If you love keeping cool and making money, you may find that you love working in refrigeration. This stable industry boasts a healthy growth rate of 21 percent, with a median pay of $43,640 per year. But you can't just waltz right into your new career. Here are four important steps you must be prepared to go through first.
1. Formal Training
Refrigeration training is essential for anyone who plans to enter this highly technical field, especially since the materials and temperatures involved call for skillful handling and a firm grasp of safety regulations and practices. You'll often find refrigeration training included as part of an integrated course of study in heating, refrigeration and air conditioning. You may need a valid driver's license for your state, prove that you're 18 or older, and possess a high school diploma or its equivalent before you can enroll.
Classroom training covers a wide range of subject matter, from basic technical concepts to industry rules and regulations. You'll study such topics as:
- Electrical and mechanical troubleshooting
- How to use specialized testing gear and tools
- How to read diagrams and understand refrigerant and electrical layouts
- How to remove, repair and install pipes and tubes
- Safety procedures
- Computation of accurate estimates
- How to comply with local heating and air conditioning codes and laws
As part of your overall HVAC training, you may be required to pursue an apprenticeship with a busy provider of HVAC or industrial refrigeration services. This is a golden opportunity to get up close and personal with the equipment, processes, challenges and routines you'll be encountering in your career. It also gives you a chance to make a strong impression on managers and supervisors with your work ethic, intelligence, and willingness to learn. The work you do here, and the relationships you form, could easily lead to full-time employment at the company once your apprenticeship ends.
Apprenticeships can vary in length, depending in part on what level of refrigeration certification you're content to achieve. But be prepared for an apprenticeship program to run concurrent with formal training, in some cases consuming up to 8,000 hours over a five-year period.
Refrigeration certification is a crucial conclusion to your initial training. Without EPA certification, you cannot work on any refrigeration or air conditioning machinery that uses ozone-depleting substances. The EPA will present you with its own exam to see if you have the necessary skills and knowledge to work on specific categories of devices. The number of questions you answer correctly at various points of the test may result in your achieving any of the following levels:
- Type I Certification enables you to work on most small appliances containing up to 5 pounds of sealed refrigerant.
- Type II Certification permits you to work on appliances that use high-pressure refrigerants (which boil at temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Type III Certification enables you to work on appliances that use low-pressure refrigerants (which boil at temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Universal Certification is the most desirable category of all, because it means you can work on just about any kind of air conditioning or refrigeration equipment.
If you want to focus on one specific kind of refrigeration work, you can also earn specialized certifications from industry organizations such as the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute, North American Technician Excellence, and the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society.
4. Job Hunting
Once you've got your refrigeration certification, you have one more major challenge ahead of you -- landing that first job. You can't necessarily count on being hired by the place where you apprenticed, and in fact you may prefer to work at a different company or in a different concentration (residential HVAC service as opposed to industrial refrigerator installation, for instance). So before you even complete the refrigeration training and certification process, you need to already have a job-hunting strategy in place.
Fortunately, an applicant with a well-polished resume, the proper certifications, and an Internet connection can uncover a world of opportunities with just a few clicks of a mouse. You might start with general online job boards that post refrigeration and HVAC openings nationwide; if you're not willing or able to travel, you can usually narrow your search for these listing to a specific geographic area.
For a more industry-specific search, comb the listings on national trade publications and organization websites, many of which have classified sections displaying current job openings. In-person networking can also pay off, so try getting to know people in the industry via chamber of commerce meetings or local networking events aimed at technical industries.
If you're patient, hardworking, and willing to take the necessary steps in the right order, you can enjoy a cool new career in the world of refrigeration installation, service and maintenance. Start today, look at sites like http://hvac-tech.com, and you'll get there that much sooner!