If you are interested in entering a profession that does not require a college degree but can provide you with a good salary in a growing industry, you should consider becoming a commercial heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) technician. You can complete your training in less than a year, choose from a variety of work settings and if you desire, enter into a management role. The following guide provides you with a detailed overview of how you can enter the HVAC field and the job outlook for the industry.
Schools and Coursework
In general, training programs to become a commercial HVAC technician provide you with the knowledge to install and maintain systems that manage the temperature and air quality in commercial facilities such as office buildings, restaurants, hospitals, airports, schools and factories.
You can obtain your training via technical schools, community colleges, online schools, apprenticeships and training programs offered by HVAC system manufacturers. Some universities also offer HVAC technician certificate programs.
The coursework for commercial HVAC technicians includes a range of technical topics including:
- Electrical controls
- Heating systems
- Refrigeration systems and refrigerant handling
- Automatic controls
- Duct design
- Ozone layer protection
- Building plans and blueprints
- HVAC Maintenance
In addition, you will also take classes in project management and safety. For many programs, the only entrance requirement is that you are an adult with a high school diploma.
After you complete your training, you should be able to identify, install, troubleshoot and maintain typical commercial HVAC systems. However, you will need to earn HVAC certification. A few organizations offer entry-level industry certification for commercial HVAC technicians, including North American Technician Excellence, HVAC Excellence and the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute.
Many states and municipalities also require you to obtain an HVAC license. Licensing requirements vary by state. You may have to pass a state-administered written exam. In addition, some states offer different licensing levels. After you obtain several years of experience, you may be able to apply for a master HVAC technician or mechanic license in your state or city.
In order to maintain valid certification and licensing, you must apply for recertification and satisfy licensing renewal requirements. The recertification and renewal process requires you to complete continuing education classes.
After you gain some on-the-job experience, you can branch out into a specialty such as heat pumps, gas heating systems, boiler operations and oil burning furnaces. Industry organizations offer the specialty exams and study guides to help you prepare.
Some training organizations also offer online courses to help you prepare for the specialty exams. Specialty certificates must also be renewed. Depending on the certificate, you may have to take a competency exam in order to earn renewal.
You can also increase your employability by taking the Environmental Protection Agency's Section 608 technician certification test. Earning Section 608 certification proves that you are knowledgeable about federal laws that pertain to the installation, use and disposal of appliances and HVAC systems that use refrigerant. If not handled properly, some refrigerants can harm the ozone layer.
Businesses will always need the services of HVAC technicians to maintain current units and replace older equipment as the lifespan of a typical climate-control system is 10 to 15 years. As you gain experience you can move into management positions, overseeing teams of technicians, or work in marketing or sales for HVAC manufacturers and contractors.
Jobs in the industry are on the rise and you should have no trouble finding a position with your credentials. In fact, the market for HVAC professionals is expected to grow faster than average compared to other occupations, at least until 2022 according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Furthermore, even if you branch out as an independent contractor, you should enjoy stable employment throughout the year, especially if you specialize in maintenance and repair work.
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