AC Technician Education Requirements and Career Overview
Air conditioning (AC) technicians work with cooling systems to ensure proper installation, maintenance and repair. Becoming an AC technician usually involves completing a training program and an apprenticeship. Certification and licensure are common requirements for working as a professional AC technician.
Education Requirements for AC Technicians
A high school diploma or GED is required to enroll in a 2-year AC technician program, which may lead to an associate's degree. Students are introduced to topics like refrigeration fundamentals, electrical components, AC system parts, installation, gas heating systems and industrial safety. These training programs also prepare aspiring AC technicians for entry into an apprenticeship. Many times, the credits earned in a 2-year program can be applied toward an apprenticeship. Typically, apprenticeships involve a mixture of classroom and on-the-job training and last from 2-5 years.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires AC technicians to obtain a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) certification for handling refrigerants. Three types of certification options exist, depending on the equipment being worked on. These include small appliances, high-pressure equipment or low-pressure equipment certifications. Becoming certified ensures that AC technicians know how to properly handle and dispose of refrigerator coolants.
Some states require AC technicians to be licensed. Licensure options can vary by level - such as apprentice, journeyman or contractor - or by class, reflecting the type of work a technician is able to perform or the type of equipment he or she can service. AC technicians who work at larger institutions, like public schools, might require a boiler operator or steam engineer license.
AC technicians install, maintain and repair cooling systems. They might also be trained in heating and ventilation systems. Their job requires working with electrical components, motors, compressors and even ductwork. To work as an AC technician requires knowing state and local regulations and safety procedures. AC technicians can be found working as private contractors or for governmental, academic or private institutions.
In May 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median wage for AC technicians (among other heating and refrigeration mechanics) was $19.76 an hour, although hourly wages ranged from $12.38 upwards of over $30.00 (www.bls.gov). For the period of 2008-2018, the BLS projected a 28% increase in employment for AC technicians. This increase is in part due to commercial and residential building stock as well as an increased concern for indoor air quality.
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