How To Become an HVAC Apprentice in Four Steps (With Skills)

Updated June 24, 2022

When a heating or air-conditioning unit breaks, people often contact a heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician to resolve this problem. An HVAC apprentice may accompany a technician to acquire hands-on experience in the field and the skills needed to become a successful technician. If you're considering an HVAC apprenticeship, it's essential to learn about the steps you can take to become an apprentice and some additional information about the job. In this article, we discuss what an HVAC apprentice is, how to become an HVAC apprentice, what they do, their salary and their skills.

Related: How To Become an HVAC Technician

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What is an HVAC apprentice?

HVAC apprentices are individuals that are training to become HVAC technicians. To learn this skilled trade, they often take apprenticeships that last between three and five years. During this time, an experienced and highly qualified mentor shows them how to install, repair and maintain commercial and residential HVAC systems. This apprenticeship provides them with the necessary experience to become licensed HVAC installers or technicians. If you're considering becoming an HVAC apprentice, the required qualifications may include:

  • Being at least 18 years old

  • Having a high school diploma or GED

  • Possessing a valid driver's license

  • Passing a drug test

  • Being capable of working in a physically demanding environment

Related: How Do Apprenticeships Work?

How to become an HVAC apprentice

If you're interested in becoming an HVAC apprentice, follow these four steps:

1. Earn a high school diploma or GED

If you want to be an HVAC apprentice, most states require a high school diploma or a GED. If you're still in high school, consider taking the following courses:

  • Mathematics

  • Physics

  • Computer science

  • Shop classes, such as woodwork or metalwork

  • Blueprint reading

  • Technical mathematics

  • Mechanical drawing

Consider taking vocational training in air conditioning and refrigeration if your high school offers it.

2. Update your resume

Next, update your resume with the goal of acquiring an apprenticeship. Highlight your background and the abilities that can help you succeed as an HVAC apprentice. Ensure that your resume includes the following:

  • Your contact information, such as name, address, phone number and email

  • Your work experience

  • Your education

  • Your skills

Some tips for writing a resume for an HVAC apprentice include:

  • List relevant work experience: The person reading your resume may prefer that any jobs, experiences and awards listed are relevant to the work of an HVAC apprentice.

  • Pull skills from keywords: Peruse the job description of an HVAC apprentice and take note of keywords, such as "excellent communicator." In this case, list "communication as one of your skills.

  • Share quantifiable achievements: Provide numbers or additional information to provide context to listed achievements, for example, "Earned an A in physics, algebra and computer science."

  • Consider your audience: When you write, consider how you can benefit the company if they hire you.

  • Format neatly: Ensure that your resume appears neat and organized and fits on one page.

  • Revise: Have a family member or friend read your resume to ensure it's well-written and error-free. Consider reading it aloud and listen for any clunky-sounding phrases.

Remember that a resume is often the first impression the receiving party may have of you, so ensure it's clear, relevant and well-written.

Related: Creating the Perfect Resume in 7 Steps

3. Find an apprenticeship

There are a few different options for finding an apprenticeship. For example, you can enroll in a reputable HVAC program, take courses at a technical college, contact a union or go directly to a working HVAC technician and inquire about an apprenticeship. Here is some additional information if you're considering these options:

Enroll in a program through an HVAC organization

There are nationally recognized organizations for heating and air conditioning that offer apprenticeship programs. These trade programs tend to provide schooling, which consists of around 600 classroom hours. Some subjects these programs may cover include:

  • Basic industrial math

  • Practical measurements

  • Industrial safety

  • Working safely with electricity

  • Tools and applications

  • Common hand tools

  • Precision measuring interests

  • Power cutting tools

  • Preventative maintenance

  • Reading prints and schematics

In some programs, apprentices may be in a classroom for a few intensive days a month and spend the rest of the time learning in the field. Other programs have classes after-hours or on weekends, with on-the-job training during weekdays. Splitting time between a classroom and practice in the field is an effective learning method, as you get the opportunity to apply newly acquired knowledge. These trade programs typically include any tests that are needed for you to qualify for any necessary certifications.

Enroll at a technical college

Today, many aspiring technicians begin their careers by taking courses at technical schools or community colleges. Students often have the option of partaking in a shorter six-month program, resulting in an HVAC technician certificate, or a program lasting up to two years, which results in an associate degree. Some courses that you may take in these colleges include:

  • HVAC theory and practice

  • HVAC system design

  • Energy management

  • Industry code standards

  • Ductwork and piping systems

  • Refrigeration

  • Load calculations

Your college may help you find an apprenticeship program. Consider speaking with a school advisor and inquiring about any available opportunities and how you can apply for them.

