AC Technician Education Requirements and Career Overview

Air conditioning technicians require some formal education or training. Learn about the education and job duties as well as licensure and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Air conditioning technicians work with cooling systems and may also be trained in heating and ventilation systems. An understanding of how to dispose of coolants correctly as well as knowledge of specific state and local regulations is necessary for this job. Technicians can be self-employed or work for government or private institutions, among others.

Essential Information

Air conditioning (AC) technicians work with cooling systems to ensure proper installation, maintenance and repair. Becoming an AC technician usually involves completing a heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC-R) degree program and/or an apprenticeship. Certification and licensure are common requirements for working as a professional AC technician.

Required Education Associate's-level HVAC-R program and/or an apprenticeship
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% (for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $45,110 (for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers)

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Requirements for AC Technicians

A high school diploma or GED is required to enroll in a 2-year AC technician program, which may lead to an associate's degree. Students are introduced to topics like refrigeration fundamentals, electrical components, AC system parts, installation, gas heating systems and industrial safety. These training programs also prepare aspiring AC technicians for entry into an apprenticeship. Many times, the credits earned in a 2-year program can be applied toward an apprenticeship. Typically, apprenticeships involve a mixture of classroom and on-the-job training and last from 2-5 years.

Certification Information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires AC technicians to obtain a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) certification for handling refrigerants. Three types of certification options exist, depending on the equipment being worked on. These include small appliances, high-pressure equipment or low-pressure equipment certifications. Becoming certified ensures that AC technicians know how to properly handle and dispose of refrigerator coolants.

Licensing Requirements

Some states require AC technicians to be licensed. Licensure options can vary by level - such as apprentice, journeyman or contractor - or by class, reflecting the type of work a technician is able to perform or the type of equipment he or she can service. AC technicians who work at larger institutions, like public schools, might require a boiler operator or steam engineer license.

Career Overview

AC technicians install, maintain and repair cooling systems. They might also be trained in heating and ventilation systems. Their job requires working with electrical components, motors, compressors and even ductwork. To work as an AC technician requires knowing state and local regulations and safety procedures. AC technicians can be found working as private contractors or for governmental, academic or private institutions.

Employment Outlook

In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median hourly wage for AC technicians (among other heating and refrigeration mechanics) was $21.69, with hourly wages ranging from $13.36 to about $34.47. For the period from 2014-2024, the BLS projects a 14% increase in employment for AC technicians. This increase is in part due to an increase in commercial and residential building stock as well as an increased concern for indoor air quality.

For those wishing to become AC technicians, a program in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration, or an apprenticeship, is necessary. Sometimes both are required. A degree program can take around two years to complete, while an internship may take 2-5 years. Certification is also required by the Environmental Protection Agency, and licensure is required by different states.

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