The Complete Guide to Becoming a HVAC Technician

Do you have what it takes to become a HVAC technician? There is a lot of demand for skilled professionals in heating and cooling and with less than two years of training you could be in demand. A career in HVAC will bring job stability and a great income, but to get there you need to know more about this skilled trade. Find out what it’s like to work in HVAC, the benefits of choosing this career path, what the market demand and pay are like, and how you can go from being interested in HVAC to becoming a licensed and working HVAC technician.

What is an HVAC Technician?

A HVAC technician is someone who installs, maintains, and repairs heating and cooling systems. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Sometimes an R is added to the acronym—HVAC-R. This stands for refrigeration and includes work installing and maintaining refrigeration systems. Some technicians may also have a PLC designation, which stands for programmable logic controls, the thermostats and other devices that can be programmed to heat or cool a building.

A HVAC technician generally works in the contracting industry, either working with construction companies or as part of a larger HVAC company that is contracted to perform services for residential and commercial customers. Some may focus on large commercial systems, while others only do residential work. Some HVAC technicians specialize in installing new systems, and others do repairs and maintenance. Some do a little bit of everything. About ten percent of all HVAC technicians are self-employed, so there is room in the industry to be entrepreneurial.


The Market for HVAC Technicians Today

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that work for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration is growing faster than average job growth. There are expected to be nearly 40,000 new jobs for trained HVAC technicians in the coming years, with a job growth rate of 14 percent across the country. This average is for all states, but some have much greater growth, including Florida.

Florida employs more HVAC workers than any other state, at a rate of 3.49 per 1,000 jobs. This doesn’t mean there is no room for more rained HVAC technicians; in fact it means the opposite. The construction industry is booming in Florida, and in a state that is so hot so much of the year, air conditioning is and will always be important. Trained technicians who can install, replace, and repair these units are always in demand.

Construction is already reported to be way up in 2017 in Florida, with billions of dollars going into new buildings throughout the state. A trend in new building in the state is not only not slowing down, but increasing more quickly. Skilled construction and trade workers are now needed more than ever. That includes HVAC technicians who are needed to install and maintain all the new air conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems. If you are going to become an HVAC technician in Florida, you can look forward to years of job stability.


What You Can Earn as an HVAC Technician

To become a HVAC technician requires schooling and a lot of learned skills. This means that not just anyone can do the job of installing and repairing HVAC systems and the pay is good for those who can. In 2016, the median annual salary for an HVAC worker was $45,910 per year, but those earning in the top ten percent of the industry made more than $73,000. Some workers start out as apprentices and earn less, but even if you do you will quickly learn to be a fully qualified HVAC technician earning a full salary.

In Florida the average annual salary in 2016 was $40,660. There is a potential to earn more in this industry by working overtime. In some places, like Florida especially, skilled and qualified HVAC workers are in high demand and there is more than enough work to go around.  You also have the opportunity to become a business owner, starting your own HVAC business, hiring other technicians, and earning even more than you could on your own.


How Working in HVAC is Different from Being an Electrician

If you’re interested in a HVAC career, chances are you have also considered becoming an electrician. There are some important similarities between these two lines of work but also some significant differences. Both are hands-on jobs that mostly take place in the construction industry, with and as contractors. For both jobs, there are chances to work by installing new systems or repairing old systems. Either one may work in residential settings, commercial buildings, or both. Both jobs require training and specialized skills.

Some differences include the fact that there are a lot more areas of specialization for electricians. Electrical work does not usually involve as much of the physical work that HVAC does. Electricians typically also need more training and have to follow more safety regulations. They may go through more apprenticeship training than HVAC workers.


A Day in the Life of a HVAC Technician

One thing about this job that many workers enjoy is that no single day is the same as the one before. You typically start the day with a schedule of appointments and your jobs may include installing new systems, making repairs, or just doing routine maintenance. If you work only in new installations, your days will be more steady and predictable, but if you do repairs your day could include a variety of problems to solve. You may end up working odd hours as well because HVAC problems can occur at any time of day or night. Some of the daily duties a HVAC technician might have include:

  • Install new heating or air conditioning systems.
  • Follow design and blueprint specifications for installations or repairs.
  • Troubleshoot problems to solve and fix them.
  • Perform inspections of HVAC systems as well as routine maintenance.
  • Install the wiring and electrical components that allow HVAC systems to work properly.
  • Replace parts in HVAC systems.
  • Assess the energy usage of HVAC systems and make recommendations or improvements to increase energy efficiency.
  • Handle refrigerants and other fluids according to government standards.
  • Clean air ducts.


