Even entry-level positions in the heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration field require some post-secondary education and/or completion of an apprenticeship program and, frequently, state licensing. Training programs generally are six months to two years in duration, and apprenticeship programs are three to five years. To qualify for an apprenticeship, one must be 18 years old, hold a high school diploma or its equivalent, have a valid driver's license, and pass a basic math test and substance abuse screening.
An apprenticeship usually requires 2000 hours of on-the-job training and at least 144 hours of technical education. In order to obtain the various certifications available in the field, the technical coursework is essential.
Those with less than two years work experience who have completed the required technical courses can sit for the entry-level certification exams. A number of specialized exams are open to those with at least one year of installation experience and two years of experience maintaining and repairing equipment. All technicians working with refrigerants are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be certified in one of three refrigerant handling specialties: servicing small appliances, high pressure refrigerants or low pressure refrigerants. Certifications, often actively sought by employers, increase a technician's employability.
Work in this field, frequently involving direct conduct with customers, also requires strong customer service skills and patience, as well as the ability to provide on-the-spot troubleshooting while maintaining an ambitious daily schedule.