- What Is Required to Get an HVAC License?
- What Does an HVAC Technician/License Do?
- HVAC License Holder Salaries and Job Growth
- Steps to Become an HVAC License Holder
- Additional certification/licensing regulations
- Types of HVAC Licenses/Certifications
- HVAC License Holder Career Advancement
- Should You Obtain an HVAC License?
What Is Required to Get an HVAC License?
The increasingly complex world of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems has prompted employers to look for specialized individuals who are qualified to handle these units. Competent HVAC technicians and engineers are therefore hired by many organizations to take care of their heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.
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Many employers and even states have now made it mandatory for HVAC technicians to be licensed or certified before they can work in the field. This guide will provide basic information about the HVAC industry, entry requirements for a career as an HVAC technician, growth prospects in the sector and the steps needed to become a licensed/certified HVAC technician.
What Does an HVAC Technician/License Do?
HVAC technicians, also known as HVACR (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration) technicians, deal with different types of heating, cooling and ventilation systems set up in buildings. Optimum air quality and pleasant temperature in a building is largely dependent on these systems running smoothly.
As HVAC systems become more sophisticated, with employers focusing on greater energy efficiency, the role of licensed HVAC technicians continues to grow in importance. Following are some of their major duties, as outlined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Setting up, cleaning and taking proper care of HVAC systems
- Setting up all the wiring and electronic components of an HVAC system
- Testing and inspecting HVAC systems along with all components for optimum performance
- Bringing system malfunctions into the notice of customers/employers and discussing effective solutions with them
- Replace or repair any defective and worn out parts of an HVAC system
- Adopt maintenance practices and procedures that will help improve system performance
- Document and maintain complete records of all the work done on an HVAC system
Depending on the type of systems that they have to work on, many HVAC technicians may prefer to specialize in one or multiple areas of HVAC. These include radiant heating systems, solar panels, HVAC system testing and balancing, etc.
Offices, hospitals, schools, factories and homes are some of the places where the services of HVAC technicians are needed. They primarily work indoors; however, there are some aspects of the job that require HVAC technicians to work outdoors.
In general, the job of an HVAC technician is quite labor-intensive and they often have to work in small spaces which can become uncomfortable. The majority of licensed HVAC technicians are employed full-time. At times, they also have to work in the evenings and on weekends depending upon the nature of work.
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HVAC License Holder Salaries and Job Growth
In 2018, the median annual wage for an HVAC technician was $47,610, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This translates to an hourly wage of $22.89 an hour. The demand for HVAC technicians, especially those who are licensed/certified, will increase in the future.
As you obtain your license and gain more experience in the field, your chances of enjoying a successful and financially rewarding career will enhance quite significantly.
Steps to Become an HVAC License Holder:
In order to become an HVAC license holder, you need to first complete the required study programs and gain experience as an HVAC technician or engineer. The minimum requirement for entering the field is a high school diploma or equivalent GED certificate.
Following are the steps that you will need to take to obtain your HVAC license.
- Get a high school diploma or GED certificate
This is a pre-requisite if you want to start a career as an HVAC technician. An advantage can be gained over other candidates if you have taken courses in Mathematics, Physics, Electronics and other related subjects.
- Obtain specialized education/training
There are a number of study programs available. Depending on the one you choose, getting specialized education related to HVAC systems can take you anywhere between 6 months and 2 years.
You can opt for a certificate while there are also degree programs available at the Associate and Bachelor levels. They offer courses in energy management, industry code standards, air quality management, HVAC systems, pipework, ductwork and other related areas.
- Gain experience
Once your specialized education is complete, you can then start working as a trainee HVAC technician. As you gain more experience and learn more stuff on the job, you will be able to take on roles with greater responsibility.
You may also opt for an apprenticeship in order to gain experience and enhance your prospects of landing a good job. This is not a mandatory requirement as yet but something that can give you an edge over others in the field. In fact, candidates who have completed apprenticeships and post-secondary education are increasingly being preferred by employers.
- Apply for your HVAC license in the state where you plan to work
It is important to note that different states have different licensing requirements for HVAC technicians. There are also states like Arizona and Vermont which do not require a license or a certification. You are advised to go through the licensing requirements of the state where you want to work.
- Qualify the test to obtain your HVAC license
You will most likely have to pass a written test in those states where an HVAC license is mandatory. For example, the North American Technician Excellence Exam (NATE) has to be passed for a license and technician registration in Texas. Other states may accept different standardized tests.
Additional certification/licensing regulations
There are some additional certifications for HVAC technicians as well. The most common among them is the Environment Protection Agency’s certification for HVAC technicians working with refrigerants.
Types of HVAC Licenses/Certifications
Following are some of the major HVAC licenses/certifications available.
- EPA Type I Certification
This certification is for HVAC technicians working on small appliances.
- EPA Type II Certification
This one is for HVAC technicians dealing with high pressure systems.
- EPA Type III Certification
This EPA certification is for those HVAC technicians who work on low pressure systems.
- Universal EPA Certificate
This one requires comprehensive knowledge of all the above subjects.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
NATE is a non-profit organization that provides different nationally-recognized certifications for HVAC technicians.
HVAC License Holder Career Advancement
The career outlook for HVAC technicians is very encouraging. As per data available with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities in the sector are projected to grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. This growth rate is much higher than the average expected for other occupations, which is 7%.
Should You Obtain an HVAC License?
The demand for HVAC technicians will continue to be high in the coming years. There will be lots of work and learning opportunities as you work your way up the career ladder. Moreover, if you obtain a license or a certification, then it will brighten up your career prospects even further.