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Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technician

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technician

The Work

As a refrigeration and air-conditioning technician you would install, service and repair temperature and air quality control systems. You might fit these systems in factories, offices, shops or in homes. Wherever you work, your duties would include:

  • surveying sites to check that installation plans are workable
  • planning the layout of pipework, ducts and control panels
  • producing estimates for installation, equipment and running costs
  • organising craftspeople, work schedules and material supplies
  • fitting refrigeration or air-conditioning systems
  • inspecting and testing systems before certifying that they are ready to use
  • carrying out regular maintenance checks.

In most cases, you would be part of a team, working under the direction of a qualified engineer, but you may have supervisory duties on smaller jobs.

Hours and Environment

You would normally work between 37 and 40 hours a week. Overtime may be necessary to meet deadlines.

Your working conditions would vary depending on the building or site. You may need protective equipment and clothing for some jobs.

You would often work on a contract basis, travelling from job to job, which could involve occasional overnight stays away from home.

Skills and Interests

  • good problem-solving skills
  • good maths skills for working out quantities and costs
  • the ability to explain technical matters in clear terms
  • the ability to read technical drawings, cabling plans and circuit diagrams
  • good communication skills
  • a willingness to keep up to date with national and European legislation on refrigerants
  • an awareness of health and safety issues.


Often, the best way to become a technician is by starting out as an apprentice and working your way up. To get on to an apprenticeship, you normally need four GCSEs (grades A-C), including maths and science or technology, or equivalent qualifications.

The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information on Apprenticeships, visit

Alternatively, you could take a college course to learn some of the skills needed. Relevant courses include:

  • BTEC National Certificate and Diploma in Building Services Engineering
  • EAL Diploma in Maintenance of Refrigeration Systems
  • City & Guilds (6127) Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technical Certificate
  • foundation degree in building services engineering.

You can find more details about this career and training providers on the websites for the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Industry Board (ACRIB) and Summit Skills.


As a trainee technician, you would work towards NVQ Mechanical Engineering Services Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (6087) at levels 2 and 3. The NVQ contains options in:

  • Commercial and Industrial Air-conditioning Systems
  • Non-Ammonia Commercial and Industrial Air-conditioning Systems
  • Ammonia Refrigeration Systems.

If you work with fluorinated gases (F gases) or ozone depleting substances (ODS), you are legally required to have minimum qualifications to prove that you are competent to do so. The City & Guilds (2079) Level 2 award in F-Gas and ODS Regulations is accepted as proof.

You could continue your professional development by taking a foundation degree, BTEC HNC or HND or degree in Building Services Engineering. You can search for courses on the UCAS website.

The Institute of Refrigeration (IoR) offers a membership scheme at various grades. Membership would allow you access to a variety of professional development workshops and training courses. See the IoR website for more details.

As an experienced technician, you could register with the Engineering Council to gain EngTech status, which could also help with your professional development.


Typical employers include building services, construction and engineering companies, the NHS and local authorities.

With experience, you could specialise in transport refrigeration or progress to supervisory management jobs. With further training, you could become a fully qualified building services engineer and work in energy management, estimating, research and development, project design and commissioning.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading: (links open in new window)

Engineering Jobs Network 
Directgov (Jobseekers page) 
Refrigeration Engineer

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income

  • Starting salaries can be between 12,000 and 17,000 a year.
  • Experienced technicians can earn between 20,000 and 27,000.
  • Senior staff with supervisory responsibilities can earn up to 35,000 a year.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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