HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. An HVAC technician installs, maintains, and services systems that control the air quality and temperature in homes and businesses.
A career as an HVAC technician can open the door to many different roles, from a residential technician working in people’s homes to a commercial technician working on centrifugal compressors, but almost all HVAC careers start in the same place—an HVAC apprenticeship.
An apprenticeship is a program designed to teach you a given trade while you’re working on the job, often referred to as earn while you learn programs. While most employers require no more than a high school diploma or GED to join an apprenticeship, there is still a tremendous amount of knowledge technicians need to know to advance in their careers.
The solution to this need for knowledge is through on-the-job training via an HVAC apprenticeship. Through the apprenticeship, the new HVAC technician will shadow and be mentored by an experienced technician in their area of the HVAC field. Some programs also require an apprentice to participate in classroom learning through a community college or technical school.
This guide goes over HVAC apprentice salaries, how to become one, what the day-to-day work environment looks like, and more.
HVAC apprentice salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average HVAC apprentice makes about half of what full-time HVAC technicians make. This means HVAC apprentice salaries average about $24,315, which comes out to around $12.16 per hour.
Note that how much you earn as an HVAC apprentice will vary based on where you live, the company you work for, and more. Some HVAC apprentices make as high as $40,000 or more, while others make under $20,000 per year.
While these numbers may seem low, it's worth keeping in mind that you're getting paid to learn. As opposed to college or trade school where you have to pay, HVAC apprentices make money. In addition, once you finish your apprenticeship, you'll start earning a full-time HVAC technician salary which can be as high as $80,000 per year.
During your apprenticeship, you will likely be paid hourly. As you progress through your apprenticeship, your wage is increased as long as benchmarks are met. Again, this will vary depending on the employer and/or program you are working with.
National Apprentice Salary Data
- Median Salary: $24,315 ($12.16 per hour)
- Experienced Salary: $39,105 ($19.55 per hour)
- Entry-Level Salary: $17,160 ($8.58 per hour)
How to become an HVAC apprentice
The first step to becoming an HVAC technician is locating an apprenticeship program. Here are some common ways to do that:
- Contact local HVAC companies. One common way you can do this is by simply reaching out to local HVAC businesses in your area to see if they are hiring. Many businesses hire apprentices or helpers in unison with current technicians in their own internal hiring process.
- Take HVAC classes that help with apprenticeships. Another common avenue to gaining an apprenticeship is through additional schooling at a local community college or technical school. Again, no further education is generally required to become an HVAC technician past high school, but these HVAC apprenticeship programs will have partnerships with businesses and include apprenticeship placement within the curriculum. This process will also add credibility to your resume when applying to other jobs in the future.
- Check the Department of Labor or local unions. You can also find apprenticeships through the Department of Labor or union sponsored programs. Through the U.S. Department of Labor for example, you can search for a registered apprenticeship program using their Apprenticeship Job Finder. You can also find apprenticeships via the United Association, a national union for plumbers, welders, fitters, and service techs. These programs are generally nationally recognized and will offer both classroom instruction and hands on training in the industry.
>> Read More: HVAC Training & Education
HVAC apprentice work environment
Regardless of where your apprenticeship comes from, they will generally look similar. While requirements or regulations vary from state to state, apprenticeship programs typically last from 3 to 5 years. Many programs base the duration of the program on the time spent working, usually resulting in somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 hours on the job.
As far as your duties as an apprentice, here is what you can generally expect:
- Year 1. During the first year, you will ultimately be an extra set of hands for the experienced technician you’re working with. This will gain you exposure to different tasks and familiarize yourself with the equipment and systems commonly used.
- Year 2. As your knowledge base continues to grow, you will be assigned increasingly more important and tougher tasks. This will lead to being assigned advanced tasks while on a job, like discharging a system or brazing repair.
- Year 3 and on. As you continue to show your qualifications on the job, the work may progress into a more consistent and long term task assigned directly to you. This for example could be in a specific area of repair, keeping you on a repair team for a longer duration of time.
Ultimately your time spent as an apprentice will show your ability to retain learned tasks and you’ll be able to show your employer you can replicate those tasks on a more independent nature as time progresses.
HVAC apprenticeship FAQs
How long does an HVAC apprenticeship last?
HVAC apprenticeships usually last between 3 and 5 years depending on the company.
How can I find an HVAC apprenticeship?
You can find an HVAC apprenticeship by contacting your local HVAC companies, enrolling in an HVAC course that helps with apprenticeships, searching the Department of Labor's Apprentice Job Finder tool, or contacting unions in your area.
Is HVAC a good career path?
Working in HVAC comes with is a rewarding career path with a good salary, benefits, and interesting day-to-day responsibilities.
Is HVAC training hard?
HVAC apprenticeships require attention to detail and studying what you've learned. While the material isn't extremely challenging, it does require hard work to learn and remember it.
Do HVAC apprenticeships lead to full-time jobs?
Yes, most companies that offer HVAC apprenticeships expect (and hope) that you will do well and join as a full-time employee once you're finished.
What tools do I need as an HVAC apprentice?
Ask the company running your HVAC apprenticeship if you will need any tools and, if so, which ones. Many companies provide you with the necessary tools for the job.
What job will I get after I finish my HVAC apprenticeship?
Most people will become entry-level HVAC technicians after finishing their apprenticeships.
Final thoughts on HVAC apprenticeships
A career as an HVAC technician opens doors to many different roles within the industry, but almost all start with a successful apprenticeship. Knowing the basics will give you the head start on others in your field.
You can learn the basics of HVAC and get help finding an apprenticeship through Faraday's online HVAC training program.