Residential HVAC Technician: Job Description & Requirements

A residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician requires some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and apprenticeship requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

HVAC technicians work on heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration systems. A vocational school program will offer the training needed to become a residential HVAC technician. Those who handle refrigerants must also be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Essential Information

Residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians install and troubleshoot home building systems that are used to control internal temperature and air circulation. These professionals usually complete a postsecondary educational program through a junior college or a professional apprenticeship to learn the necessary skills.

Required Education Community college or vocational school program
Other Requirements Professional apprenticeship; licensure or certification required in some states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers*
Median Salary (2015) $45,110 for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for an HVAC Technician

Residential HVAC technicians install and repair home heating and air quality systems, as well as refrigeration systems (this is why the profession is also often referred to as HVACR). They might specialize in installation or repair, certain types of systems or equipment. Additionally, residential HVAC technicians may be responsible for selling maintenance contracts to customers.

Prior to installing an HVAC system, technicians review specifications and explain to clients the varying product options. Once an agreement has been reached, they set up the system, which can include installing pumps and air ducts. Residential HVAC technicians may periodically return to check up on the system and perform any preventative maintenance, as well as troubleshoot system issues as they arise; they adjust system settings and conduct performance tests using specialized tools.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

Data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that in 2015, HVAC technicians made a median annual salary of $45,110. At that time, building equipment contractors employed most of these workers, though information services represented the field's highest-paying industry. The BLS predicts a 14% job growth rate for HVAC professionals between 2014 and 2024.

Job Requirements for an HVAC Technician

According to the BLS, employers often give preference to applicants who have completed formal HVAC training either through an academic program or apprenticeship ( Licensure and certification are also sometimes required.

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HVAC programs offered at technical schools can take 6-24 months to complete and typically prepare students to apply learned skills to residential and light commercial systems. Classes in electrical and gas systems, temperature control, troubleshooting methods and communication practices are usually included. Those who complete these programs generally receive either a certificate or an associate's degree.

Aspiring residential HVAC technicians may also consider undertaking an apprenticeship, which can range from around 3-5 years, offered by such institutions as local unions or community colleges. Apprentices take courses taught by experienced journeypersons. Apprentices also gain on-the-job training, some of which may be paid, to supplement their classroom education.

Licensure and Certification

Some states require that HVAC technicians be licensed. Although licensing requirements vary greatly, completion of an exam is customary. Some states may also mandate that applicants have completed an apprenticeship program or a certain number of years of work experience.

Additionally, HVAC technicians who handle refrigerants must be specifically certified to do so through the Environmental Protection Agency. One may pursue certification to service small, low-pressure or high-pressure appliances by taking an examination. The exams are administered through designated governmental and educational institutions or industry organizations, and they cover topics such as leakage identification, allowable annual leak rates and proper disposal of appliances. Once earned, the credential doesn't expire.

The job growth projected for HVAC technicians is expected to be much faster than average from 2014-2024 when compared to all occupations. Applicants who complete postsecondary training programs and an apprenticeship should be able to compete effectively for these jobs, which occasionally require licensure for techs who deal with refrigerants.

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