One thought that bugs many current and former felons is whether there’s a life after prison. The short answer is “yes,” an ex-convict can find a decent job provided that they’re sincere in their willingness to change.
A huge challenge that most felons face is finding a job that pays well so that they can actually afford to pay their rent, put food on the table and support their families.
One career that offers very good pay is an HVAC technician, whose median earnings across US are $24 per hour + benefits ($48,000 annual salary before overtime). This is double the salary for a minimum wage job, which many felons are often stuck in for years.
Most HVAC service technicians / installers earn over $35/hr after 5 years in the field.
In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at the possibilities of felons becoming HVAC/R technicians.
We will explore different aspects of an HVAC/R technician’s job. Below, you’ll find information on the education and training requirements, licenses and certifications, pros and cons, and average salary nationwide.
Of course, we’ll also discuss how a felony may affect their chances of getting an HVAC/R technician job and give advice on improving them.
How Much Does An HVAC Technician Earn?
Based on the analysis conducted by the BLS, the median pays in the US in 2020 was $24.32 per hour.$18.77 per hour, while in Massachusetts $39.37 per hour.
At the same time, a basic HVAC technician job doesn’t require extensive education. While a bachelor’s or associate’s degree often leads to a better position and pay, a certificate or on-site training may be sufficient to receive the average rate.
HVAC Technician Salary Breakdown
The pay rate is a major consideration when looking for a job, often even more crucial in decision-making.
HVAC/R technician jobs are adequately paid for. Based on the BLS analysis, the median annual salary for HVAC/R mechanics and installers in 2020 was $50,590, an above-average nationwide rate.
The median wage is the rate at which half the workers in the US earned less than that amount and half earned more. 10% of individuals with the lowest rate earned under $31,910, while those with the highest pay earned over $80,820 annually.
As the need for HVAC professionals grows, the pay rate is expected to rise even further as long as the supply doesn’t overrun the demand.
What Does An HVAC Technician Do?
What a particular HVAC technician does greatly depends on industry, as well as the HVAC specialty. Your duties also vary depending on whether are an HVAC apprentice or a licensed technician.
Most HVAC technicians do the following jobs/tasks:
-Test pipe and tubing joints or connections for leaks
-Test electrical circuits and components for continuity
-Repair and replace defective HVAC equipment
-Improve HVAC system performance by changing filters, cleaning ducts, or refilling refrigerants
-Install, connect and adjust thermostats, humidistats as well as timers
-Connect HVAC equipment to fuel, water, or refrigerant sources
-Study blueprints and other specifications
-Assemble, position and mount HVAC equipment
-Cut or drill holes in buildings and residential homes as part of the equipment installation process
HVAC Technician Education and Training Requirements
Although on-site training may be sufficient to work as a basic HVAC/R technician, many employers prefer specialists who’ve gone through a formal education program.
Such programs take six months to four years to complete, depending on the desired outcome. Technical schools and colleges offer professional certificates, associate’s degrees, or bachelor’s in HVAC or HVAC/R specialties.
The key skills required are installing, repairing, and maintaining HVAC units. When choosing the right option, an individual should consider the time and costs required for completion and the outcome. Let’s take a more detailed look at each option.
Bachelor’s Degree In HVAC Specialty
College-level HVAC/R programs typically cover control theory, load analysis, energy audit, commercial HVAC system design, contracting issues, and hydronic system design topics.
After successful completion of such courses, an individual is more likely to be prepared for a supervisory or contractor role in the HVAC field.
A bachelor’s degree shows the potential employer the commitment of an individual to a particular industry, raising the chances of getting a job.
Overall, university programs are the best choice for individuals willing to make an impact on the industry, managing, researching, and innovating HVAC technologies.
Additional competency exams may be required to receive the necessary licenses. Thankfully, due to a broad topic coverage, college graduates are prepared to undertake any knowledge checks.
Some of the schools offering bachelor’s programs in HVAC located in the US are Ferris State University, Eastern Michigan University, and Lewis-Clark State College.
