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AC Technician: Job Duties & Career Information

AC technicians service air conditioning units in residential buildings. Research the educational and skill requirements needed to become an AC technician, as well as the job description and employment and salary outlook. Read on to decide if this career is right for you.

Career Definition for an AC Technician

AC technicians, also called air conditioning mechanics and installers, specialize in the installation, maintenance or repair of air conditioning units in homes. Although technicians tend to specialize in one of the two areas, they are trained to be able to both install and perform maintenance/repairs on AC units. Installers place equipment, as well as connect water supply lines, air pumps, wiring and controls. Maintenance and repair technicians keep systems operating efficiently by checking equipment and looking for leaks; they make repairs using hand and power tools, a variety of measurement gauges and acetylene torches.

Education Secondary or post-secondary training program, formal apprenticeships encouraged
Certification Certification is required of technicians handle refrigerants; all other certifications are optional
Job Skills Physical strength and agility, customer service, problem solving, attention to detail
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $45,110 (all heating, air conditioning and refrigeration installers and mechanics)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% ( heating, air conditioning and refrigeration installers and mechanics)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

While some AC technicians learn the trade on the job, employers usually require the completion of a secondary or post-secondary school training program in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration. The completion of a formal apprenticeship in the field (which typically lasts 3-5 years) is advantageous in securing a job. Training programs may take 6 months to 2 years to complete, and the curriculum includes courses that cover temperature control theory, equipment design and electronics. Additional courses include blueprint reading, shop math, mechanical drawing, chemistry, applied physics and electronics.

Licensing Requirements

Some state and local governments require AC technicians to be licensed and/or certified. A number of institutions provide certification exams to test the skills of an individual. The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute offers the Industry Competency Exam. Employment Ready certifications and the H.E.A.T (Heating-Electrical-Air Conditioning Technology) exam are all offered by HVAC (Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning) Excellence. Additionally, both the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute and the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society provide certification exams.

Required Skills

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that AC technicians must possess the following traits:

  • Strength, agility and manual dexterity
  • Ability to tolerate working indoors or outdoors in a variety of temperatures and weather conditions
  • Courtesy and tact in dealing with sometimes aggravated customers
  • Customer service skills
  • Detail oriented and problem solving personality

Employment and Salary Outlook

The BLS noted that opportunities for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration installers and mechanics should be excellent in the coming years. The field was predicted to increase 14% between 2014 and 2024, which was significantly faster than average. As of May 2015, median annual earnings were $45,110 for these installers and mechanics, per the BLS. Employer-paid benefits often include uniforms, tools, vans, pension plans and health insurance.

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