Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer

What is a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer?

A Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer is a skilled professional responsible for designing, installing, repairing, and maintaining refrigeration and air conditioning systems. They play a vital role in creating comfortable and energy-efficient environments in various settings, including homes, offices, factories, and commercial buildings. In this guide, we’ll explore what Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers do, how to become one, potential earnings, career prospects, and related opportunities in the United Kingdom.

What Does a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer Do?

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers have a diverse range of responsibilities, including:

System Design

  • Planning and designing refrigeration and air conditioning systems tailored to the specific needs of clients and spaces.
  • Ensuring that systems are energy-efficient and compliant with safety regulations.

Installation and Repair

  • Installing new systems, including components like compressors, condensers, and evaporators.
  • Diagnosing and repairing faults and malfunctions in existing systems to ensure they operate efficiently.


  • Conducting routine inspections and maintenance to prevent breakdowns and extend the lifespan of equipment.
  • Advising clients on system adjustments and improvements to enhance performance and energy efficiency.

Cost Estimation

  • Providing cost estimates for construction and installation projects, including labour, materials, and equipment.
  • Managing project budgets and ensuring projects stay within financial constraints.

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers work in various environments, and their expertise is crucial in preserving food safety in commercial refrigeration, maintaining comfortable indoor temperatures, and contributing to energy conservation.

How to Become a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer

Becoming a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer involves a combination of education, training, and practical experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to pursue a career in this field:

Entry Requirements

  • The most common entry route is through an apprenticeship. To be eligible, you’ll typically need four GCSE/National 5 passes in subjects such as English, Maths, Physics, and Design and Technology.
  • Apprenticeships provide candidates with the opportunity to earn the necessary NVQs/SVQs required to become a qualified refrigeration and air conditioning engineer or technician.
  • As an apprentice, you will work toward obtaining qualifications such as the NVQ in Servicing and Maintaining Refrigeration Systems (Level 2 and 3), City and Guilds (6187) NVQ in Refrigeration/Air Conditioning (Level 2 or 3), or the SVQ in Install, Commission, and Maintain Refrigeration Systems (Level 2 or 3 in Scotland).


  • Apprenticeships are typically open to individuals aged 16 or older and can take between 2 to 4 years to complete.
  • Training involves a combination of on-the-job experience under the guidance of experienced professionals and formal instruction at a college.
  • Limited apprenticeship places may be available for candidates over the age of 25.

Further Qualifications

  • Beyond apprenticeships, individuals can pursue further qualifications to enhance their skills. Options include HNCs/HNDs in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning and Foundation degrees in Building Services Engineering.
  • For those dealing with ozone-depleting substances (ODS), there is the City & Guilds Level 2 Award in F-gas and ODS Regulations (2079).

Professional Membership

  • Joining the Institute of Refrigeration provides access to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) workshops and opportunities for ongoing learning and career development.

Working Conditions

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers typically work around 37 hours a week, but the distribution of these hours may vary. During the summer, they may be required to work longer hours due to increased demand for their services.

Their work involves a mix of office-based tasks, such as planning site visits and organizing jobs, and practical work on-site. They may visit various locations, including offices, shopping centers, factories, and specialized environments like refrigeration transport.

The nature of the job may require wearing protective clothing and equipment on certain visits, ensuring safety and compliance with regulations.

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer Salary

The salary of a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer can vary based on factors such as experience, qualifications, and location. Here’s a general salary range for these professionals:

  • Trainees can earn approximately £11,000 to £19,000 per year, depending on their stage of training.
  • Qualified Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers with experience, supervisory responsibilities, and additional qualifications can expect salaries ranging from £26,000 to £35,000 per year.
  • There may be opportunities for bonuses and overtime pay, enhancing overall earnings.

Career Prospects and Progression

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers have various career opportunities and avenues for professional growth:

  • With experience, they can progress to supervisory and managerial roles, taking on more significant responsibilities.
  • Further qualifications, such as the NVQ in Building Services Engineering (Level 3 and 4), can open doors to advanced roles.
  • Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers can work towards becoming incorporated or chartered engineers, which can lead to increased responsibilities and career advancement.
  • Some individuals choose to become self-employed, managing their businesses, or transition into teaching roles.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Working as a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer offers its own set of advantages and disadvantages:


  • UK qualifications are internationally respected, providing opportunities to work abroad.
  • The job allows for a diverse range of projects and environments, keeping work interesting.


  • The nature of the job may require overtime and being on call overnight and during weekends.

Related Opportunities

If you’re interested in the building services and engineering industry, you might explore related career opportunities:

  • Civil Engineer: Specializing in civil engineering projects, including infrastructure, bridges, and roads.
  • Electrical Engineer: Focusing on electrical systems and equipment in various applications.
  • Electrician: Specializing in electrical installation, maintenance, and repairs in residential, commercial, and industrial settings.

Further Information

For additional resources and information on pursuing a career as a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer, you can visit the Institute of Refrigeration.

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