Related: 10 Reasons Why a Technical School May Be Right for You

Contact a union

You may choose to contact a local union chapter related to the HVAC field, such as the plumbers and pipe workers union, and inquire about apprenticeships. The union may provide instructions for how to join. Typically, you submit an application which the board reviews. Requirements for joining a union may include:

  • Having a high school diploma or GED

  • Passing a math exam

  • Passing a drug test

  • Having a valid driver's license

Once you're accepted, your union can assist in finding an apprenticeship training program that's right for you.

Contact companies or technicians

If you're an independent and driven individual, consider contacting companies or technicians directly. Some independent HVAC business owners look to hire less-experienced workers as apprentices. Be prepared to explain why you want to work in the industry and what makes you the right fit for the job. Be polite and professional and share why you decided to approach them as a mentor, instead of pursuing a degree or going through a program. If they seem reluctant, consider offering to work for an unpaid trial period. If the trial period goes well, they may hire you as a paid apprentice.

4. Get certified and licensed

As apprentices are new to the field, they don't typically have certificates and licenses, which signify they can work safely and effectively. Whether you're currently in a program or already working as an HVAC apprentice, the organization or company can help you acquire the necessary certificates and licenses. Some common ones include:

  • EPA 608 certification: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awards this certificate to individuals who have demonstrated their knowledge and work with refrigerants.

  • NATE certification: Apprentices may earn the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certificate after passing a knowledge-based exam which tests to see if they're ready to work in the HVAC industry.

  • OSHA certification: Apprentices can earn the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) certificate after completing ten hours of training on workplace safety.

  • First aid/CPR: Apprentices may earn first aid and CPR certificates once they have demonstrated their ability to respond appropriately to situations where people are in crisis.

  • United Association STAR Certification: Apprentices can earn this certificate when they pass an exam, proving that they have the necessary qualifications and skills related to heating, air conditioning, refrigeration and plumbing.

  • State license: Apprentices acquire a state license to ensure employers and clients that they're professionally trained and qualified to perform tasks within a particular state. If you relocate to a different state, contact your new state's licensing department to learn what to do next.

What do HVAC apprentices do?

As HVAC apprenticeships tend to last three to five years, an HVAC apprentice's work varies depending on their skill level. If they're a new apprentice, they may be observing their mentor as they carry out their tasks. As apprentices gain experience, they often perform more tasks under their mentor's supervision. Some tasks that an HVAC apprentice may complete includes:

  • Installing and servicing heating and air conditioning systems

  • Identifying refrigeration materials

  • Replacing refrigerant

  • Cleaning ducts

  • Using HVAC software

  • Reading drawings or blueprints

  • Working with air cleaning and distribution systems

  • Learning ventilation requirements

  • Determining which piping materials are needed

  • Testing tubes and pipes for leaks

  • Welding pipes

  • Testing electrical circuits

  • Connecting wiring

  • Using power tools, like saws, power drills, voltage testers and vacuum pumps

Salary for HVAC apprentices

An HVAC apprentice is often a paid position, although the salary can vary based on experience and location. While there isn't an average salary for HVAC apprentices, the average salary for an HVAC technician is $47,899 per year. Remember, when you're beginning your career as an apprentice, you're receiving compensation while also learning the trade. HVAC apprentices may earn a higher salary as their responsibilities and years of experience increase.

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Skills for HVAC apprentices

Some skills that may help an HVAC apprentice excel in their role include:

  • Basic math skills: For calculating load requirements ensuring that heating and cooling equipment can run properly

  • Technology skills: For employing software programs and using computers that control and maintain HVAC systems

  • Troubleshooting skills: For inspecting and quickly identifying the cause of the problem

  • Mechanical skills: For working on various complicated systems

  • Record-keeping skills: For keeping records organized for customers and equipment

  • Customer service skills: For managing expectations and explaining why repairs are necessary

  • Communication skills: For explaining to customers how newly installed systems work and how to maintain them

  • Patience: For solving issues that do not have immediate solutions

  • Detail-oriented: For noticing minor issues that can lead to significant problems

  • Physically fit: For lifting, moving and repairing heavy parts and equipment

  • Flexible and reliable: For working odd hours, like evenings and weekends

  • Adaptable and trainable: For staying current in a field that changes rapidly

  • Safe working habits: For remaining safe while working with electricity and water

  • Willingness to work in poor conditions: For working in dark, tight spaces or extreme heat or cold

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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