If you want to become an HVAC-R technician in Austin, Texas, there are a couple of ways to do it. First, it's essential to know that you must be at least 18 years old to get an HVAC license in Texas. You have two options: You can become an HVAC apprentice or attend an education course through an accredited HVAC training school. (Note: There is no apprenticeship program for HVAC in the greater Austin area, but you can be hired as an apprentice.) Either way, the goal is for you to get work experience under the supervision of an experienced contractor so you can pass the certification exam. Upon graduating from an accredited HVAC program, the student can register as an HVAC-R Technician with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). Once a technician has four years of verifiable work experience under a TDLR licensed contractor, they can get approval to take the HVAC contractors exam. The technician will receive a master contractor license upon passing the state exam. This license is necessary for technicians to start their own mechanical contracting company.
There are a lot of discussions about seeking an apprenticeship versus attending a trade school for HVAC training. Current HVAC technicians who attended a trade school will probably recommend that route, while those who trained through an apprenticeship will most likely recommend that path. With an apprenticeship, the overall experience depends mainly on the instructor's skills and the amount of training they are willing to provide. Let's say that some apprenticeships are better than others. Trade schools provide more structure, so you know exactly what you're getting. There is more of a set syllabus at a trade school that allows students to work through the curriculum more logically and leisurely. You will learn one aspect of HVAC, then continue to build on that idea as you progress through the program. During an apprenticeship, you'll be tackling a wide range of duties that vary from day to day with no clear path to success. An apprenticeship is more of an "into the fire" approach that works for some but can be confusing for others.
HVAC is an acronym that stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. In today's world, you often see an "R" added at the end – HVAC-R – which stands for Refrigeration. The easiest way to understand what you'll be doing every day as an HVAC technician is to look at each part individually.
"H" is for Heating in HVAC. Yes, it is precisely what you would expect it to be. A heating technician keeps things warm, basically. But the heating world has several different avenues for a tech to explore. You'd think it was hot enough in Texas, but it can get cold during the winter months in parts of the state, so residential heating unit sales and maintenance are big business. In addition to keeping homes toasty, heating technicians are also responsible for overseeing the heating needs of larger buildings like schools, hospitals, and government buildings. And that is not to mention all the commercial big-box stores and other retailers with massive, state-of-the-art heating systems.
"V" is for Ventilation in HVAC. Sandwiched between heating and cooling in HVAC is Ventilation. Ventilation means "the provision of fresh air into a room or building. A technician's job is to remove contaminated air from an area.
Ventilation is a nuanced trade with plenty of room for growth. Restaurants have giant ventilation systems that maintain a balance of clean air between the dining room and the kitchen. For example, a large steakhouse would need an excellent ventilation system to keep the smoke from the grill from moving out into the dining area. Arenas, hospitals, schools, government offices, corporate buildings, and manufacturing plants are just a few other businesses that need a well-functioning ventilation system for their endeavors to succeed.
"AC" is for Air Conditioning in HVAC. It's so hot in Texas that they gave air conditioning two letters in HVAC. But seriously, folks, it's that important. Air conditioning units have become sophisticated, high-tech systems that require significant training to operate, maintain, and repair. HVAC technicians stay up to date on the significant advancements and work hands-on with the latest technologies.
Like heating, air conditioning is crucial in hospitals, care centers, and other health facilities. It's also vital in schools, office buildings, government offices, retail stores, and residential homes. Some HVAC technicians focus primarily on just air conditioning in Austin because the demand is so high.
"R" is for Refrigeration. In recent years, HVAC has become HVAC-R with the addition of Refrigeration. Refrigeration is subjecting food or drink to cold to chill or preserve it. Austin trade schools (like Austin Career Institute) teach refrigeration as part of the HVAC-R course. It provides all the knowledge needed to pass the certification exam and begin a career as an entry-level refrigeration technician.
When you think about it, many places need reliable refrigeration equipment. Restaurants have long needed excellent systems to store vast quantities of food and beverages. Emerging ghost kitchens need sound refrigeration systems to hold the product. Liquor and wine shops have varying units to keep drinks at different temperatures. Big-box retailers like Costco and Sam's Club have enormous refrigeration systems for all the frozen food.
One of the perks of attending a trade school is the benefit of job placement upon completing the coursework. Many students have employment waiting for them upon graduation. Trade schools like Austin Career Institute work with students ahead of graduation to make sure they have opportunities to start their new careers off right.
Attending a trade school for HVAC training is way more affordable than attending a two-year community college or a four-year university. There is also Financial Aid available for many of those who qualify. Scholarships and Federal Pell Grants are available that do not require repayment upon graduation. We are also partnered with nonprofit organizations and Workforce Solutions for funding opportunities. Austin Career Institute has a certifying official, and we do accept VA Education Benefits. There are options available for all situation types. Scholars and grants do not require repayment if you complete the coursework and get a job in a related field. There are also loans available that allow you to borrow money and pay it back later with a lower interest rate. If you are a military veteran from any branch of the U.S. services, you may also be eligible for financial assistance. Many students who attend a trade school have little or no payments after graduation.