How To Become a Refrigeration Mechanic (With Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 12 December 2022

Published 13 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Refrigeration mechanics install, assemble, repair and maintain commercial, domestic and industrial refrigeration systems. This may be a good career option for people who enjoy technical work and solving problems and are comfortable working with various tools. Before determining if this is a career you want to pursue, it's important to understand the requirements of this job. In this article, we define what a refrigeration mechanic is, outline the steps for how to become a refrigeration mechanic, list some skills to develop for this career and discuss the salary, work environment and career outlook information for refrigeration mechanics.

What is a refrigeration mechanic?

A refrigeration mechanic, or a refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic, completes the assembly, installation, maintenance and repair of various industrial, domestic and commercial air conditioning and refrigeration systems. For example, they may repair systems in cold stores, factories, homes, hospitals, office buildings, shops and supermarkets. These professionals most often work in construction, manufacturing and related industries.

Some responsibilities of a refrigeration mechanic may include:

  • Complete part-by-part or pre-assembled installations of units

  • Connect equipment by bolting, brazing, riveting, soldering and welding pipes

  • Cut, bend and join piping

  • Diagnose and repair faults in refrigeration systems

  • Drill holes to be able to install mounting brackets

  • Fill refrigeration systems with refrigerant based on standards and regulations

  • Follow plans for installing, commissioning, servicing and maintaining equipment

  • Identify installation reference points based on drawings and specifications

  • Install and connect the piping for refrigeration systems

  • Install parts, such as air filters, compressors, condensers, controls, evaporators, gauges, motors and switches

  • Record causes of malfunctions and the repairs made

  • Replace defective components in refrigeration systems

  • Review drawings and specifications to establish job requirements

  • Test refrigeration systems for leaks and other mechanical faults

  • Test and adjust refrigeration and air handling units for proper functioning

  • Use computers and technology to monitor systems and adjust operations remotely

  • Use vacuum pumps to remove test gas and fluid

  • Verify the proper alignment and accurate fit of pipes and equipment

  • Verify the proper installation of parts and that parts line up and fit properly

How to become a refrigeration mechanic

Here are the steps to follow for how to become a refrigeration mechanic:

1. Pursue vocational training

While working as a refrigeration mechanic may provide you with some on-the-job training, most employers prefer candidates who have previous training experience. Consider pursuing an apprenticeship or a traineeship to learn more about the work and requirements of this career. Most of these programs require you to complete Year 10 first, and you may be able to learn about opportunities near you through a local apprenticeship network.

Read more: Vocational Training: Definition and Different Types

2. Earn a formal qualification

As you complete your training, it's important to earn a formal certification. A common option for refrigeration mechanics to pursue is the Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration at a TAFE institution. This qualification includes practical and theoretical classes to help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills to work as a refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic.

3. Get a licence

Once you complete your training and qualification, it's essential for you to obtain your Refrigerant Handling Licence (RHL) from the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC). It's a requirement for anyone working with refrigeration and air conditioning equipment to have one of these licences, and you may be able to get yours while you're still in training. Similarly, some states or territories may require you to get additional certification or licensure if you plan to work with low-voltage electrical installations. As this varies by state and territory, it's best to verify your local requirements.

4. Consider a promotion

As you advance in your career, you may consider pursuing a promotion. Some types of promotions that may be available to refrigeration mechanics may be associate, sales, supervisory, technician or technologist positions. Some of these positions may require specific experience or completing additional training.

Refrigeration mechanic skills

Refrigeration mechanics use a particular skill set to handle technical jobs. Beneficial skills may include:

Technical skills

Technical skills include the specific skills related to the duties of a refrigeration mechanic. It's important for them to be able to read technical diagrams, follow complex instructions and keep up-to-date with compliance standards. They may also benefit from a knowledge of electrical wiring, mathematics, pipe fitting and welding. It's essential for refrigeration mechanics to be comfortable working with various hand and power tools, such as:

  • Drills

  • Grinders

  • Hammers

  • Pumps

  • Screwdrivers

  • Spanners

  • Welding equipment

Communication skills

Communication skills refer to how successfully someone receives, processes, understands and shares information. Refrigeration mechanics use excellent communication skills to listen to clients discuss what's happening with a unit and be able to follow directions. Similarly, these skills may help them explain issues or directions to others.

