Steps to Become a Refrigeration Technician – HVAC/R
Although not all refrigeration technicians will take the same path, it can be helpful to consider some of the most common steps taken towards this career. Following is a common route to the refrigeration technician career.
Step 1: Complete high school or earn GED (four years)
There are no specific educational requirements, legally speaking, to become a refrigeration technician. However, as mentioned earlier, most techs have some post-secondary training or a degree, for which a diploma or GED is a prerequisite. Students preparing for this career should make every attempt to excel in math courses and may choose to enroll in vocational HVAC training where available.
Step 2A: Enroll in degree or certificate program (Option A, six months to two years)
After high school, many prospective refrigeration techs choose to enroll in a post-secondary training program to pursue either an associate degree (two years) or certificate (six months to two years).
For instance, Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden, Alabama offers a two-year associate of applied science (AAS) degree in air conditioning and refrigeration, as well as a certificate and short-term certificate. All programs cover, to some degree, math, circuitry, and the fundamentals of refrigeration systems.
Step 2B: Obtain apprenticeship (Option B, two to five years)
Many refrigeration technicians may start out in an apprenticeship. Apprentices are paid a percentage of what their supervisor makes and receive raises at regular intervals, assuming they are performing a satisfactory job. Apprentices who work within a union structure are paid according to union terms and have a minimum starting salary upon completion of the apprenticeship, which generally lasts five years.
The apprenticeship route can be rewarding albeit competitive. Unions such as the Pipefitters Local 537 offer apprenticeship programs to train new members in their trade.
Step 3: Complete required EPA section 608 certification
All technicians who work with refrigerants must earn the EPA section 608 certification. Section 608 training and certification is typically part of any refrigeration training, but it is essential that technicians earn this before beginning work. There are four different classifications of this certification, requiring four separate tests. A technician will need to earn the proper certification(s) based on the types of equipment they will be installing or servicing:
- Type I – Small appliances
- Type II – HIgh-pressure appliances
- Type III – Low pressure appliances
- Universal – All types of equipment
For technicians who came to work without a formalized program, or through a route where test prep was not included, ACCA provides a three-hour, online EPA 608 certification test prep course for a fee.
Step 4: Apply for state or local licensure
A majority of U.S. states require HVAC technicians to obtain licensure before working. More details are available in the “Licensure & Certification” section below.
Step 5: Pursue advanced certifications
More professional prospects may be available to technicians who choose to pursue certification beyond what is required. Advanced certifications can result in salary increases or promotions in a current place of employment, a clear statement of competency on a resume for those who are looking for jobs, a designation of speciality expertise, or simply an impetus to improve one’s skills by giving an HVAC refrigeration tech a benchmark to live up to.