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How to Become an HVAC Tech

This guide provides a broad, three-step overview on becoming an HVAC tech. HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) technicians are responsible for understanding all aspects of ventilation, heating, cooling, refrigeration and energy efficiency systems in order to perform both installation and regular maintenance. Part engineer, part mechanic, HVAC technicians perform a unique service that cannot be easily replicated by untrained individuals.

With the development of new and more intricate HVAC systems and a recent rise in new construction, the demand for skilled HVAC technicians is expected to rapidly increase over the next decade.

Follow the steps below to learn how to become an HVAC tech.

1. Enroll in an HVAC Training Program

The first step in joining the HVAC field is to receive education and training by exploring accredited HVAC schools. Recent technological advances have changed the HVAC industry somewhat and raised the expectations of employers. Modern contractors prefer to hire HVAC technicians who have completed at least some level of formal training. Fortunately, many vocational schools and community colleges offer degree programs and certificates for students seeking formal education in the HVAC industry.

Most HVAC schools cover course subjects such as:

  • Math
  • Mechanical Drawing
  • Applied Chemistry
  • Electronics
  • Blueprint Reading
  • Computer Applications

More specific classes can include:

  • Temperature Theory
  • Temperature Control
  • Equipment Design
  • Construction
  • Installation

Graduating from a formal program is the best way to acquire the background knowledge and hands-on skills needed to perform as an HVAC technician.

2. Seek an HVAC Apprenticeship

The next step in learning how to become an HVAC tech is to receive training through an apprenticeship. Apprenticeship programs are found through different organizations in the HVAC industry, such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America or the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association.

Apprenticeships usually last 3 to 5 years and include a combination of instruction and paid on-the-job training. An apprenticeship is a great way to learn the ins and outs of the career by applying classroom learning to real-world work environments.

Subjects students might develop during an apprenticeship might include:

  • Safety Practices
  • Blueprint Reading
  • Design of Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Systems
  • Regulations and Laws Governing HVAC Systems

3. Obtain an HVAC Certification

Pursuing HVAC certification is an optional final step to receiving an HVAC education. HVAC technicians do not need to be certified to begin working, but becoming certified demonstrates a high standard of education and mastery of the profession. HVAC technicians who become certified often are awarded more lucrative contracts than those who are not.

There are currently several organizations that offer certification for HVAC technicians including North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

NATE offers national certification in HVAC services and installation for those seeking to learn how to become an HVAC tech. The EPA offers 4 levels of certification to HVAC technicians, ranging from small appliances to low-pressure appliances. The prerequisites for certification vary, but usually include a minimum amount of work experience and passage of an exam covering common HVAC subjects.

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