Although your days as a HVAC technician may be varied, you can count on one thing that is certain: this job is physical and often uncomfortable. You will be working in tight spaces, in buildings without heating or air, and with dangerous materials, lifting heavy objects and working with a variety of tools.


Traits Needed to Become a HVAC Technician

To be a good HVAC technician you need certain technical skills, but you also need to have more innate personality traits and personal skills. For instance, being generally good with mechanics and working with your hands is a great place to start in HVAC. If you aren’t very mechanically inclined, this hands-on repair work may not be your cup of tea. Here are some other important traits for working in HVAC:

  • Customer service.

    This is a technical and mechanical job, but also a service job. You’ll be interacting with homeowners, business owners, and building managers to make sure the job is done to their satisfaction. Good people skills are essential.


  • Problem-solving.

    You will learn everything you need to know to solve HVAC problems in your training, but it’s up to you to apply that knowledge in the real world, and that takes good problem-solving skills. You must be able to analyze a situation, determine what’s wrong, and figure out how to use your knowledge and skills to fix it.


  • Time management.

    HVAC work is often highly independent. Even if you work for a company you will be on your own in the field and it will be up to you to ensure you get to appointments on time and complete jobs in a timely fashion.


  • Organizational skills.

    As an HVAC technician, you will have to keep track of a lot of details, tools, information, appointments, and instructions. You must be able to stay organized or you will likely make a mistake.


  • Physical fitness.

    HVAC work is highly skilled and mechanical; it requires good mental acuity. It also, though, involves physical work. You need to be able to lift heavy equipment and fit into tight spaces. Being physically fit and able to lift things is important.


Why Choose a Career in HVAC?

There are a lot of good reasons to choose a career in this field. HVAC technicians do interesting and important work. As a technician you will be impacting people’s lives every day by making their homes and commercial buildings more comfortable. This is a job that is rarely boring and that demands both mental and physical fitness. You have to do tough physical work, but your mind will also be challenged with problems solving and troubleshooting.

There are also some very practical reasons to go with HVAC. The market is growing and more skilled HVAC technicians are needed every day. Choosing this career path means gaining job stability and having a choice in where you take a job. Pay is also good for trained HVAC technicians. This is a skilled job, so you can go from earning a meagre hourly wage to getting a substantial annual salary.


Education and Certification Requirements to Become a HVAC Technician

Most states have some degree of certification or licensing requirements for working in HVAC. At the very least you need to learn the skills it takes to install and repair these systems. Most people do that by choosing a post-secondary program, usually at a technical or community college. HVAC programs are typically certificate rather than degree programs, taking less than two years to complete and offering hands-on instruction with seasoned professionals.

In Florida, the state licenses contractors, including those who work on HVAC, through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The program you choose for your training should prepare you to pass the necessary examinations for certification and licensing. On the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, requires that anyone working with refrigerant be certified. Your education should train you and prepare you to pass the EPA exam for handling refrigerants.


Choosing a School for HVAC

The most important step you will take to become a HVAC technician—after you have made the big decision to pursue this career—is the choice of a school and program for your training. Most programs will take less than two years to complete, but not all are the same. Look for a school that is accredited and that prepares you to become a licensed HVAC technician. The coursework should include plenty of hands-on work and your instructors should be professionals in the field.

As you are choosing from among schools, be thorough because this choice will impact your future. Go to the campuses and speak to students and instructors. Find out what the job placement rate is for graduates. Make sure there is a career services department that will help you find your first job or apprenticeship after graduating. Use an online search tool for HVAC programs, like the one at to get started in narrowing down your choices by location, program, and other factors.

Don’t forget to consider personal factors in making your selection, like tuition costs, the availability of financial aid, campus location, and the flexibility of the course schedule. These are important to consider because the next several months of training will impact your life, your family, and your current job. You need a school that will work around your needs.

Is your future in HVAC? If this fast-paced and highly in-demand career sounds right for you, now is the time to take action. Look into the educational and training options available to you and consider staying in or moving to Florida to pursue your career. The industry here is booming and your skills will be in demand. Find out more about HVAC today so you can learn to become a technician and move on to the next exciting stage of your career and life.