Constantly sitting in a classroom may not be necessary to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Plenty of universities today understand that getting full-time education may be impossible for individuals who are already working.
For this reason, some colleges offer part-time, evening, or online bachelor’s programs. Check out our guide: The Best Degrees For Felons for some other career paths that pay well.
Associate’s Degree In HVAC Specialty
An associate’s degree in HVAC takes two years to complete, though the exact period depends on a particular institution. Individuals pursuing an AS in HVAC specialty may be exposed to metal fabrication, electricity in relation to HVAC systems, heat pumps, and technical physics courses.
An associate’s degree may not provide as in-depth knowledge of the topic as a bachelor’s degree. However, individuals are typically prepared for any type of basic work upon course completion and may advance to supervisory positions after receiving some working experience.
After obtaining an associate’s degree in HVAC systems, an individual should be ready to carry out the EPA Section 608 exam.
Such courses normally also prepare students for competency exams through NATE, HVAC Excellence, and other certification entities.
Some of the US schools offering an associate’s program in HVAC are Dunwoody College of Technology, New Your City College of Technology, and Gadsden State Community College.
To conclude, such degrees offer a healthy balance of formal education, adequate costs, and a relatively quick timeline. Any knowledge gaps can be filled during career development.
Certificate In HVAC
Certificate programs are the lowest level of formal education and may range significantly in terms of course content and timeline.
Generally, such courses cover refrigerator systems, electrical systems, residential and light commercial systems, and HVAC system design and installation topics.
Some programs prepare students to work as HVAC technician assistants only. Others may provide all the necessary knowledge to work as an independent expert. Like individuals with associate’s degrees, those holding a certificate in HVAC must undertake the EPA Section 608 exam.
A certificate in HVAC/R specialty can be received in many trade schools, technical institutes, online schools, and career-oriented institutions across the US. For instance, Penn Foster College, Ashworth College, or Lincoln Technical Institute.
Overall, a certificate is the least costly and quickest way to raise one’s competitiveness in the job market.
Most employers won’t care how many years a candidate has spent in a classroom if they exhibit a high level of understanding of the field.
HVAC Apprenticeship Programs
Apprenticeship programs are a great alternative to traditional education. This option provides a combination of classroom study and hands-on training essential for field jobs.
The typical duration of apprenticeship programs is three to five years. An experienced industry professional teaches the apprentice about HVAC theory, job safety, architectural blueprints, and other topics.
This knowledge is then applied in practice. Such programs are ideal for individuals who learn best on-site and prefer to act rather than wait for a better time.
Licenses and Certification
Certain licenses and certificates are obligatory to work as an HVAC/R technician. The job may involve hazards and must be conducted by a professional with a proven knowledge record.
EPA Section 608 certification is required for all HVAC/R technicians or other experts working with HVAC and refrigerating systems, regardless of the state. Three types of EPA certification exist:
•Type l is necessary for technicians handling small appliances, such as room air conditioners, freezers, or dehumidifiers. The certification covers recovery requirements, techniques, and safety.
•Type ll certification is required for those professionals working with high-pressure air conditioning or heating units. It covers additional issues related to high-pressure appliances, including leak detection, repair requirements, and refrigeration.
•Type lll is necessary for individuals handling low-pressure refrigerants. A professional holding Type lll EPA certificate should have in-depth knowledge about leak detection and repair, recovery and recharging techniques, refrigeration, and safety.
•Universal EPA certification includes all three types mentioned above.
Depending on the state an individual resides and works in, certain state licensing may also be necessary. As state legislation is subject to change, make sure to verify the regulations personally.
At the time of writing, the following states have no HVAC licensing requirements:
Other states ask HVAC professionals to undertake certain exams. Note that sometimes, the licensing requirements may vary for contractors and technicians.
Finally, licensing may be obligatory to work with specific equipment. The most widely recognized organization offering such exams are:
•North American Technician Excellence
•The National Inspection Testing and Certification Corporation
•The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
Pro Tip: Optional qualification improvement courses may have a significant impact on an individual’s competitiveness in the job market.
