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Refrigeration & Cooling Technician: Job Duties & Career Requirements

Refrigeration and cooling technicians install and repair air conditioning and refrigeration systems in restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. Read on to get information about education, training, salary and career prospects to see if this job is right for you.

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Career Definition for a Refrigeration and Cooling Technician

Refrigeration and cooling techs follow blueprints and technical instructions to check for leaks, charge systems with coolants, and program system controls. They also follow strict safety regulations due to the highly dangerous nature of the chemical refrigerants they work with. Some technicians may also work with heating systems.

Education Technical programs and apprenticeships available
License Certification granted through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Job Skills Planning, reading comprehension, safety orientation, physical fitness, mechanical aptitude
Median Salary (2015) $45,110* (for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers)
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14%* (for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

A career as a refrigeration and cooling technician often requires either graduation from a 2-year technical program or a 3- to 5-year apprenticeship. In some cases, aspiring refrigeration and cooling technicians can get into the field solely through on-the-job training.

Required Licensing

Refrigeration and cooling technicians also must be certified by an EPA-approved organization in the proper handling of chemical refrigerants. There are three levels of certification, and each requires successful completion of a written exam. Depending on where they work, technicians might also need to earn a state or local license.

Required Skills

Refrigeration and cooling technicians must have excellent planning and reading comprehension skills to install complex systems. They also must be in good physical shape, possess solid mechanical aptitude, and be safety oriented.

Career and Economic Outlook

Environmental concerns and new regulations are creating rapidly expanding opportunities for refrigeration and cooling technicians since many old systems are being replaced by more environmentally friendly models. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), (www.bls.gov) predicts that the number of jobs for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers will increase by 14%, a faster-than-average growth rate, between 2014 and 2024, with most jobs being created in fast-growing cities. According to the BLS, the median salary for technicians in this field was $45,110 in 2015.

Alternate Career Options

Think about these other career choices in installation and repairs:

Electrician

Electricians are responsible for the installation, maintenance, and repair of electrical wiring, fixtures, circuits, and related parts, according to National Electric Code standards, state and local regulations, and construction blueprints. Some electricians may specialize in residential work. Aspiring electricians must have a high school diploma and complete either vocational training or an apprenticeship. State licensing requirements are common. Electricians are projected to see job growth of 14% from 2014-2024, per the BLS. The median pay for electricians, according to the BLS, was $51,880 in 2015.

Plumber

Plumbers have a role similar to that of electricians - they install, maintain, and repair the pipes that carry liquids and gases for business, industrial and residential structures. Working according to blueprints and building codes, plumbers connect a building's plumbing to outside water and sewer lines; they also set up smaller water and drainage lines such as for bathrooms and kitchens, and they identify and repair plumbing problems. Plumbers need to have a high school diploma. They usually complete an apprenticeship, although vocational training is also an option. Plumbers are usually required to earn a state or local license once they've acquired enough experience. The BLS predicts that jobs for plumbers will increase 12% from 2014-2024. The agency also reports that plumbers earned a median salary of $50,620 in 2015.

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