Career Choice: Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Career Choice: Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers
  • Type: Career Type
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    Consumers understand how difficult it can be to find good help around the home.

    From plumbers to electricians, and from renovation experts to landscapers, talented individuals are needed to do the work that many people are not qualified to handle or may not have the time to do themselves.


There are many people that provide these services, but finding quality help often means turning to your neighbors, to third-party services or hoping that your online search turns up someone who is skilled at what they do. Refrigeration mechanics and installers, also known as HVAC technicians, are professionals with post-high school training, people that may possess an associate degree in addition to having completed an apprenticeship program.


Refrigeration mechanics and installers are tasked with observing and testing HVAC equipment including gauges and instruments. HVAC technicians adjust valves, test lines, dismantle outdated or malfunctioning equipment, solder or braze parts and perform overhauls as needed. They also install and expand control valves, install wiring, keep record of repairs and installations made, and use database software to track everything.

HVAC technicians must be comfortable using a variety of tools including flowmeters, wattmeters, press indicators, handheld thermometers, calipers and power drills. They’re mathematically adept, computer literate and electronics savvy. These professionals should also possess very good time management skills, work well with the public, liaise with other technicians and be organized.


Nearly 90 percent of HVAC technicians have attended college, with many having completed an associate degree or received certification. High school vocational schools provide an excellent starting point for many workers, with others attending a community, technical or other two-year college for their training. Passing a licensing examination is usually required for most jobs.

Refrigeration mechanics and installers must possess strong analytical thinking skills with the ability to identify and resolve problems. Lessons and courses involve the installation, maintenance and troubleshooting of refrigeration units, heat pumps, water chillers, thermostats, valves and related equipment. Technicians must be able to repair defective switches and controls, and adjust refrigerant levels. They also work with electricity, heating and cooling, and must be proficient with soldering and brazing techniques.


The average annual salary for refrigeration mechanics and installers was $43,640 in 2012 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Annual pay ranges from $27,300 for those in the 10th percentile to $69,000 for technicians in the 90th percentile. Those in the 25th percentile earned $34,100 per year on average. Those in the 50th percentile made $43,600, while those in the 75th percentile earned $56,300 per year on average.

State data assembled by the BLS reveals that salaries were highest in Alaska where HVAC technicians earned $58,500 per year on average followed by Massachusetts coming in at $56,300. Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island were other states reporting salaries that were well above the national average.

On the other end of the pay spectrum, salaries were lowest in West Virginia, averaging $32,700 per year, followed by Mississippi at $34,500 per year. Arkansas, South Carolina and Idaho were among the other states reporting the lowest salary averages for refrigeration mechanics and installers.

Job Outlook

The job outlook is a bright one for HVAC technicians according to the BLS. The BLS has forecasted a 34 percent growth rate from 2010 to 2020, more than twice the increase for all jobs. Both residential and commercial construction are expected to fuel demand, especially as the nation continues to recover from a deep recession.

Also working to the advantage of HVAC technicians is that climate control systems typically have a short lifespan, usually 10 to 15 years. Throughout the intervening years regular maintenance and repairs are needed, keeping technicians busy servicing such units. The BLS notes that the job prospects are best for those refrigeration mechanics and installers that have completed some training such as an apprenticeship program.


Summary Report for: 49-9021.02 – Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

See Also4 Automobile Technical Colleges


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Categories: Career Planning