When you’re at the beginning of your studies, the time when you can practice your desired skills professionally can seem like it will never arrive. You may be thinking about the steps between now and your ultimate career goals as infinite and overwhelming. Nonetheless, ambitious individuals will think that graduation and a higher income couldn’t come soon enough. One might suggest taking it step by step, and not getting too caught up in the ultimate finish line. If you have just recently made the decision that you aspire to be an HVAC technician, there are many things you need to do first! It might comfort you to know that there’s no hurry – the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the field will continue to grow and need more technicians until at least 2020. Unless the industry landscape changes drastically, the field will likely continue to expand after that point as well. In fact, just between 2010 and 2020 the field will add over 90,000 new employees. If you’re just at the beginning of your journey now, simply take the process step-by-step, and before you know it you’ll be servicing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems on a daily basis!
Step One: Select a Program
Where you do want to go to school? Would you prefer to learn online or in a classroom? What kind of commute can you handle? What has been your previous educational experience? Do you feel a six-month certificate program is adequate, or would you prefer to stay in school longer and receive an Associate of Applied Science? These, and many other, questions must be answered before you can start school. Create a list of “must-haves” for your ideal program. Unless you open your own college and design a major personal to you, chances are you won’t find one that’s perfect. But if you prioritize your needs and wants, you can likely find one that will be suitable to your long-term goals.
Step Two: Enroll and Create Your Schedule
Once you have decided upon a program, check the website or call an advisor to ask about enrollment information. Depending on what kind of curriculum you have selected, you may only have one or two dates per year during which you can enroll. This is fairly typical of A.A.S. programs. You may, however, luck out with multiple chances to enroll per year, which is more common with shorter certificate and training programs. If an enrollment date is not right around the corner, be patient. Take the time to figure out what kind of schedule will work for you. Day or night classes? Full time or part time? Are you willing to continue your studies during the summer months?
Step Three: Study Hard!
Be ambitious during your studies and absorb as much information as possible. If you are pursuing an associate degree, do not neglect your general education studies. These broader topics will come in handy should you choose to open your own business or branch out into a field not directly related to HVAC servicing and repair. Remember that school is not just want happens in the classroom. Keep up with regular homework assignments, ask your teachers questions, and review what you’ve learned. If possible, try to get your hands on some old heating, ventilation, air conditioning, or refrigeration systems on which you can practice maintenance.
Step Four: Obtain Certifications
There are a number of exams available for HVACR (the “R” stands for the added refrigeration component in many programs now) graduates to take. These include, but are not limited to, certifications in oil-burning furnaces and compressed-refrigerant cooling systems, the industry competency exam, the secondary employment ready exam, the secondary heat exam, and a heat plus exam. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society also offers two levels of certification with refrigeration systems. You may also need to get licensed, especially if you are going to work with refrigerants (the EPA requires this). The more certifications you have, the more employable you will be and the more job options will be available to you.