Refrigeration engineers design, install, repair and maintain refrigeration equipment in industrial and commercial buildings where food and other perishable goods are stored at a constant low temperature.
You could be:
visiting and surveying the premises
producing an estimate for the cost of constructing and installing the refrigeration system
planning the layout of pipes and controls
ordering and buying in materials – copper, plastic and steel
installing the system with a team of other engineers and craft workers
diagnosing and fixing faults if equipment does not work properly
when installation is complete, carrying out quality inspection and testing of the system
doing regular service checks of the system
providing functional and technical information to clients.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
The starting salary for a Modern Apprentice is often based on the National Minimum Wage (NMW), but some employers may offer a higher salary. At present the apprentice rate, for those aged under 19 or aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship, is £4.81 an hour (1 April 2022).
The starting pay for a qualified refrigeration engineer can be from £20,000 a year. A trained, experienced refrigeration engineer generally earns between £22,000 and £30,000 a year.
Senior refrigeration engineers can earn over £45,000 a year. Overtime and callout charges can increase this. Sometimes the employer will provide a company van.
You could be working in food production units, food sales outlets, hotels and refrigerated transport systems or in hospitals.
You work at a desk for some aspects of your work but travel to building sites for others.
You work on installations in hospitals, factories, schools, shops and offices.
You would work around 40 hours a week. You may work overtime and answer emergency calls out of hours.
You have to wear protective gear: safety goggles, hard hat, safety boots and overalls.
You may work in different parts of the country, spending time away from home.
You would usually enter through a Modern Apprenticeship in Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration at SCQF Level 6, combining on the job training and part time study at college.
Most employers look for up to 4 subjects at National 5 including English, Maths and a science and technological subject. There is normally a pre-entry test.
In the UK, refrigeration engineers must hold a current F Gas Certificate. There are three options for individual certification: City and Guilds, BESA accredited course or LCL Awards. These are offered in various locations.
Many employers look for experience working with ammonia and CO2 systems.
You need to have a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card or equivalent to work on sites.
A driving licence is usually essential.
You will require a satisfactory criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details on the type you would need.
There are jobs with small firms which install domestic systems as well as with specialist building services and engineering firms which carry out work for large construction companies and for local authority departments.
What Does it Take?
practical and technical skills
the ability to calculate figures and costs
the ability to read plans and technical drawings
an understanding of electrics
good communication skills
the ability to meet deadlines
an understanding of health and safety procedures
to be able to work as part of a team.
During your Modern Apprenticeship you would study for SVQ Install, Commission and Maintain Refrigeration Systems at SCQF Level 6. This usually takes 2-3 years.
You would need to keep up to date with new developments in the profession.
It is possible to progress to become a building services engineer by taking further qualifications at HNC and beyond.
With experience you could set up in business on your own.
The Engineering Council sets and maintains the standards of the engineering profession in the UK.