Steps to Become a Refrigeration Technician
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 (4 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 an advanced 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, 6 months to 2 years)
After high school, many prospective refrigeration techs choose to enroll in a post-secondary training program to pursue either an associate degree (2 years) or certificate (6 months to 2 years). For instance, Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden, Alabama offers a two-year associate of applied science 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, 2 to 5 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 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.
Step 4: Apply for state or local licensure
Depending on the region where a refrigeration technician works, state or local licensing may be required prior to starting work. More details about licensing are available in the next section.
Step 5: Pursue advanced certifications
Further professional prospects may be available to technicians who choose to pursue certification beyond what is required. These certifications are available from organizations like HVAC Excellence or North American Technician Excellence (NATE).