Because HVAC systems are increasingly complex, employers generally prefer applicants with technical training or those who have completed a formal apprenticeship. Some jurisdictions require technicians to be licensed.
A growing number of HVAC technicians receive training from technical and trade schools or community colleges that offer programs in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. These programs generally last six months to two years and can lead to a certificate or an associate’s degree. High school students interested in becoming HVAC technicians should take courses in shop, math, and physics. Some knowledge of plumbing or electrical work and a basic understanding of electronics can be helpful. Other HVAC technicians learn their trade on the job, although this is becoming much less common. Informally trained technicians usually begin by assisting experienced technicians with basic tasks, such as insulating refrigerant lines or cleaning furnaces. In time, they move on to more difficult tasks, including cutting and soldering pipes or checking electrical circuits. Many technicians receive their training through a formal apprenticeship. Applicants for apprenticeships must have a high school diploma or general equivalency degree (GED). Math and reading skills are essential. Apprenticeship programs normally last three to five years, and combine paid on-the-job training with technical instruction. Over the course of the apprenticeship, technicians become familiar with subjects such as safety practices, blueprint reading, and how to use tools.
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers—often referred to as HVAC technicians—work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the air quality in many types of buildings. They mostly work in residential homes, schools, hospitals, office buildings, or factories. Their worksites may be very hot or cold because the heating and cooling system they must repair is broken. Working in cramped spaces is common.