HVAC technicians perform a vital role in the construction and maintenance industries. These specialists install and maintain heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in both residential and commercial buildings. Refrigeration is also closely related to and is sometimes taught together with HVAC training.
In many cases, a person seeking to work as an HVAC technician (especially an independent HVAC contractor) needs to get a license. Some U.S. states require an HVAC license. Even in states that do not require such a license, it is still possible for a city or county to require HVAC certification or a license.
For those seeking to embark on a career in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning field (and refrigeration), the first step should be to determine the local or state license or certification requirements. Every state has different licensing agencies, so you may have to spend some time tracking down the correct agency.
Other than asking a local HVAC technician about local license requirements, you can use the Contractors-License website (see Resources for the link). Click on your state to get the contractor license requirements for your own state. Now, this site is not perfect but is only being provided here as a possible shortcut. You still need to make sure you know the exact HVAC license requirements for your own state.
Now, you need to check for the local HVAC license or certification requirements. Each local area in the United States (whether it be a county, city or some other kind of political subdivision) has a building department. Check with that department to see about HVAC technician license requirements for your local area.
Note: You can get some idea of the HVAC requirements for your state by using the National Contractors website. Of course, this is only preliminary information that needs to be confirmed with the licensing agency.
An example of an HVAC licensing scheme can be seen in California. In that state, the Contractors State License Board requires a statewide license for HVAC contractors. Conversely, Pennsylvania does not have a state license. But cities like Pittsburgh (the Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspection) do have their own local HVAC license requirements (see Resources).
Those seeking an HVAC license will generally need to take an exam and have a certain amount of work experience. As examples, California requires four years of work experience, and Pittsburgh requires three years of experience. The exam you have to take is going to depend entirely on where you are getting your HVAC certification. For example, Pittsburgh uses the International Code Council exam, while California uses its own state HVAC exam.
Finally, it is pretty typical to have some kind of financial requirements or insurance for work as an independent HVAC contractor. You may have to post a surety bond or get liability insurance. This depends entirely on the contractor licensing rules of your local licensing agency.
Note: Generally speaking, you do not necessarily have to attend an HVAC training school. Learning on the job is typically the way that HVAC technicians learn their craft. However, completing an HVAC school could be helpful in passing any required HVAC exam and learning skills that you might not be learning at your local job.
National Contractors State HVAC License Requirements
California Contractor Licensing Classifications At the State Level
Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspection: HVAC Contractor License