Training, Certifications, Skills, Advancement: Home Appliance Repairers

Employers generally require a high school diploma for home appliance repairer jobs. Repairers of small appliances commonly learn the trade on the job; repairers of large household appliances often receive their training in a formal trade school, community college, or directly from the appliance manufacturer. Mechanical and electrical aptitudes are desirable, and those who work in customers’ homes must be courteous and tactful.

Employers prefer to hire people with formal training in appliance repair and electronics. Many repairers complete 1- or 2-year formal training programs in appliance repair and related subjects in high schools, private vocational schools, and community colleges. Courses in basic electricity and electronics are increasingly important as more manufacturers install circuit boards and other electronic control systems in home appliances.

Whether their basic skills are developed through formal training or on the job, trainees usually receive additional training from their employer and from manufacturers. In shops that fix portable appliances, they work on a single type of appliance, such as a vacuum cleaner, until they master its repair. Then they move on to others, until they can repair all those handled by the shop. In companies that repair major appliances, beginners assist experienced repairers on service visits. They may also study on their own. They learn to read schematic drawings, analyze problems, determine whether to repair or replace parts, and follow proper safety procedures. Up to 3 years of on-the-job training may be needed for a technician to become skilled in all aspects of repair.

Some appliance manufacturers and department store chains have formal training programs that include home study and shop classes, in which trainees work with demonstration appliances and other training equipment. Many repairers receive supplemental instruction through 2- or 3-week seminars conducted by appliance manufacturers. Experienced repairers also often attend training classes and study service manuals. Repairers authorized for warranty work by manufacturers are required to attend periodic training sessions.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that all repairers who buy or work with refrigerants must be certified in their proper handling; a technician must pass a written examination to become certified to buy and handle refrigerants. Exams are administered by organizations approved by the EPA, such as trade schools, unions, and employer associations. There are even EPA-approved take-home certification exams. Though no formal training is required for certification, many of these organizations offer training programs designed to prepare workers for the certification examination.

In addition to certification required by the EPA, home appliance repairers may exhibit their competence by passing a certification examination offered by various organizations. Although voluntary, such certification can be helpful when one is seeking employment. The National Appliance Service Technician Certification (NASTeC), which is administered by the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians (ISCET), requires repairers to pass a comprehensive examination testing their competence in the diagnosis, repair, and maintenance of major home appliances. Examinations are given in three specialty areas of appliance repair: Refrigeration and air-conditioning, cooking, or laundry and dishwashing. Although the NASTeC credential does not expire, continuing education classes are available so repairers can keep abreast of technological changes. The Professional Service Association (PSA) also administers a certification program, with goals similar to the NASTeC program. Those who pass the PSA examination earn the Certified Appliance Professional (CAP) designation, which is valid for 4 years. If certified repairers complete at least 60 credit hours of instruction every year during the 4 years, they need not take the recertification examination. Otherwise, they must take the examination again.

Repairers in large shops or service centers may be promoted to supervisor, assistant service manager, or service manager. Some repairers advance to managerial positions such as regional service manager or parts manager for appliance or tool manufacturers. Preference is given to those who demonstrate technical competence and show an ability to get along with other workers and customers. Experienced repairers who have sufficient funds and knowledge of small-business management may open their own repair shop.