How to Become a Refrigerator Mechanic in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a refrigerator mechanic. Learn about training requirements, employment outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does A Refrigerator Mechanic Do?

Refrigerators are installed, maintained and repaired by refrigerator mechanics. These professionals are trained to handle refrigerant, work on the systems that make the refrigerator operate properly, and test components for leaks. O*Net reported that in 2015, 56% of refrigerator mechanics had a postsecondary certificate, while 22% had completed some college and 12% had associate's degrees. Some states require refrigeration mechanics to be licensed. Their duties typically involve working in tight spaces, working outside (sometimes in bad weather), and communicating with customers.

Training Required On-the-job training at minimum; an apprenticeship or postsecondary certificate or degree is preferred
Key Skills Troubleshooting, physical stamina, customer service, mechanical ability
Licensure/Certification Licensure is required in many states; certification is optional
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% (for all heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers)
Median Salary (2015)* $45,110 (for all heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Refrigerator Mechanic?

A refrigerator mechanic's duties during installation might include placing and securing refrigeration units in their designated space, connecting system components to power sources, adjusting valves and infusing the system with refrigerant. When making repairs you could observe refrigeration systems in operation, test lines and components for leaks, shut down and dismantle malfunctioning systems and replace defective parts. You also could maintain records documenting your activities at service calls.

Step 1: Prepare in High School

High school courses in physics, chemistry, computers and shop can help you acquire background knowledge relevant to the daily work of a mechanic. Courses in plumbing and electronics are potentially helpful as well. Some schools offer HVAC training directly; however, even if you don't take preparatory courses, you may need a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) credential to enter a postsecondary training program.

Step 2: Complete a Training Program

Your education can take place through an apprenticeship, a certificate program or an associate's degree program. Apprenticeships are available through joint committees of union locals or trade associations. They combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction and may include up to five years of training. These programs cover installation, maintenance and repair of motors, condensers, valves, switches and coils.

Certificate programs are offered by community colleges and technical schools. A refrigeration mechanic certificate program may include 1-2 years of training and may cover such topics as electricity fundamentals, refrigerant management and refrigeration systems and principles. Associate's degree programs in air conditioning and refrigeration are typically two years in duration and include courses and training in electricity, commercial refrigeration and heat pumps.

Step 3: Obtain a Job

You could look for job openings with building equipment contractors, refrigeration service and repair firms, government agencies and hospitals. You could also open your own business. Demand for your services will be driven by increased emphasis on indoor air quality, an expansion in the number of venues selling perishables, general population growth and the need to replace outdated refrigeration systems. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 274,700 heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics were employed in 2015, and employment was projected to rise 14% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).

Step 4: Consider Certification

Industry certification can result in higher wages and show employers that you have taken additional steps to advance in your career. At least two organizations have certification options for refrigerator mechanics. You could earn the Certificate Member (CM) and the Certificate Member Specialist (CMS) credentials from the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES). You could also earn the Light Commercial Refrigeration certification (LCR) from HVAC Excellence.

The CM examination consists of 150 multiple-choice questions in 18 categories that will test your knowledge of refrigeration theory, equipment installation, maintenance and troubleshooting procedures (www.rses.org). The CMS exam contains 100 questions in 15 categories, including compressors, metering devices, controls and test instruments. You'll need to join RSES and earn the CM credential to be eligible to take the CMS exam. For the LCR credential, you'll need two years of experience and competency in leak detection, refrigerant recharging, testing and soldering and brazing techniques ('www.hvacexcellence.org).

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Advancement opportunities may be available through your employer, from outside entities and from your own resources. If you demonstrate initiative and leadership, your employer could promote you to a service management or supervisory position. Positions as a cost estimator, system tester or building superintendent are possibilities if you want to transition to related fields. Finally, you could establish your own refrigeration service business if you have money and administrative talent, or if you can obtain financing.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers are trained to work on heating and air conditioning systems, as well as refrigerators. Like refrigerator mechanics, they usually need to complete an apprenticeship or postsecondary certificate, and they focus on testing systems, installing them, maintaining them and performing repairs when needed. Boilermakers assemble, install, and repair boilers. They also prepare for their career by completing an apprenticeship or certificate. An apprenticeship or postsecondary training is also required for electricians. Electricians may be involved in installing or replacing wiring or electrical systems in homes and businesses. All of these jobs involve some level of understanding of different mechanical systems and the ability to test those systems, identify problems and conduct repairs.

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