A Career in Air Conditioning, Heating/Ventilation and Refrigeration

What Does It Take To Get Started?

A lot of people wonder what it will take to become employed as an HVAC/R Technician.  First, some semantics: I would like to say it this way, HVAC/R professional.  This is a career, not just a job.  People study to become proficient in a career.  They just “get” a job.  I hope you don’t think I’m splitting hairs here; to me it is a big deal to see things through this lens.

Many people currently working in the HVAC industry don’t have a formal education.  Some are working at a level based upon what they learned “on the job” and perhaps it keeps them employed much of the time.  Some of this group have worked for years to learn the skills necessary to succeed on their own, but many just find that too much trouble.

A highly technical field HVAC truly requires an education of some sort – hopefully a formal education providing the skills needed to succeed and grow in this industry.

If a person has the skills, here is what they need in addition for entry into the HVAC/R industry:

First, a certification card that allows you to handle the refrigerants we use in HVAC/R. This is called Section 608 (US EPA). We frequently just say “EPA Certified” (or EPA Certification).

Realistically, you also need a valid Driver’s License.  One would also hope that the driving record would be clean – without any DUI or “Driving Under the Influence” for a minimum of 3 years (it stays on the record for 10 years though).

A major concern of employers (and their customers) is a clean background.  Can someone with past legal troubles be successful?  Sure, it happens all of the time.  Like everything else, it depends on several circumstances.

Overall, non-violent crimes that happened a long time ago may or may not be a problem.  Recent violent felonies or sexual related problems (armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, breaking and entering, home invasion robbery, and a wide array of sexual offences) will likely add tremendous difficulty to getting a job in this career path.

In many cases, employers are required to send a list of workers to the security staff in charge of large buildings.  They decide (based upon background checks) who may enter.  This could lead to difficulty getting sufficient hours if your employer does work for high rise buildings like this – if there is a background issue.  Please ask to speak with the school if you have a concern about your particular background issues, you could also ask an employer what they think.

Now we go back to having the proper skills to bring to the game.  If you have not taken the time to avail yourself of some sort of formal education, becoming successful in today’s highly technical HVAC/R Industry will be very, very difficult.  I will stop short of saying impossible since that would be wrong to say that anything is impossible, yet – it would be a major uphill battle.

Here is a short, no doubt incomplete list of what a person realistically would need to know:

  • Basic thermodynamics (how heat flows) as well as numerous other laws of physics
  • Basic vapor compression system operation
  • Basic electrical skills
  • Basic use of tools (brazing using various torches, copper-works, etc.) including computers and smartphones.

That is just a start.

Many employers highly value skills in the computerized control systems that operate the HVAC/R systems to achieve better energy efficiency.  Employers increasingly also want people that understand building science and all that the structure attempting to be heated or cooled will reside.  This understanding helps the HVAC/R Technician or Installer to size, design, install, commission, service and maintain systems for maximum energy efficiency.

Here is the good part – if you choose a good school and work hard to acquire these skills, it is possible to learn the competencies to enter the HVAC/R industry.  Sometimes in a surprisingly short period of time.

Brownson Technical School, like (I would hope) most schools, prides itself on being able to deliver this kind of training to people that might have even had difficulty in High School or other academic settings.  Brownson Technical School has spent the last thirty-plus years (as of March of 2014) working to continuously improve on this objective – teaching HVAC/R to people that in most cases have never had much training in any of the competencies required.

To many, attempting to learn a new trade is a conundrum.  How can you get hired if you “don’t know anything” about the field – and have no experience?

That is the purpose of a training program such as this.  Learn the skills (competencies).  Have sufficient knowledge to be hired by an employer after completing the training.  After that, keep up on changes in the field – in other words, dedicate yourself to “lifelong learning.”

Please consider a career in HVAC/R, regardless how you learn your new trade, make sure you learn it from theory through application. Make sure you learn how to make the equipment perform.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela