How to Become an HVAC Technician (With Skills and Benefits)

Updated June 23, 2023

Many modern buildings, including commercial and residential ones, have climate control systems that typically require maintenance. A heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technician ensures these systems function to help maintain suitable temperature and humidity levels in buildings. Learning what necessary skills and theoretical knowledge to develop if you want to pursue a career in HVAC can help you make informed career decisions. In this article, we discuss how to become an HVAC technician, outline the benefits of pursuing this career, and explain the skills these professionals use in their work.

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How to become an HVAC technician

Knowing how to become an HVAC technician can help you understand the actionable steps you may take to start working in this profession. An HVAC technician ensures HVAC systems can maintain temperature and air quality in both public and private buildings to provide comfortable living conditions. They install, maintain, and fix HVAC systems. Here are some steps you can follow to pursue this career:

1. Earn a secondary school diploma

The minimum requirement to work as an HVAC technician is typically a secondary school diploma. You may also attend a vocational institution while in secondary school to help you gain basic relevant knowledge to succeed in the role. Consider taking courses that teach you mechanical skills and valuable information about HVAC systems.

Related: Vocational Training Programs in Canada (With Jobs and Salaries)

2. Complete an HVAC pre-apprenticeship training program

Employers typically prefer hiring apprentices with a basic knowledge of HVAC systems. You can gain this knowledge by enrolling in an institution that offers pre-apprenticeship programs. These programs typically last somewhere between 18 weeks and 12 months and consist of practical and theory lessons that help prepare you for the HVAC trade. A pre-apprenticeship program may make it easier to secure a paid apprenticeship. Several pre-apprenticeship programs also prepare you for the exams you may take to earn various certifications. The courses you may take during your pre-apprenticeship include:

  • air conditioning, heat pumps, and controls

  • refrigeration tools and materials

  • heating and humidification systems

  • safe handling of natural gas

  • troubleshooting and servicing

  • pressure regulators, gas meters, and relief valves

3. Earn relevant trade certifications

As HVAC is a regulated industry, there are certifications employers require you to possess before you can work as an apprentice. The certifications to earn typically depend on the employer. For example, HVAC technicians in Ontario typically work on propane-fired and gas-fired equipment. Employers require candidates to have a gas technician certification to prove they can work with the necessary equipment. You can do some research to discover the certifications to pursue in your province. These certifications typically focus on how to manage and handle various complex materials and pieces of equipment.

4. Complete an apprenticeship

You're more likely to secure an apprenticeship if you've completed a pre-apprenticeship program, as employers may perceive that you have more profession knowledge. To succeed in an HVAC apprenticeship program, you complete a certain number of hours of theoretical and practical training before passing the final certification exam. After meeting these requirements, you can apply to become certified and register as an HVAC technician. It usually takes three to five years to complete an apprenticeship program.

Related: Apprenticeship vs. Internship: What's the Difference?

5. Advance your career

After completing your apprenticeship, you can specialize in one field, such as air conditioning or refrigeration, or work as a generalist. Starting in the HVAC field, you may begin your career as an installer before advancing to work as a service and maintenance HVAC technician. After gaining some years of experience, you may start your own contracting business.

Related: How to Become a Refrigeration Engineer (With FAQs)

Benefits of pursuing a career in HVAC

Here's a list of benefits you may enjoy if you pursue a career as an HVAC technician:

Job security

Working as an HVAC technician typically offers job security, as there's always a demand for these professionals. People always require temperature and humidity control in their homes and commercial buildings to manage varying weather conditions. The Job Bank forecasts that HVAC professionals are likely to have good job prospects over the next three years in several provinces. Major cities with large populations and high building densities may provide regular work for HVAC technicians.

Mobile work

As an HVAC technician typically visits various locations to provide their services, you may travel from one site to another. Instead of working from an office, you may be mobile and have your equipment and necessary materials in a van, ready to work wherever a customer asks you to. These changes of scene and the chance to see different HVAC systems in different places may be rewarding and stimulating. If you enjoy interacting with people and working with others, you may enjoy often having the opportunity to meet new people.

