A career in engineering can come with endless opportunities and paths to follow. This widely popular industry requires skill, experience and a real passion for the job, especially when focusing on a niche such as refrigeration and air conditioning.
With electrical appliances and technology undergoing constant adaptation, this job is a huge advocate for learning as you go. This guide will not only explore the job itself, but we will also assist with aspects such as education routes, interview tips, CV creation and what to expect from the job itself.
Air conditioning and refrigeration engineers utilise technical knowledge and practical skills to ensure products are handled in a safe, eco-friendly way and practical way. Engineers in this industry install, service and repair air-conditioning and refrigeration systems in areas such as factories, offices, shops, schools and homes.
A large part of the job includes reducing environmental impact whilst creating comfortable air temperature and humidity. As an engineer, you must also ensure you’re fully aware of any laws or legislation associated with a particular corporation.
The responsibilities of an air conditioning and refrigeration engineer may also include:
- Inspecting, testing and certificating
- Identifying and repairing faults
- Providing accurate information to customers
- Preparation work
- Installation plans
- Estimation costs
Salary and working hours
Air conditioning and refrigeration engineers typically work between 37 and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, although flexibility is crucial as the hours worked can depend on the project, preferences and deadlines. Weekend and nighttime work are occasionally required depending on the company. This career can also require travelling or overnight stays depending on where a project is located or high big the task at hand is.
In terms of salary, a first-year apprentice could be looking at around £10,000 a year, whilst a newly qualified worker could earn between £20,000 and £27,000 a year. More experienced engineers can earn up to £30,000 a year or more. This line of work can often come with bonus schemes and extra pay for overtime also.
Higher education and qualifications
The air conditioning and refrigeration industry require candidates to achieve the relevant technical certificates in order to reach qualified operative status. Whilst most engineers start off as an apprentice straight from school or college, there is also a range of university degrees available.
When applying and completing an air conditioning and refrigeration apprenticeship, you can acquire qualifications whilst working. Apprenticeships at levels 2 and 3 are available across the country and are required to complete tests and practical activities in order to succeed. These applicants are also expected to have a minimum of three GCSEs (A*-C) or a Diploma in either construction or engineering at a higher level.
Although the apprenticeship route is the most popular, there are also a number of Universities which offer Refrigeration and Air Conditioning diplomas, meaning you can move straight into an experienced role once complete. Subject-related degrees such as mechanical engineering, building services and architecture can also offer similar expertise.
Having relevant work experience is a quality that many explorers look for, no matter the industry. As this is such a hands-on trade, exposing yourself to prior knowledge will benefit both the employer and employee. Gathering work experience, whether it's for a week or a month, not only teaches you but is also a good introduction to working life. Helping you to decide if the job is really for you.
Many companies provide work experience schemes or internships, targeting those wanting to have a future career in the industry. This is also ideal for getting your foot in the door and potentially finding a secure job opportunity.
Day in the life of a refrigeration and air conditioning engineer
While these engineers have a whole scope of tasks to complete, every day is different. Regular jobs and responsibilities will vary depending on the specific job role, but working with refrigeration and air conditioning produce is almost guaranteed. A typical day may include communicating with customers, both during a project and on the phone, carrying out maintenance checks, repairing machinery, planning future installations and looking at layout features such as pipes, ducts and control panels.
During these everyday tasks, engineers use both hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills include: HVAC, refrigerant installation, building services engineering, ventilation and business marketing.
Soft skills include: management skills, customer service, communication and problem-solving.
Creating your CV
Before applying to any job, making sure your CV is up to date and relevant should be a top priority. This information is the place to show off qualifications, skills and relevant experience which should all be in line with the job specification. No matter what entry-level you’re applying to, a CV is ultimately the first impression.
Make sure to keep a CV simple yet still detailed. Your CV must be no more than 2 pages long, using layout features such as bullet points to keep it organised and easy to read.
After sending off your CV and hopefully getting some positive feedback, an interview will more than likely be the next step. If you’re straight out of school and never had an interview before, this will all be new to you. But with all the right preparation, an interview doesn’t have to be hard. The main thing to remember is to stay relaxed.
A top tip would also be to do some prior research on the company, covering aspects such as the services they offer, their history and how they work. One final tip for interviews is to prepare your own questions as this shows genuine interest and maturity.
Tips once you’ve got the job
Congratulations, you’ve been offered the job! Now all the stressful part is out of the way, it's time to prepare for your first day.
Here is our simple yet essential guide to making your first day as smooth as possible!
- Arrive in good time (between 5-10 minutes early)
- Check your route/transport links
- Wear the appropriate clothing and footwear
- Take all the essentials e.g. stationary
- Pack the appropriate personal documents
- Talk to everyone
- Ask lots of questions