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Can a Felon Get an HVAC License?

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Felons may think no one will hire them after serving their sentence, but there are resources available. Many times it takes learning a new trade or starting a different career.

For those with electrical or plumbing experience, working in heating and air conditioning is a possibility. This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can get an HVAC license.

  • What is an HVAC Technician?
  • What is Required to Get an HVAC License?
  • License vs Certification
  • How Much Does an HVAC Technician Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action

What is an HVAC Technician?

An HVAC technician maintains a number of machines and systems related to the heating and cooling industry. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.

So, someone looking to become an HVAC technician may work on:

  • Heating systems
  • Ventilation systems
  • Cooling systems
  • Refrigeration systems

Among the many duties of an HVAC technician are:

  • Installing, cleaning, and maintaining HVAC systems
  • Installing electrical components and wiring
  • Inspecting and testing systems
  • Replacing defective parts

HVAC technicians work in:

  • Homes
  • Schools
  • Stores
  • Hospitals
  • Office buildings

Among the important traits of an HVAC technician are:

  • Customer service
  • Detail-oriented
  • Good communication
  • Math skills
  • Mechanical skills
  • Physical strength and stamina
  • Problem-solving skills

What is Required to Get an HVAC License?

Most employers prefer hiring someone who has a post-secondary education or has completed an internship. In many states, a technician needs to be licensed in addition to having a certification.

Many HVAC technicians receive an education from technical and trade schools or community colleges. Typically, these programs last six months to two years.

After that, many technicians are trained in an apprenticeship which may last from three to five years. Apprenticeship programs focus on safety practices, blueprint reading, and use of tools.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all technicians who buy, handle, or work with refrigerants to be certified in refrigerant handling. A technician must follow all government regulations regarding the conservation, recovery, and recycling of refrigerants.

Having an HVAC technician license provides proof of having completed a training program offered by a trade school or community college. It indicates having the basic knowledge and skills to do this type of work.

Certification lies beyond having obtained a license and indicates having obtained specialized knowledge. After at least two years of job experience, a technician can apply for an HVAC Excellence Certificate by passing a knowledge-based exam.

There is also certification offered through the North American Technician Excellence Certification that is nationally recognized and shows expertise in dealing with gas furnaces, air conditioning, and air distribution systems.

License vs Certification

A license is issued by a state agency to practice a profession and is required to call oneself a licensed professional. Some states have a single license and some have a level system. Licenses and their requirements vary from state to state.

Licensing can be viewed as mandatory certification. Under a licensure system, states define the practice of a profession, like heating and air conditioning, and stipulate that these tasks may be legally performed only by those who are licensed.

Certification is typically a voluntary process, although it can be required to practice in certain states. It’s often provided by a private organization for the purpose of providing the public protection.

Only individuals who have successfully met all requirements for the credential and demonstrated their ability to perform their profession competently can become certified.

How Much Does an HVAC Technician Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 332,900 HVAC mechanics/installers in 2016. The median annual income for an HVAC mechanic/installer was $47,080 in 2017. The median salary is that at which half of HVAC technicians earned more and half earned less.

Experience and skill level have an impact on these earnings. It also depends on the area of the country where an HVAC technician works. Those on the in the Northeast, Northwest, and South have the highest annual salaries.

This field is expected to grow approximately 15% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than average. Commercial and residential building construction along with increasingly technical climate-controlled systems will lead to an increased demand in these technicians.

An Opportunity for Felons?

To obtain an HVAC license, someone who has been convicted of a felony must typically wait at least five years from the date of conviction or release from prison. Certain crimes may prohibit a person from getting an HVAC license.

These crimes involve:

  • Fraud or deceptive trade practices
  • Sexual conduct offenses involving children as victims
  • Crimes against property such as theft or burglary
  • Crimes against a person such as homicide, kidnapping, and assault

The following factors will be considered in determining whether a criminal conviction should be grounds to deny licensure or certification:

  • Nature and seriousness of the crime
  • Relationship of the crime to the purposes for requiring licensure or certification
  • Extent to which certification might offer an opportunity to engage in further criminal activity
  • Relationship of a crime to the ability, capacity, or fitness to perform the duties

Further information will be considered regarding the applicant’s fitness to perform the duties of an HVAC technician:

  • Extent and nature of the applicant’s past criminal activity
  • Age of the person when the crime was committed
  • Amount of time that has elapsed since the last criminal activity
  • Work activity of the applicant before and after the criminal conviction
  • Evidence of the person’s rehabilitation while incarcerated or after release
  • Other evidence of the person’s fitness, including letters of recommendation from prosecutors, law enforcement, correctional officers, and any other person with knowledge of the applicant

To be successful in their pursuit of getting an HVAC license, it’s essential for felons to be honest about their background. They are already working with the negative perceptions of being dishonest and untrustworthy.

There are re-entry programs, such as drug treatment, and educational opportunities for felons who need them. For many felons, having their felony expunged can give them the chance they need to begin with a clean record and succeed in getting an HVAC license.

Recommended Action

It’s a significant challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon that wants to get an HVAC license. Having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference in a felon succeeding.

Taking the time to complete a quality resume will also be extremely helpful.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We’re not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become an HVAC technician with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

5 thoughts on “Can a Felon Get an HVAC License?”

  1. Hello Herbert, I too was in your shoes,several times actually. I am a convicted felon in multiple states. One thing that I can say is, if you’re really serious about changing your life around, just do it! Your confidence as a person,and your drive will shine through for the most part. There will be some instances that employers will just look at the black & white,but stick to the grind. I did it. Several times actually. Because of my drive I’ve been able to land some decent jobs. Gotta start somewhere though. I started(late in life) at the bottom. I’m 45 yrs old,and currently I’m holding down a job the I’m bringing in 6 figures. I’m pretty proud of where I am right now considering where I came from. I’ve come along way. It was a struggle,but I’m here. My fam is my motivation. At 27 I decided I needed a change,and change is what I got. Gotta really want it. School is definitely a great start. But it doesn’t guaranty anything. You are your best tool.. Good luck with your journey. Nothing but best wishes. It can definitely happen as long as you make it happen.. Mugz

  2. I JUST now saw this, so thanks for the reply but tbh I may be in waaaay over my head. I have to do what I gotta do to succeed.

  3. I just finished HVAC school and have my EPA 608, I too have a felony that is more than 10 years old but a misdemeanor that is pretty recent. Employers aren’t going to hire me are they. I have been sending out my resume and calling a lot of places, I honestly think they run my info and are scared to even give me a shot. what should i seriously do??????

  4. My husband has a sex offense felony conviction against a minor 27 years ago. He was 18 and spent 6 years in prison. Yes, he’s a registered sex offender. It’s his only conviction but obviously a big one. He has spent the last 20 years trying to improve himself.
    He has two associate degrees, automotive and business. He graduated at the top of his class both times. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to get a job that barely pays over minimum wage. He’s interested in trying for his HVAC licence but I’m afraid it won’t be any different. I’ve been with him for the 20 years since prison and I’ve watched a good man live with a boys mistake. I fully supported his first 2 degrees and I’ll support the HVAC license. I just want to know if it will help or not. Will they even allow him to get the HVAC license? Like you said in your previous post, things are not black and white. However, when people hear sex offense against a minor, suddenly everyone is color blind. I’m hesitant about posting this but I really want to know if HVAC is really an option for him to finally have a good career. I would really appreciate any advice or insight you may have on my husband’s chances of success. Thanks


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