Refrigeration & air conditioning

In 1882 the first refrigerated shipment of frozen meat left New Zealand for Britain. That's just one example of how the technology this industry supports has transformed our country's economy.

Careers information

What do they do?

Refrigeration and air conditioning engineers manufacture, install and maintain the components used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems. These systems provide a climate-controlled environment so that it possible to store and transport perishable items such as food and medicine. Your work environment can change one day to the next from a shipping container to an apartment block.

Typical day

Normally an 8 hour day; sometimes working longer maybe required. Work can include installing split system air conditioning, ventilation and air conditioning engineering (fabricating, installing and maintaining systems in office buildings, hospitals and factories) through to refrigeration engineering in warehouses, ships, containers and trucks.You are likely to work in many different locations from day to day.

Click here for more details on the Careers NZ website.

Does this sound like you?

Study areas

• English or Media Studies or History

• Maths or Accounting or Economics 

• Sciences or Workshop Technologies 

• Computing / ICT / Information Management


• Good literacy and numeracy 

• Confidence with IT, computers, technology 

• Good work habits/time management

• Good at problem solving / creative

Helpful experience

• Analysing, researching or problem solving

• Making or fixing things

• Working with machinery

• Working with computers

Preferred work environments

• Inside (workshop or plant)

• Different places time to time

How much could I earn?

Icn Money

Newly qualified

$41k - $73k

Career Pathway

School Entry level jobs Advancing jobs Senior jobs

Ideally, NCEA Level 2 passes in:


Science (Physics)

Technology (Metal Work)


Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

Air Conditioning Systems Designer

Industrial Refrigeration Engineer

Commercial Refrigeration Engineer

Transport Refrigeration Engineer

Specialist Engineer



Site Supervisor

Business Manager

Business Owner

Unit/Achievement standards in schools Apprenticeship Higher learning Higher learning

What do we offer?

  • We partner with industry associations like the Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (IRHACE) and members of your industry to help recruit and build talented employees. This support includes promoting careers in your industry, identifying potential apprentices, and encouraging work placements.
  • We also ensure your industry’s qualifications continue to meet needs, support industry events like conferences, competitions and graduations and regularly celebrate your learners’ success.
  • When apprentices enrol, we assign them a Competenz account manager. Our account managers understand the RAC industry and the skills learners and businesses need to gain.

Your industry's qualification: what's changing?

New Zealand Certificates are replacing National Certificates. The industry and New Zealand Qualifications Authority will recognise all New Zealand and National Certificates as valid, relevant qualifications. Our Competenz account managers will work with companies and learners to help learners complete the appropriate qualifications.

  • A new standalone level 3 New Zealand Certificate in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC).
  • Separating practical and theoretical learning, replacing of correspondence with Competenz eLearning, and increasing the length of block courses in level 4 programme.
  • New content that covers refrigerant-specific fillers, practical diagnosis, transport-specific RAC, and commercial-specific RAC (non-ammonia).

How has the industry been involved?

Members of the industry have recommended the structure and content of the new qualifications.

The New Zealand Certificates are now available for learners to study towards. They will replace the National Certificates over the next few years.

If learners...


Are part way through a National Certificate

If learners are part way through an apprenticeship, they will continue that apprenticeship by studying towards National Certificates.

Have not yet started their qualification 

They will enrol in the New Zealand Certificate.

Have completed  a National Certificate 

They will not need to enrol in the new qualification. The industry continues to recognise National Certificates as valid, relevant qualifications.

 Our Competenz account managers will work with companies and learners to help them understand what they need to do to complete the appropriate qualification.

New Zealand Certificates

14093 RAC Programme Handbook LR Page 01The programme handbook summarises the New Zealand Certificates and how to work towards them.

Download here

Credits: 280

Duration: 48 months

About this qualification: 

Graduates will be able to:

  • apply engineering trade skills and knowledge to plan, troubleshoot, recondition, and test when maintaining and servicing a range of RAC plant and equipment
  • apply engineering trade skills and knowledge to plan, install, and test a range of RAC equipment in accordance with industry and statutory standards
  • commission basic installations and work with specialists to commission the full range of complex plant and equipment
  • apply an understanding of the principles of RAC system design and applications to all aspects of their work
  • recover refrigerant into a cylinder and charge refrigeration systems in accordance with current regulations
  • apply knowledge of the use and management of refrigerants in the RAC industry to safely meet all relevant environmental and industrial legislation
  • carry out the electrical work associated with installing, maintaining, servicing and commissioning refrigeration plant and equipment
  • apply an understanding of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and workplace safety culture to work safely and meet responsibilities in a commercial environment
  • recognise the limits of their ability and the importance of working with integrity and maintaining currency.

Who this qualification is intended for: People who want to complete an apprenticeship in RAC.