Steps to Become an HVAC Installer
People can and do take many different paths to ultimately become HVAC installers, but the following is one of the most common career trajectories for entering the career.
1. Earn a high school diploma or GED (4 years)
Although there are no specific educational requirements, legally speaking, to become an HVAC installer, ONet Online indicates that more than 80 percent of HVAC professionals have at least a high school diploma or GED. Students should be sure to excel in math courses and should enroll in vocational HVAC training where available.
2A. Pursue post-secondary training (option A, 2 years)
After high school, many prospective HVAC installers choose to enroll in a post-secondary training program. These programs typically cover all HVAC technician roles, including installation. For example, Northwest Wisconsin Technical College offers a two-year associate of applied science degree in HVAC with courses in math, circuitry, and the fundamentals of HVAC systems.
Although the vast majority of HVAC programs are two-year associate degree programs, bachelor’s degree programs are also available from schools such as Ferris State University.
2B. Apply for apprenticeship opportunities (option B, 2 to 5 years)
Those HVAC installers that want to join a union or who are ready to dedicate more years to hands-on training may choose to apply for an apprenticeship program in HVAC. For example, the Local 25 in Rock Island, Illinois offers a highly selective five year HVAC apprenticeship which consists of 10,000 hours of hands-on training and 1,250 hours of classroom training. During this time, apprentices are paid a percentage of a fully trained technician’s salary.
3. Obtain EPA Section 608 certification
All technicians who will work with refrigerants must earn the EPA section 608 certification. Section 608 training and certification is typically part of any HVAC training, but it is essential that HVAC installers earn this before beginning work.
4. Apply for state or local licensure
Depending on the region where an HVAC installer works, state or local licensing may be required prior to starting work. More details about licensing are available in the next section.
5. Pursue further certifications (optional)
Further professional prospects may be available to HVAC installers who choose to pursue certification beyond what is required. These certifications are available from organizations like HVAC Excellence.
Licensure & Certification
For HVAC installers, licensing requirements vary from state to state. In some areas, it is necessary to complete a licensing exam before you are able to do any HVAC work. For instance, in California an HVAC installer must have an HVAC license before he or she can work on their own. But in order qualify for that license, the installer must first work under the supervision of a licensed contractor for at least four years. Therefore, it is possible to work in HVAC installation without a license, as long as the overall project is properly licensed. Anyone planning to engage in work as an HVAC installer should be sure to look up the specifics of licensing laws in that state.
Even in states where no explicit licensing requirements are on the books, it can be very helpful for HVAC installers to take professional examinations in order to prove their fitness for the job. Some exams, which are offered throughout the country, allow HVAC installers to demonstrate specialized knowledge, such as experience working with oil-burning furnaces. Other examinations are more general and can demonstrate overall competence. The more an HVAC installer is able to prove his or her experience and depth of knowledge, the more likely they are to get jobs that pay well and generate referrals.