Life safety

In addition to keeping people comfortable, maintaining an HVAC system in homes and workplaces typically keeps people safe. The ventilation system of a building is important, as it ensures everyone within the premises can breathe fresh, clean air. It keeps the atmosphere free of smells, removes excess moisture, and reduces bacteria resulting in a healthier environment. These systems are especially important for creating sterile spaces, as in hospitals. They also help to maintain healthy living conditions in places where people spend many hours, such as schools, office buildings, and homes.

Good potential earnings

Working in the HVAC profession gives you good earning potential, as there are various opportunities for advancement. Entry-level positions, such as apprenticeships, offer a competitive rate. While working, you may have a long-term goal, such as owning a contracting business. This can potentially provide high earning power and allow for flexibility.

Opportunities for rewarding challenges

Working as an HVAC technician allows you to apply your troubleshooting and creative thinking skills. As solutions to problems may not be straightforward, you can combine your technical knowledge and creativity to implement effective solutions. If you enjoy stimulating tasks, the HVAC field allows you to apply your skills as you approach every new challenge with an open mind. For example, installing an HVAC system requires you to identify a suitable strategy to get power into the unit.

Related: Why to Pursue a Career in HVAC (With Jobs and Salaries)

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Skills of an HVAC technician

Here are the skills you can develop if you have an interest in working in the HVAC field:

Practical communication

Typically, HVAC technicians possess effective communication skills, enabling them to interact with colleagues and clients. With these skills, HVAC technicians can explain complex concepts clearly and concisely. They can explain to their clients the important aspects of HVAC systems and how to maintain them effectively. Professional HVAC technicians also use active listening skills after asking clients important questions to help them address clients' concerns promptly.

Related: Guide to Verbal Communication Skills

Troubleshooting skills

With effective troubleshooting skills, HVAC technicians can ask appropriate questions to identify what's causing a malfunction in an HVAC system. They can analyze several variables to discover the problem and then implement an appropriate solution to fix it. In this way, they can identify problems and create effective solution to fix any HVAC system issues.

Time management

As HVAC technicians typically have several appointments to attend each day, they require time management skills to fulfil their responsibilities and meet all their clients on time. Using these skills, HVAC technicians schedule appointments throughout the day and arrive promptly for each one. They work efficiently to ensure they can leave each appointment with enough time to reach the next one on schedule. Time management skills allow these professionals to use their time appropriately, prioritize, and provide excellent customer service.

Related: Benefits of Effective Time Management (With Actionable Tips)

Mechanical skills

HVAC technicians typically possess mechanical skills that enable them to repair and install mechanical systems, such as refrigerators, heating devices, and air conditioners. Their mechanical knowledge allows them to understand how these systems operate and identify the reasons for malfunctions. Mechanical skills also include the ability to disassemble and reassemble HVAC units efficiently while looking for solutions to technical problems.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Attention to detail

As an HVAC technician's responsibilities involve analyzing small components of large systems, they require attention to detail to notice small changes in the system. These professionals carefully follow standard procedures and instructions to help ensure they don't forget an important task. They also use attention to detail to maintain comprehensive records of their work. These records may serve as a reference for future work.

Related: Attention to Detail

Knowledge of power and hand tools

During apprenticeships and other training programs, HVAC technicians typically gain an excellent understanding of hand and power tools and experience of using them. This knowledge helps reduce accidents and ensures safety during jobs. When working on projects, these professionals can use general tools such as drills and screwdrivers, or they can use industry-specific tools, such as acetylene torches and carbon monoxide testers. With the ability to identify the appropriate tools to use in each set of circumstances, HVAC technicians can complete their duties efficiently.

Please note that none of the companies, organizations, and institutions mentioned in this article is affiliated with indeed.

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