and current AI technologies are not at the point at which it could be automated. This means that it is likely that there will be a continued need for HVAC technicians in the future. 

YOU MAY NEED TO HAVE TO WORK ODD HOURS AT TIMES

One potential downside of becoming an HVAC technician is that you will sometimes have to respond to emergencies. There’s no way of controlling when these occur so it’s likely that you will need to work odd hours at least sometimes.

Of course, this doesn’t have to be a regular occurrence, but it’s definitely something you should be mindful of before committing to this career path.

THE JOB CAN BE PHYSICALLY DEMANDING

It’s also important to note that HVAC work can be physically demanding. You may need to work in tight, uncomfortable spaces, or outdoors in harsh weather conditions.

However, the frequency of this may depend on where you’re located. For example, if you live in an area with a year-round temperate climate, then working outdoors in harsh weather conditions may never be a problem for you.

YOU MAY SPEND A LOT OF TIME WORKING BY YOURSELF

Many HVAC techs spend the majority of the day on their own, either driving or working individually at a job site. If that’s something that you think would bother you over time, then this may not be the best career choice for you. However, if you enjoy working independently and completing tasks on your own, then a career as a HVAC technician could be a great choice. 

Learn more about HVAC technicians and other industrial jobs with Rock the Trades

Becoming an HVAC technician could be the perfect way for you to break into the industrial sector. If you think that this is the right career path for you, you’re probably going to want to do some more research before committing to it.

That’s why you should download the Rock the Trades app. It’s packed with all the resources you need to help you figure out whether becoming an HVAC technician — or another industrial job — is the right move for your career.So why wait? Take the first step towards your new career by downloading our app today.

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