Becoming a Refrigeration Mechanic: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a refrigeration mechanic career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a refrigeration mechanic is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Working as a Refrigeration Mechanic

Refrigeration mechanics, also known as heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians, install, repair and maintain refrigeration systems that control air temperature in different types of buildings. More about this career is profiled below via a pros and cons list.

Pros of a Refrigeration Mechanic Career
Ability to work in a variety of settings*
Union membership is available to those who want it*
Most technicians can begin professional training after high school*
Large job growth expected (21% increase between 2012 and 2022)*

Cons of a Refrigeration Mechanic Career
Injuries on the job are common*
Long hours are often necessary*
Work environment can be cramped, uncomfortable spaces*
Average salary (median salary was $44,630 in 2014)*
EPA certification required, additional licensing required in some states

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

Career Information

Job Duties and Description

Refrigeration mechanics work in office buildings, industrial complexes and residential buildings, as well as different types of businesses that handle perishable goods. They are responsible for providing a climate-controlled environment in order to store and ship consumer goods like medicine and food. Technicians are expected to follow government regulations related to the conservation and handling of refrigerants, which are dangerous chemicals.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that job opportunities for HVACR mechanics will increase by 21% between 2012 and 2022. The BLS attributes this growth to an increase in residential and commercial building construction. Job prospects are expected to be best for mechanics that have gone through a formal training program and apprenticeship. The agency also confirmed that HVACR mechanics earned a median annual salary of approximately $44,000 in 2014.

What Are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

Most refrigeration mechanics receive initial training at a vocational school or two-year college. Most of these schools offer specialized programs for prospective HVAC technicians with training in heating and air conditioning in addition to refrigeration. Mechanics that do not go through a formal program can enter into apprenticeships, where they are trained on the job by senior mechanics. Apprenticeships typically last between three and five years and result in a mechanic's ability to work independently.

Licensing

Some states require HVACR technicians to be licensed. Though specific requirements vary by state, all states require you to pass a licensing exam. Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires any technician who works with refrigerant pass one of three certification exams: Type I (small appliances service), Type II (high-pressure refrigerant) or Type III (low-pressure refrigerant).

Skills

Refrigeration mechanics must exhibit a number of other qualities during the course of their job. They must be detail oriented and have good customer service skills. They also need to be dexterous and be able to move heavy equipment. Having troubleshooting and problem-solving skills can also be advantageous.

Job Listings from Real Employers

Most employers seek candidates with experience and professional certification. Education requirements are not always specified.

  • A New Jersey pharmaceutical company is seeking a refrigeration technician with commercial or industrial experience. A successful candidate will be licensed, hold a HVAC trade school certification and have at least three years of professional experience.
  • A Michigan-based soft drink company is interested in hiring a cooler service technician. The company prefers a technician with a year of HVAC experience, computer skills, a refrigeration certification from a vocational school and customer service experience.
  • A California beverage company is seeking a maintenance mechanic with a background in refrigeration and fluid mechanics. The preferred candidate will have excellent problem-solving skills and previous technical field experience.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Get Certified

In addition to technical training and work experience, refrigeration mechanics can stand out in the field by taking specialized certification exams. For example, mechanics can obtain a certification credential through organizations like The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society. This organization currently offers two different levels of certification. Many employers may prefer mechanics with this type of professional credential.

Alternate Career Options

If you decide that a career in refrigeration is not for you, there are some other fields you might want to explore with similar job duties and earning potential.

Electrician

Electricians maintain, repair and install electrical systems for businesses and homes. Electricians work indoors and outdoors in a variety of settings. According to the BLS, electricians earned a median annual salary of about $49,000 in 2011. The Bureau also projected the industry to experience growth at a rate of 23% between 2010 and 2020.

Boilermaker

Boilermakers build and install boilers or large closed containers holding gases and liquids. These technicians perform a dangerous and physically demanding job and are often required to travel and be away from home for extended periods of time. The BLS projected this field to grow by 21% between 2010 and 2020. Boilermakers earned a median annual salary of approximately $57,000 in 2011.

Sheet Metal Worker

Sheet metal workers install items constructed of thin metal, such as ductwork for heating and air-conditioning systems. Sheet metal workers train at vocational schools and often obtain work through apprenticeships. According to the BLS, sheet metal workers earned a median annual salary of nearly $43,000. The agency also projected that between 2010 and 2020, this field will grow by 18%.

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