Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning
Preparation & Advancement

Preparation

To work as a heating and cooling system mechanic, you must have a high school diploma or GED, complete a formal training program and complete on-the-job training.

Training programs may include an apprenticeship or classroom instruction. Classroom instruction can take place at a trade or technical school or at a community college. The U.S. Armed Forces may also offer HVAC training.

Because of the increasing sophistication of equipment and systems, employers prefer to hire those with technical training or those who have completed an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships generally last 3-5 years and are jointly sponsored by local chapters of unions, for example the Air Conditioning Contractors of America or Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association.

Employers prefer applicants with good mechanical and electrical aptitude, good communication and personal skills, a good driving record, and who are insurable.

Certification

In all states, mechanics who purchase, handle or work with refrigerants must be certified by EPA-approved organizations.

The release of refrigerants causes damage to the earth's atmosphere, and there are many laws and regulations about refrigerants, including conserving the refrigerant by making sure there are no leaks in the system and following the EPA’s Section 608 regulations to “reclaim, recover and recycle.”

To become certified, mechanics must pass written examsadministered by organizations approved by the EPA, such as trade schools, unions and employer associations. One is the Air Conditioning Excellence Program, administered by North American Technician Excellence (NATE). For additional information about certification, contact:

Environmental Protection Agency
http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/index.html 

Click on "Stationary Refrigeration and A/C" on the left menu. Select "Information for Technicians."

Advancement

Some HVAC technicians advance to supervisory positions, while others move into sales and marketing jobs or start their own businesses. HVAC technicians become building superintendents, cost estimators, and system test and balance specialists.