Be a Refrigerator Mechanic: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a refrigerator mechanic. Research the job description and the training requirements and find out how to start a career in this field.

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Should I Become a Refrigerator Mechanic?

Refrigerator mechanics install, repair and work with temperature control, ventilation and refrigeration devices. They may specialize in commercial refrigeration and must be well-versed in the variety of tools needed to work on refrigeration systems. Although this may be a good fit for those who enjoy working with their hands on mechanical devices, the hours can be long and irregular, especially during peak energy seasons. This occupation also has a high rate of injury related to dealing with heavy equipment, burns and electrical shocks. Special safety equipment is needed for working with refrigerants. These mechanics are also known as HVAC-R technicians.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Some postsecondary training (usually a certificate program)
Degree Field Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration
Licensure and Certification Some states require licensure; mechanics handling refrigerants need to be certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; voluntary certification is also available
Training Apprenticeship programs can last from three to five years
Key Skills Customer service skills, detail oriented, knowledge of refrigeration systems, able to use a variety of tools, possess dexterity and physical strength
Salary $44,630 per year (Median salary from May, 2014 for heating, air conditioning, refrigeration mechanics and installers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Enroll in a Postsecondary Refrigeration Program

Education for this career can be obtained at technical schools, community colleges or trade schools. Refrigeration studies are often part of a heating, ventilation and air conditioning program and can last anywhere from six months to two years. These programs can give students a basic understanding of the tools and techniques used in refrigeration installation and repair. Students learn how to design, install and service refrigeration systems. Generally, these programs lead to a certificate or diploma, although some schools may offer training that leads to an associate's degree.

Success Tip:

  • Choose an accredited education program. Schools offering these programs should be accredited by a professional association. Organizations that approve refrigeration programs include the National Center for Construction Education and Research, HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Accreditation.

Step 2: Complete an Apprenticeship

Refrigerator mechanics can seek out apprenticeship programs before, during or after completing an educational program. Formal postsecondary education is not necessarily required to begin an apprenticeship, but anyone pursuing an apprenticeship should have a high school diploma and basic math and reading skills.

Apprenticeship programs can be found through a college's career service center or by contacting local businesses involved in refrigerator repair. Formal apprenticeship programs can last anywhere from three to five years. During this time, an apprentice receives paid job training and classroom instruction. By working with a refrigeration professional, students can learn the safety precautions and repair procedures required to work on refrigerators.

Step 3: Obtain a State License

While licensure is not required for this occupation in every state, some states call for refrigerator mechanics to be licensed before they can start working. In order to become licensed, applicants must pass an exam that tests their knowledge of state and local codes. The amount of experience required to qualify for licensure widely varies between states; some states may require four years of experience, while others may only require that the applicant be skilled in working on refrigerator systems.

Step 4: Become Certified

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all HVAC-R technicians who work with or purchase refrigerants to become certified in refrigerant handling, which consists of a written exam that covers the type of refrigerant the mechanic will be working with. Students may be able to acquire the necessary preparation for the EPA exams through their postsecondary training program.

Although advanced certifications are not a requirement for this occupation, many employers prefer refrigerator mechanics who have certifications. Certifications can lead to advancement opportunities and more job prospects, because they can demonstrate an applicant's work proficiency and level of experience. For example, HVAC Excellence offers the Light Commercial Refrigeration certification, and the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (ACHRI) awards the Reclaimed Refrigerant designation. Typically, refrigerator mechanics need a certain amount of experience before they can take certification exams, but the exact amount depends on the particular credential being pursued.

Success Tip:

  • Explore certification options. Refrigerator mechanics should explore what certifications exist, as each one is designed for a particular type of refrigerator mechanic. For example, the Commercial Refrigerated Display Merchandisers and Storage Cabinets certification from ACHRI is meant for those who specialize in commercial refrigeration, whereas the Transport Refrigeration designation offered by ACHRI is intended for those who specialize in working on refrigerated trucks.
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