Patience

These professionals can work with patience, particularly when completing a complex part-by-part installation project. It's often beneficial for refrigeration mechanics to work systematically and thoroughly, monitoring for any changes and following standard practices. They may also work under pressure successfully, particularly when completing emergency repairs.

Teamwork

Teamwork skills enable people to work well with others in pursuit of a shared goal. While it's important for refrigeration mechanics to work well independently, it's also crucial for them to work well as a team. Their work may require them to work with other tradespeople to install a unit, determine a solution or resolve an issue.

Read more: Teamwork Skills: Definitions and Examples

Critical thinking

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate all aspects of an issue. This involves examining what may be the cause of an issue and how to best resolve it. Refrigeration mechanics use excellent critical thinking skills so they're able to assess units and determine how to repair them efficiently.

Problem-solving

Problem-solving skills help refrigeration mechanics assess a problem and decide on the best possible outcome. They use these skills to identify what's wrong with a unit and make recommendations on how to repair it. This may involve creative thinking to develop a unique solution, and it also requires decision-making for determining what the right action to take is.

Read more: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

Physical abilities

Working as a refrigeration mechanic requires certain physical abilities. These professionals may use their bodies when working and preparing items. They may work in extreme conditions, and it's essential to be comfortable standing for long periods of time, lifting heavy objects, operating tools and handling and moving various objects.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail refers to complete tasks without error and with complete precision. Refrigeration mechanics use excellent attention to detail so they're able to spot defects or errors, especially those that may cause compliance issues. Similarly, this skill allows them to install units correctly for the best results.

Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are the skills people use to understand and build relationships with others. Refrigeration mechanics may need good interpersonal skills so that they're best able to collaborate with other professionals. Similarly, interpersonal skills may be beneficial when refrigeration mechanics respond to emergency repairs, helping them stay calm and work with potentially frustrated customers.

Read more: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Refrigeration mechanic salary

The national average salary for a refrigeration mechanic is $82,063 per year. Your salary can vary depending on a variety of components. Factors like your experience, qualifications and geographic location may affect how much you earn as a refrigeration mechanic.

Related: 18 Highest Paying Trades in Australia (Plus Primary Duties)

Refrigeration mechanic work environment

Refrigeration mechanics may work in a variety of indoor and outdoor environments, and these environments may expose them to a variety of extreme or uncontrolled temperatures. They may also face exposure to contaminants. These professionals follow safety guidelines, such as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) like earmuffs, enclosed steel-capped boots, goggles hard hats, masks and reflective gear to remain safe.

Refrigeration mechanics may have a standard workweek and work full time. They may also need to work longer hours or outside of their normal schedules to accommodate fixing breakdowns or responding to emergency repairs. A refrigeration mechanic may work alone, or they may work with associated trade professionals, such as carpenters, electricians or pipefitters.

Refrigeration mechanic career outlook

The Australian Government Job Outlook reports the employment of air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics grew strongly over the last five years, and it predicts employment for these jobs can continue to grow. It reported there were 29,500 of these jobs in 2020, and it expects this number to increase to 30,700 by 2025. This is a 4.07% increase in employment, and it expects these professionals to find work in all parts of the country.

Opportunities for refrigeration mechanics largely depend on the amount of building and refurbishment activity that occurs, especially within the industrial and commercial selectors. However, many refrigeration mechanics work for installation, manufacturing or service maintenance firms, particularly those that service factories, hospitals, hotels, offices and shops. Similarly, some may choose to work for firms that specialise in refrigeration on ships, food treatment plants or cold storage. Other refrigeration mechanics may choose to become self-employed and work on their preferred projects and services.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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