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How to Become an HVAC Technician and Everything You Need to Know

In a factory, a man wearing a blue hard hat, safety glasses, yellow reflective shirt and gloves looks at a tablet while inspecting industrial ductwork.

Entry Level Educational/Certification HVAC Technician Requirements:

The certification and license HVAC technician requirements vary by state. The EPA 608 and HVAC Excellence are two of the most common certifications for HVAC professionals.

What Does a HVAC Technician Do? 

HVAC technicians install, monitor and repair heating, ventilation and air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

Similar Job Titles:

HVAC Mechanic
HVAC Controls Technician/Specialists

Jake Dukes on becoming an HVAC technician

Enduring the summer heat or freezing winters would be difficult without climate control. New building construction continues to increase and the demand for HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) technicians is growing.

Aerotek Account Executive Jake Dukes has over 12 years of recruiting experience. He explains how to become an HVAC technician, whether you’re starting or switching careers. He also provides details about common HVAC career paths for this skilled trade.

How to become an HVAC technician: starting the process

Like plumbers and electricians, becoming a HVAC technician requires some education and experience.  “The most traditional HVAC career path is similar to most skilled trades where some form of vocational or trade school is going to be your easiest path to getting started,” says Dukes. 

Licensure requirements vary by state, but an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) certification for handling refrigerants is required by the EPA in all 50 states. 

Trade schools are a common way to become a HVAC technician. However, Dukes explains there is another way to get started.

“The less traditional route would be if you were working at a company that has a team of HVAC technicians and you show interest and promise in learning the trade. I’ve seen custodians at colleges or universities work their way into entry-level HVAC or building technician roles by showing interest and aptitude” says Dukes.

Is HVAC a good career change?

Changing your focus to an HVAC career path can be a smooth transition and a great career move. Especially, if you have some skilled trades experience. An HVAC technician career is a mix of trades combined into one role. There are several hard skills that can help you make the transition and contribute to your HVAC career advancement.

“HVAC technicians use three major skills. It requires mechanical experience because there's a lot of moving pieces and parts like belts and pulleys. It requires an electrical aptitude since the systems require power. It also requires some plumbing skills because of condensation and water lines,” says Dukes.

Electricians, plumbers, mechanics and other skilled trades professionals have valuable hard skills. These skills can be the foundation to switch to a career in HVAC maintenance.

HVAC career paths and opportunities

HVAC technicians split their focus between residential and commercial services. Many technicians work on residential projects, but there’s also immense opportunity working with hospitals, universities and other commercial businesses. 

Technicians who specialize in residential or home HVAC systems work with smaller equipment. They may also have customer service skills from working with homeowners. Commercial HVAC systems are much larger and more intricate.

How do I advance in my HVAC career?

Advancing your residential HVAC career could mean earning a supervisory role or working with a larger more prominent company. Dukes has also noticed that many residential technicians achieve HVAC career advancement by switching their focus to commercial buildings.

“Many technicians try to take the foundation of knowledge they've learned in the residential space into commercial because you can make a lot more money,” says Dukes.

Making the switch from residential to commercial isn’t easy. The projects are larger, more complicated and you may be working as part of a larger team. Some technicians may require additional training or continued education to facilitate their HVAC career advancement.

The future of HVAC technology 

HVAC technology continues to progress. Technicians are learning new methods and using new equipment. In the coming years automation and remote diagnostics will become more common.

“Everything is becoming more intricate. There's something called Building Automation Systems (BASF) and Building Management Systems (BMS). These are allowing technicians to use new technology to control automated systems that control ventilation, lighting and other building systems. The ability to troubleshoot these systems remotely is also becoming more popular,” says Dukes.

HVAC technicians are in a good position to add new skills in automation and using digital interfaces. These skills are becoming more valued as robotics and automation play a larger role in facility maintenance.

Still interested in becoming an HVAC technician?

If you’re interested in becoming an HVAC Technician or switching to an HVAC career path check out our latest job openings