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HVAC Technician Job Description

The modern world relies heavily on climate control in buildings and other structures. Heating and cooling systems allow people to occupy and use buildings on a year-round basis at relatively uniform temperature conditions. HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) technicians are specialists in these types of systems.

Duties

The three areas of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning are the primary concern of HVAC technicians. These workers install, maintain and repair heating and cooling units, as well as refrigeration systems. The systems often contain electronic, mechanical and electrical components, requiring HVAC workers to be able to diagnose and repair different kinds of problems. These technicians often specialize in such areas as maintenance and repair or installation and even sales.

Education

Some states require HVAC technicians to pass a test and be licensed. Many HVAC technicians are trained in trade schools or junior or community college programs that offer classes in heating, cooling and refrigerator maintenance. Many of these programs last six months to two years. Other technicians train through apprenticeship programs with experienced HVAC workers and other union-affiliated tradesman. These programs typically last three to five years and include paid on-the-job training and classroom instruction. Still others acquire their skills while working on the job, usually under the tutelage of a more experienced technician.

Work Environment

HVAC technicians can work anywhere heating and cooling units are used--homes, businesses, hospitals and office buildings--and they work indoors and outdoors, depending on where the machinery is located. These workers often are required to operate in cramped or uncomfortable conditions and can be exposed to such hazards as electrical shock, muscle strain and injuries associated with handling heavy equipment. Most HVAC technicians have a 40-hour workweek, but extended and irregular hours can be common during extremes in outdoor temperatures.

Skills

HVAC technicians must have a good understanding of heating and cooling systems as well as a general working knowledge of mechanical and electrical systems. These workers must be able to think analytically when confronted with heating and cooling problems. Because they often come into contact with the public, excellent communication skills and the ability to deal with irritated or stressed customers also are necessary.

Jobs and Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 308,000 HVAC technician jobs in 2008. The number of these jobs is expected to grow much faster than average between 2008 and 2018, primarily because of the expected retirements of current workers. The median hourly wage for HVAC technicians in 2008 was about $19. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $12 an hour, while the top 10 percent earned more than $30 an hour.



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