Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians are professionals that work with installation, maintenance, and repair of these types of systems. They do so in both residential and industrial environments. They are responsible for a wide variety of tasks related to the smooth functioning of these systems.
HVAC technicians may specialize in various different areas since it is a fairly broad field. They may, for instance, focus on repair of heating and cooling systems. Or they may focus more so on installation. They may choose to focus on both repair and installation but emphasize heating systems rather than cooling and refrigeration, or vice versa. Often their training includes both but they branch out and specialize depending on their interests or the needs of an employer or client.
One of the main things you need to be concerned with if you wish to get into this field is credentialization. In the general sense credentialization means getting something that you can show potential employers and/or customers that certifies that fact that you are a competent professional. This is true of many fields and it is especially true of HVAC work owing to the fact that it is a skilled trade and can endanger people if not performed properly.
To see to the need to assure that HVAC professionals know what they’re doing, there are a number of examinations that are administered to test their competency. There is not just one certification exam but rather several. These different exams certify a number of different levels of skill as well as different areas of concentration.
Certification is part of the overall educational process of becoming an HVAC technician. It tends to be administered either by the educational institutions themselves or by professional organizations and unions that deal with the HVAC industry and construction industry. There is a lot of crossover here. Often these professional organizations offer instruction themselves or work in partnership with various schools to administer tests.
There are a wide variety of educational institutions that offer HVAC instruction. Courses of study are given at community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, the armed forces, and even in high schools. These programs usually last between 6 months and 2 years. They include classroom instruction along with hands on practical work training.
Another educational route is apprenticeship. In this type of arrangement, the individual works closely with an experienced technician in order to gain the necessary knowledge in an on the job context. These programs are often longer in duration than the school programs. They may also be done in tandem with actual classroom work. They are often administered by trade organizations such as the Air-Conditioning Contractors of America, the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors—National Association and others. Keep in mind that these may be local chapters of larger nationwide organizations. You can find out information about them online or by contacting your local education department.
Exams of various sorts are given all through the educational process, and these help to certify that a technician understands the trade and is competent. But there are usually two levels of actual certification in HVAC work. The first applies to technicians with less than 2 years of experience and who may be still in the process of completing their courses. These “entry level certifications” test mainly residential heating and cooling installation and repair skills along with some commercial/industrial skills. These are usually conducted at high schools, technical, and trade schools.
The next level usually occurs after a technician has completed an educational program or apprenticeship. The general prerequisite for taking the exams is that technician must have at least one year of installation experience and two years of maintenance and repair experience. These tests are more specialty specific and often involve testing competency with a certain type of system such as heat pumps, gas furnaces, or commercial refrigeration.
These tests are administered by a number of technical organizations such as the following: HVAC Excellence, The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society, The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society and the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute.
Many states require HVAC technicians to be licensed. The states that require this have their own exams that a technician must pass. So this could be considered a type of certification or credentialization. These tests vary from state to state as far as what they test. Some may emphasize more generalized industry wide knowledge and skills while others emphasize specific HVAC system repair and installation skills.
Certification is thus either required or encouraged in the HVAC trade. Consult the websites of the organizations mentioned or other trade organizations that deal with HVAC for information both on educational opportunities and on taking certification or licensing exams. As mentioned above, you can also contact your state’s department of education.