Most professionals today hold some kind of degree, and employers have to refine candidates based on other factors.
Certificates in business, project management, advanced thermodynamics, and other closely or remotely related disciplines are a useful addition to the main education and licensing.
Furthermore, additional classes can fill a knowledge gap preventing a professional from career advancement.
In other words, optional courses may prepare individuals with a certificate or associate degree in the field for supervisory and managerial jobs.
Pros and Cons of an HVAC/R Technician Job
Like any industry, the HVAC/R field contains many jobs within it, each differing in duties, benefits, and drawbacks. An HVAC professional may pursue a technician, mechanic, installer, manager, instructor, dispatcher, or another kind of career.
Today, we’ll take a detailed look at the pros and cons of an HVAC/R technician job. However, it’s also worth considering the career progressing options and the potential advantages and disadvantages of the higher positions.
Points In Favor of an HVAC/R Technician Job
The most apparent benefit of an HVAC/R technician job is the constant demand. It may be considered an essential profession, like a teacher or a doctor.
People always need ventilation, heating, conditioning, or refrigeration. Thus, an HVAC professional will never become fully unemployed as long as they are capable of keeping up with the competition.
Furthermore, such services are needed year-round.
The demand for HVAC technicians and mechanics is not simply stable – it’s rapidly growing.
Based on a forecast made by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for skilled and well-educated HVAC professionals will grow by 21 percent through 2022.
That’s nearly double the demand growth rate for any other job. This phenomenon is closely related to the average lifecycle of HVAC equipment and its expanding application.
Units need to be regularly checked, repaired, and replaced, ensuring enough work for millions of technicians.
Last but not least, HVAC technicians typically get an above-average pay rate.
Points Against an HVAC/R Technician Job
While the pros of an HVAC/R technician job are objective, the cons are merely subjective and may not be seen as an issue by some individuals.
This career may involve working in uncomfortable temperature conditions and high-stress situations.
It’s not the best path for individuals who can’t handle night shifts well or wish to have free weekends.
Although such shifts may not be mandatory, this depends solely on the employer. Finally, the HVAC/R technician job involves potential hazards such as burns, electrical shock, or muscle strains.
Does a Felony Affect an HVAC//R Technician Job Application?
Convicted felons in the US are required to have been freed for over five years in order to apply to some jobs. This rule also applies to receiving an HVAC/R license.
Furthermore, some crimes may prevent an individual from getting a license at all. We’re talking about fraud, sexual offenses, theft and burglary, assault, and other high-degree felonies.
It’s crucial not to hide the past from an employer to fight the stigma of felons being dishonest and untrustworthy, though.
The main factors weighted to determine a felon’s ability to become an HVAC/R technician are:
•The relation of a crime to the purposes of applying for a license
•The individual’s age at the time of committing a crime
•How much time has passed since the release?
•Whether a rehabilitation was administered
•Recommendations from prosecutors, law enforcement, correction officers, and others who can prove an individual’s fitness for the job
•The individual’s profession prior to and after committing a felony
If the crime was committed a long time ago, wasn’t major or potentially related to the job, and an individual can prove rehabilitation, there should be no issue in receiving a license.
Pro Tip: If a person doesn’t yet meet the requirements for HVAC/R license application after being convicted of a felony, they may opt for a governmental or social re-entry program.
Such projects help former felons return to their community without issue. A person who signed up for a re-entry program has to follow certain parole and probation conditions assigned by the court or corrections system.
Upon successful completion of such a program, felons receive proof of rehabilitation and have a higher chance of getting a job.
Everyone Has a Chance
Hopefully, our article has provided you with an in-depth understanding of an HVAC/R technician’s job nature and requirements. This profession involves regular home visits and, therefore, it may not be suitable for some ex-convicts.
But for those who have fully rehabilitated and can prove it, the HVAC/R field is an opportunity to start from a blank page.
It’s a highly promising, constantly evolving industry in need of new professionals. And who knows, maybe today’s former felon is tomorrow’s most talented HVAC/R expert.