Becoming a technician
In the United States, the process usually begins with a formal apprenticeship program, simple on the
job training, or a formal training program at a college. This can be as easy as being a helper for an
experienced installer. For positions as a repairman, the process usually begins with either a college
course or an apprenticeship. In many companies, the service technician positions are given to
experienced installers who would like to advance their career.
A part of the initial process of getting hvac jobs, is becoming certified to buy and handle
refrigerants. This is required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to comply with the
requirements of section 608 of the Clean Air Act. This simply involves some personal studying and taking
a test that is administered by an authorized agency. There are basically five types of
- Automotive: This allows you to work on air conditioners that are part of automobiles.
- Type I: This allows you to work on small appliances.
- Type II: is for high pressure or very high pressure systems.
- Type III: is for low pressure systems.
- Universal: This certifies you to work on all systems containing ozone depleting refrigerant except
For hvac careers in residential or commercial buildings, it is best to obtain universal certification.
Most heating and air conditioning companies will not accept anything less.
**NOTE** These requirements are for systems that contain ozone depleting chemicals
(CFC's or HCFC's). These are refrigerants such as R-22 or R-12. The new refrigerants such as R-410a are
non-ozone depleting and therefore are not covered by the Clean Air Act.
There are other forms of certification that are not related to the use of refrigerants. These
requirements vary from state to state and country to country. There are some nationwide programs such as
NATE, etc. but they are voluntary and really not necessary. Many states require licenses for contractors
and some require licenses for the individual mechanics.
**NOTE** In the past, many contractors/business owners have accepted people for
entry level positions without requiring them to be certified beforehand. This is becoming pretty rare
now but, if you can find someone looking for an apprentice, they may pay for your training and
The next step in the process of starting your hvac career, is self study. To be a good hvac mechanic,
you must have a working knowledge of electricity and plumbing as well as the operation of
heating/cooling equipment. This can be obtained through college courses, studying manufacturer's product
information, and simple hands on learning.
**HOT TIP** The best college HVAC training includes classroom instruction by
experienced industry professionals combined with hands on training.
You can also watch our maintenance and troubleshooting
videos. You can get the advantage of our years of experience as a technician without taking 15
Now that you have made the decision to start an hvac career, you will need some tools to begin your
new job. In order to start off on the right foot, you can peek inside our toolbag. As they say, you don't get a
second chance to make a first impression so show up with the proper tools.