A career in refrigeration can be quite rewarding. If you’re interested in becoming a fridge freezer engineer, you will always have work, since fridge maintenance is something everyone needs at times. If you specialise in commercial work, you can work with commercial refrigeration companies and make a rather good wage.
Over time, it’s possible to build your experience and move into a more prominent position. You may even decide to start your very own business.
What to expect as a fridge freezer engineer
Right now, there is a shortage of engineers for commercial refrigeration companies, so getting a job once you’ve been trained shouldn’t be difficult. The average salary begins at £20,000 a year for entry-level and once you’re experienced, you can expect £35,000. Most engineers work on call on a rota and you could easily end up working up to 50 hours a week.
As a refrigeration engineer, you’ll be responsible for installing and repairing refrigeration systems. While you can focus on refrigerators and freezers, many refrigeration engineers also manage air conditioning systems, which can be quite similar.
On a daily basis, you’ll assess sites for refrigerators and cold rooms, plan the layout of any complex components and install them, and handle quality checks to ensure everything is up to the standard set by the company. You may also repair fridges and freezers, provide scheduled maintenance trips, and provide customers with advice on the various systems and how to reduce energy use.
Since most refrigeration systems are on-site, you’ll travel frequently to the customer’s location. The work environment may be less than ideal, as you will be working in cold rooms and on refrigerated trucks, among other locations. This means you will often be in the cold and some areas may be cramped and dusty.
How to become a refrigeration engineer
You have two main options for becoming a refrigeration engineer.
First, you could go into higher education after you leave secondary school. If you don’t know anything about the career choice you’re making, it’s a good idea to start out in college and take some courses to learn more. There are several different courses available, depending on where you want to focus.
- Level 2 Diploma in Access to Building Services Engineering
- Level 2 Diploma in Installing and Maintaining Refrigeration Systems
- Level 3 Diploma in Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, and Heat Pump Systems
- T Level in Building Services Engineering for Construction
With any of these courses, you should find it relatively easy to get a job once you’ve finished. College is a good choice if you want to learn more on your own.
The other option is to take an apprenticeship. This is where you will work with a company as an apprentice, learning on the job. It may take some time to find a company that is willing to give you an apprenticeship, so you’ll have to be persistent.
As an apprentice, you can often move up the food chain faster. If you’re a fast learner, you can pick everything up quickly while actually doing the job. The route of an apprentice is not for everyone, since it can be frustrating in the beginning as you attempt to learn all the skills. However, for self-starters and those who don’t learn well from a textbook, it may be the best choice.
Usually, you’ll apprentice with a building services engineering installer or, if you already have some experience, you can move into a more advanced refrigeration, air conditioning, and heat pump engineering position. Talk to the refrigeration company about what type of apprenticeships they offer and what you can expect from them.
While apprenticing, you not only have a daily practice, you will also be mentored by those who have been in the field for decades. This is one of the best learning experiences you can get. By the end of the apprenticeship, you’ll have something useful to put on your CV.
What qualifications do you need?
Technically, you can get started with very little if you plan to apprentice. However, it’s a good idea to get some certifications, such as those you receive from the college. This will ensure that you know what you’re doing.
Another important qualification is the NICEIC certificate, which is used in the building services sector. A NICEIC contractor is much more appealing to builders than someone who has never received the certification. You may need to take some training before you can become a certified NICEIC contractor, but this is usually provided by the NICEIC certification centre.
Classes for the NICEIC certification may be done online or through a hybrid model of both remote and in-class learning. Once you’ve finished the training and received your certificate, you’ll have a way to value your work even more.
Skills to help you get ahead as a refrigeration engineer
While you can learn all the technical information as an apprentice or in school, there are some skills that will serve you well if you already possess them. You can also take steps to improve these skills while studying. They include:
- Mechanical Capabilities: If you have a natural affinity for working with mechanical items and systems, this will help you immensely with the installations and problem-solving that you’ll do on-site.
- Detail-Oriented: There are many details to deal with when you’re installing delicate machines and working with complex cooling systems. If you are already focused on the details, you’ll find that you will have an easier time completing the job successfully.
- Problem-Solving Skills: Are you good at figuring out problems and resolving them? You’ll need this ability when you’re trying to repair machines and need to determine what has gone wrong.
- People Management Skills: Are you able to calm people down and explain things easily? A large part of this type of career is managing people and handling customers. Some will be thrilled that you are there to repair their refrigerator, but others will be unhappy and stressed out because they’ve been dealing with a malfunctioning freezer or fridge. You’ll need to be able to relax and handle things calmly.
- Patience: It can be quite stressful when you’re trying to install a cooling system and have people watching you and making comments. You may also deal with unhappy customers from time to time. The ability to remain calm under pressure will serve you well in this situation.
- Computer Skills: It’s helpful to have a decent knowledge of how to use a computer or tablet, as you’ll need to use this in order to install the fridges and freezers. Many of today’s cooling systems require knowledge of a computer to program and manage them.
While these are all skills that can be learned over time, it is helpful if you come into the job with prior skills. You’ll find it easier to get ahead in the job and there will be a lesser learning curve.
You’ll also find it helpful to be self-driven and to have some initiative. While you’ll be given tasks, many of these types of jobs allow you to work on your own and you’ll need to be determined to get the job done. Since much of this work is self-starting, yet long hours, it can take its toll. You should be prepared to be on-call, as well, since this can be quite demanding. However, when a commercial refrigerator or cold room fails, it doesn’t matter what time of day or night it is, you will need to get the cooling system running again. This is often the case when there is a room full of frozen food that will go bad if you can’t get the fridge or freezer sorted immediately.
What’s next? The future of refrigeration engineering
While you’ll likely start out at the bottom, handling the jobs no one else really wants to do, you can rapidly move up. Eventually, if you’ve done well and continued to study, you could start your own business in refrigeration or you can begin to design your own cooling systems. Some people also move into plumbing and other types of repair from here.
As an engineer, you’ll be uniquely qualified to set up your very own company. However, you may also specialise in whatever area you prefer. For example, if you enjoy designing and working on refrigerated trucks, this may be what you decide to focus on. Life is too short to be stuck doing something you don’t enjoy.
Are you interested in learning more about commercial refrigeration companies and how to become a fridge freezer engineer? Ian Hobbs Technical Services may be able to help you. Get in touch today to find out more.