As the economy is demanding more industrial jobs again, many are looking to steady positions such as plumbing, HVAC, and mechanics for their future career. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) is a somewhat flexible industry as there are so many different jobs one can take once they are certified in HVAC. For instance, an HVAC contractor can do residential installations and services, they can do commercial installs, or they can even specialize in duct cleaning. However, many contractors don’t specialize until they are in the field.
There are certain educational and licensure requirements HVAC contractors must complete before even starting as a technician or contractor. When looking how to become an HVAC contractor, there are different requirements from state to state, but these are the basic steps you must follow:
- Education/Training. First, you must accrue a certain amount of education hours before moving on to the next steps. This can be completed either by going to a 4-year university, getting an associate degree at a trade school focused on the industry, or complete an apprenticeship under a certified trainer. Apprenticeships can last 3-5 years and often have limited opportunities for employment once it is complete. For this reason, many choose to go with some form of formal schooling. Classes may include electricity, wiring, refrigeration, sheet metal fabrication, and more. It is wise for future contractors to also take computer and electronic classes as more systems and businesses are evolving to incorporate these tools. Plus, these skills can help differentiate those looking for a job in step three.
- EPA Certification. When working with refrigerants, the federal government mandates that all contractors pass certification exams to ensure safe handling of these elements. Disposal, recycling, shipping, and recovery are all topics covered for this certification. Some technical schools and community colleges offer certification exams, so you can search your local area to find one close to you.
- Work Experience. Many states require work experience in the field before allowing full licensure. Most employers also only hire those with full licensure, so the jobs available in the beginning may be the most physically demanding, which don’t require a full-license to complete. Duct cleaning and commercial installs are usually the types of jobs pre-licensed HVAC contractors can find. Most states require 2 years of full-time work before you can apply for licensure. However, this also depends on your previous schooling. If you went through an apprenticeship, for example, you may have to perform up to 7 years of in-field work before applying for full licensure.
- Licensure. All states require HVAC contractors to pass a licensure exam before becoming fully licensed as a contractor. A criminal background check is usually part of this process, as well as obtaining liability and workers compensation insurance. After licensure, some states require continuing education before renewal each time. This way contractors stay up-to-date on latest best practices and proper techniques for handling various equipment.
- Associations. In addition to licensure, HVAC contractors may also look into joining various accredited associations for the professional recognition. These are exclusive associations that have rigorous requirements for joining. However, they can increase your credibility and trust when working with clients. While this step isn’t necessary, it is a smart move that many eventually aim for.
Difference Between HVAC Contractors and HVAC Technicians
The HVAC Contractor usually goes to work for themselves at this point after they have obtained their full licensure. This can look like owning their own business where they have employees under them and bid on jobs. Or, they can be a freelance technician who helps other contractors with their bigger jobs. Technicians, on the other hand, may not have their full licensure yet. They could be in the work experience phase of their licensure or in their apprenticeship. However, technicians may still hold various certifications to successfully complete jobs without having a full licensure. They are not allowed to start their own business without the full license though.
HVAC Contractor Salary
HVAC contractor salaries vary from state to state and county to county. Depending on the size of the businesses, HVAC contractors can earn a mere $35,000 per year, all the way up to $100,000 per year. The average salary of an HVAC contractor is $45,000. The ones who earn more have learned from previous giants in the industry and have copied their methods on a smaller scale. From hiring techniques, to marketing plans, to budgeting, there are best practices in HVAC that can help any company become successful in their region.Stay Connected: