The HVAC/R business is booming and there’s no end in sight. Those looking for a secure career path that pays well may wish to consider working as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning/refrigeration technician. In 2019, the average HVAC/R tech in Wichita earns more than $54,000 a year, plus benefits that vary by employer. No matter where you may live or work in Kansas, you don’t have to drive too far to take courses that will give you the skills you need to work in this growing industry.
Depending on where you enroll, you may need to have a high school diploma or GED in order to get into an HVAC/R training program. As this is a technical field, an aptitude for mathematics and applied science principles will serve you well.
The most traditional route one takes into the field of HVAC/R repair and maintenance is apprenticeship. The largest such program in the state is operated by the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union (UA441), and requires a five-year commitment. Once you complete their application process and are ranked among the pool of prospects, you may be fortunate enough to be placed in an apprenticeship with an established HVAC/R company, where you will be paid for your work as you learn the trade in real time, while also attending school.
This means you will be on a rotating schedule for the next five years — you may find yourself attending school for one week, then working at your plumbing job the next five, then back to school for another week, etc. As a bonus, while you are in the apprenticeship program, you can draw unemployment during each of the weeks you are attending school, in order to make up for the loss of income associated with being off work all week.
The state also has its own registered apprentice program, but in contrast to the union program, students wishing to take part here will have to find their own HVAC/R companies to sponsor them.
There are nine accredited HVAC/R schools in the state of Kansas, all of which are capable of teaching you everything you need to know to launch your career in the industry. Depending on which educational institution you choose to attend, you may have the option to study for a technical certificate — the most basic level of certification — or for a full-on degree, the Associate of Applied Science in HVAC/R Studies.
Among the subject matter you will be taught in these courses:
- HVAC Fundamentals
- Electrical Fundamentals
- EPA 608 Qualification (necessary to be licensed for handling refrigerants)
- Heat Pumps
- Commerical HVAC Applications
- Sheet Metal Fabrication
- Mechanical Refrigeration
- Safety/OSHA Compliance
- Advanced HVAC Electrical Theory
- Heat Loads, Duct Sizing, Etc.
While the above-mentioned apprenticeship programs last five years, during which time you are also working in the industry, a school-only vo-tech education can be completed in considerably shorter time. Those able to dedicate themselves to a full-time school schedule can receive their technical certificate in as little as two semesters’ time, or an associate degree in only two years. Part-time students will require four to six years to finish these same programs.
Those who work as apprentices will be already in a job when they officially finish their schooling, but those who choose to study HVAC/R maintenance and repair at a vocational-technical school will be responsible for finding their own employment after graduation. In many cases, your school may be able to help guide you toward open positions in the business. And don’t forget, this is a growth industry; graduates of WSU Tech’s climate and energy control program enjoy one of the highest placement rates of any course of study offered at the school!
The state of Kansas has no general licensing requirement for this type of work, though individual localities within its borders do; for instance, Johnson County requires certain certification of all technicians working on HVAC/R equipment. The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials in partnership with UA441 offers certification tests in numerous locations throughout the state. And all professionals who will be working in any capacity with chemical refrigerants will have to meet federal compliance, which will be taken care of during your schooling, regardless of which educational route you choose to take.