AC Technician: Job Duties & Career Information
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.
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.
While some AC technicians learn the trade on the job, employers usually require the completion of a secondary or postsecondary 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 six months to two years to complete, and 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.
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. The Secondary Employment Ready Exam, Secondary Heat Exam and Heat Plus 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.
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 34% between 2010 and 2020, which was significantly faster than average. As of May 2012, median annual earnings were $43,640 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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