Heating and Cooling Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Heating and cooling technicians usually have a high school diploma and postsecondary training. In high school, students considering a career in the heating and cooling field should take algebra, geometry, English composition, physics, computer applications and programming, and classes in industrial arts or shop. Helpful shop classes include mechanical drawing and blueprint reading, power and hand tools operations, and metalwork. Shop courses in electricity and electronics provide a strong introduction into understanding circuitry and wiring and teach students to read electrical diagrams. Classes in computer-aided design are also helpful, as are business courses.

Postsecondary Education

Many heating and cooling technicians complete training programs in heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration at trade schools or community colleges. The programs may last six months to two years, at the end of which students may receive a certificate or an associate's degree. A basic understanding of electronics and some knowledge of plumbing or electrical work is also beneficial. Formal apprenticeships and on-the-job training are available at some companies. Apprenticeships require a high school diploma or a general equivalency degree, and math and reading skills. Technicians apprentice for three to five years while being paid for on-the-job training and instruction. Visit http://careersinhvacr.org/site/292/Careers/Find-a-School for a list of apprenticeship programs, community colleges, career and technical schools, and trade schools that offer training in heating and cooling equipment installation and repair.

Some aspiring technicians participate in pre-apprenticeship programs that allow them to build their skills and try out the field before committing to an apprenticeship. For example, the PHCC Educational Foundation offers a six-week HVAC & Plumbing Pre-Apprenticeship Course. In this online program, students complete the following course modules: Introduction to the Trades, Soft Skills, Basic Math for Plumbing and HVAC, Tools, Safety, and Introduction to Construction Drawings. Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Association of Home Builders also offer pre-apprenticeship programs. Contact these organizations for more information.  

Other Education or Training

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Inc., HVAC Excellence, Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, Refrigerating Engineers & Technicians Association, and Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association provide in-person and online continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Some employers prefer to hire heating and cooling technicians who are industry-certified HVACR technicians. Those with one year of installation experience and two years of maintenance and repair experience can take specialized exams to show competency in heating or cooling systems. Many industry associations offer certification programs in heating and cooling specialties, including the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute; HVAC Excellence; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Inc.; Green Mechanical Council; North American Technician Excellence Inc.; and Refrigerating Engineers & Technicians Association. Some states and employers require technicians to be licensed. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency requires technicians who work with or buy refrigerants to be certified in their proper handling. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Some heating and cooling technicians receive on-the-job training. Formal apprenticeships are also available at some companies. In either case, technicians who are just starting out usually have six months to two years of postsecondary education in heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration at a trade school or community college. Apprenticeship programs can last anywhere from three to five years, during which technicians are paid while on the job and receiving technical instruction. They learn how to read blueprints and how to use tools, and become familiar with safety practices. 

Heating and cooling technicians must have mechanical skills and dexterity, and physical strength to lift and support heaving equipment and materials. The ability to analyze problems and come up with solutions is also essential in the work. Time-management skills are important for accomplishing tasks and meeting deadlines. Customer-service skills are also needed for dealing with customers; being friendly, polite, and patient is also important in the job.