Well-trained HVAC technicians are generally in great demand, especially in regions like Norfolk, Virginia. Here, summers are warm and humid and winters can be bone-chilling. Even for these in-between periods of spring and fall, homeowners find themselves using their HVAC systems to help reduce humidity, boost indoor air quality, and just to maintain a comfortable year-round temperature without opening windows.
The point is that HVAC technicians, especially the well-trained ones, generally have a good pick of companies to work for. These days, being well trained means not only having a good grasp of the mechanics of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, but also computerized controls as HVAC equipment becomes “smarter” with technological advances.
Training as an HVAC Technician
An aspiring HVAC technician can seek on-the-job training as an apprentice, but a better path might be to enroll in a technical school to learn the basics of HVAC, so that when joining a company as a trainee, the apprentice already has a good grasp of the essentials.
What’s more, as the prospective HVAC technician gains knowledge and skills, the interest in specializing in some of the newer areas of HVAC, such as installing energy-efficient zoned or smart systems, may arise. Having an education in HVAC at the beginning of an apprenticeship could allow the apprentice to move into the area of specialization sooner.
Here’s a breakdown of how you might pace yourself on the road to becoming an HVAC technician:
- Get a high school diploma or take the GED test
- Enroll for an accredited HVAC training program, which may take six months to two years to complete, depending on the program
- Complete an apprenticeship of three to five years
- While you’re working as an apprentice, develop your skills through hands-on experience
- Once your training is complete, aim for certification.
How Do You Know If HVAC Is for You?
HVAC work can be challenging — no doubt about it. The technician draws on skills from a number of areas, including electrical, mechanical, computers, plumbing, framing, and working with various types of ducts for ventilation systems. The well-trained technician will also need to know a bit about physics and chemistry as they apply to various types of HVAC systems.
This includes gas-powered furnaces, oil- or gas-powered boilers, hydronic systems, traditional central air conditioners, heat pumps, and ductless mini splits. The technician will also be reading charts and machinery blueprints. But most of all, the technician will have to be a problem solver and troubleshooter, often working backwards to arrive at a solution.
HVAC technicians often have to work in physically challenging conditions, from installing a condenser on a rooftop or cleaning evaporator coils in the attic on a hot day, to working on a failing boiler in a freezing basement.
But the rewards are also there for the right person. If you like a frequent change of scenery when you work, and enjoy the challenge of meeting new situations and problem solving, then HVAC work could be right for you. If the idea of gaining skills in several technical areas appeals to you, then HVAC work will offer you a chance to ramp up in all these areas.
Searching for the Right Technical Program
If you decide that enrolling in a technical program to earn a degree is the right course for you, then you should look for some important aspects. You will want to make sure the institution you enroll in uses modern test equipment and tools found in the HVAC industry, and that your instructors are experienced and certified in this field. Ideally, your coursework should prepare you for entry-level employment in the HVAC industry, and should lay the groundwork for your eventual certification.
But because you will also be working with members of the public, you should find a program that provides you with good business skills, including business management, customer service, employee relations, communications, and even reading financial reports.
Customer service in particular is key, as you will likely be working on site with a variety of different clients, and sometimes will be involved in decision making and problem solving. Developing good customer service skills will not only help you while you’re working for someone else, but will also serve you well if you one day go into business for yourself.
The length of training will vary with schools, but one reasonable schedule might involve attending class four days a week, with completion of the program within 21 months.
Advanced Technology Institute, or ATI, offers just such a program. Upon successful completion of ATI’s program, the student will earn an Associate of Occupational Science in HVAC technology with Service Management. Contact our representatives today to learn more.