Should I Become A Cooling Contractor?
Cooling contractors are also referred to as heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians, or HVACR technicians. The main duties for these professionals are to install, maintain and repair air conditioning, refrigeration or heating units for residential and commercial use. These jobs may be physically demanding as the work is sometimes outdoors or in cramped spaces. HVACR technicians may work in all types of weather, and they must sometimes deal with refrigerant gasses regulated by the Environment Protection Agency.
There are also fairly strict requirements for HVACR technicians, as most states require HVACR licensure, and the EPA requires passage of a refrigerant-handling exam. Salary potential varies by industry, but as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, the average yearly salary for these workers was $47,380 as of May 2015. Now, let's walk through the steps toward becoming a cooling contractor.
Step 1: Complete an Apprenticeship Program
Some form of postsecondary training is generally necessary for a career in cooling, whether it's a certificate or degree program or apprenticeship. Many technical schools and community colleges offer HVACR technology certificate and associate's degree programs, which teach students to install, maintain and repair cooling and other HVACR equipment. Apprenticeships are available through technical colleges and local chapters of professional associations, such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and the Associated Builders and Contractors. Such apprenticeships typically take 3-5 years to complete and provide classroom and on-the-job training.
During training, aspiring cooling contractors may consider taking business and law courses. In some states, contractor licensing exams may test your knowledge of business and law and so courses in these topics may prove beneficial.
Step 2: Earn Licensure and EPA Certification
Many states require technicians to be licensed. Licensure requirements generally include a combination of work experience and postsecondary training in addition to passage of the state licensing exam. Additionally, the federal government requires that all contractors who work with refrigerants pass an EPA certification exam specific to the type of equipment they use. This includes the high and low pressure refrigerants used by all HVACR technicians.
Step 3: Obtain a Job as a Cooling Contractor
Many types of employers hire trained HVACR technicians, including plumbing and heating installers, retailers and construction and building firms. Entry-level cooling contractors may begin by servicing cooling equipment, repairing pipes and testing electrical circuits. As new hires gain experience, they may advance to more technically challenging jobs, such as inspecting cooling systems and reassembling equipment.
Step 4: Advance Your Career With Certification
In addition to training and experience, professional certification is an effective way you advance your career as a cooling contractor. Some HVACR industry organizations offer certification programs in a particular area of work or type of equipment. The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute and the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society offer certifications for experienced HVACR technicians. Gaining these certifications may increase you value as an employee and status as a contractor and can open the door to more opportunities.
Employment as a cooling contractor or HVACR technician generally requires postsecondary training, HVACR licensure and EPA certification.