Becoming an AC Technician: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of an AC technician career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming an AC technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being an AC Technician

AC technicians operate, maintain and repair cooling systems. Find out about the most common pros and cons of this career.

PROS of Being an AC Technician
Income is above the national average (about $46,000 a year on average)
Excellent job opportunities overall*
Self-employment opportunities*
Union options, as one in six HVACR technicians belong to a union*

CONS of Being an AC Technician
Overtime or irregular hours are common during peak heating seasons*
Evening and weekend shifts can occur normally*
Higher rate of illnesses and injuries compared to other careers*
Safety equipment is a necessity in some conditions*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Duties

As an AC technician, you'll be assigned a work site or a job location that you have to report to. Once you're on location, you'll follow the specifications you've been given to repair or install any air conditioning systems that you've been told about. On an installation job, this might involve connecting various air ducts, water supply lines or fuel supply lines. Some controls and electrical wiring might need to be installed as well. Once you have it all installed, you'll test out the system to make sure it is working properly. On a repair job, you would examine the unit and troubleshoot for problems. If there are any broken parts, you'll fix or replace them as necessary.

Job Outlook

A 21% growth in employment was projected from 2012 to 2022 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for refrigeration, heating and air conditioning installers and mechanics. This is a much faster-than-average employment growth overall. Excellent job opportunities were expected to be a result of a demand for climate control systems regardless of economic conditions.

Salary Information

Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers earned an average hourly wage of $22 or so as of May 2014, according to the BLS. This resulted in AC technicians receiving roughly $46,000 on average annually. In the top ten percentile of wage estimates for this occupational grouping, the reported salary was about $70,000. In order to work in one of the states that paid the highest salaries on average for this vocational group, you'll want to work in Alaska, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Washington and New Jersey.

Occupational Requirements

Education, Training and Licensing

All AC technicians need to complete some sort of formal training or educational process. If you want to become an AC technician through post-secondary education, you'll want to look for an air conditioning program at a community college or trade school. You can earn a certificate or an associate's degree depending on the length of your program. Most programs last six months to two years.

You'll want to check and see if your state requires you to be licensed. The licensure requirements can vary, but you'll almost always have to pass an examination to become licensed. If you work with refrigerants, you have to be certified through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This organization offers three different types of specializations dependent upon what refrigerants you work with. You can normally find a training program for the EPA test through a union, an employer association or a trade school.

What Do Employers Want in AC Technicians?

Customer service skills are important to many employers that use AC technicians. If you're friendly and polite with customers, you can foster a good relationship between your employer and your clients. This can help generate repeat business, which is important to many employers. In November 2012, several job postings for AC technicians were examined and then summarized below so that you could see what real employers were looking for.

  • An AC technician position in Texas required applicants to have EAP Universal Certification and Type II HVAC Certification.
  • A business in Florida needed an AC technician with at least five years of experience.
  • Reliable, punctual and dependable were three qualities an employer sought in an AC technician for a job in California.
  • A vehicle and willingness to travel through the western portion of the state were required for an AC technician opening in Massachusetts.

How to Stand Out as an AC Technician

Completing an apprenticeship program is one way to stand out from AC technicians who acquired their skills through an educational program. An apprenticeship can last from three to five years in most cases. You'll receive on-the-job training that is paid along with technical instruction. Throughout your apprenticeship, you'll gain a familiarity with tools, how to read blueprints and safety procedures. One of the organizations that offer apprenticeships is the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. There are also various certifying examinations that you can take. Completing one of these examinations can help give you an edge by possessing additional credentials, which other AC technicians might not have.

Other Career Choices

Home appliance repairer is one occupation that is similar to being an AC technician. Refrigerators, washers, dryers and microwaves are all household appliances that you'll repair and install in this career. You'll travel to the homes of customers and, based on their requests, you'll perform the necessary services for them, such as an installation, an inspection or a repair. The BLS found in May 2011 that home appliance repairers made around $37,000 on average. For the 2010-2020 decade, a 7% growth in employment was projected for home appliance repairers.

Electrician is an alternative hands-on career that you may want to consider. Homes, factories and business all have their electrical systems maintained and installed by an electrician. Before beginning work, you'll read the appropriate diagrams and blueprints in order to understand the system you'll be working with. The BLS expected a 23% employment growth for electricians from 2010 to 2020. Electricians earned an average income of about $53,000 as of May 2011.

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