Growth Trends for Related Jobs
HVAC technicians keep heating and cooling systems in tip-top shape. This high-demand job offers an attractive salary, solid employment opportunities and challenging work. You may be able to complete your training and start making good money in less time than it would take to earn a costly four-year college degree. What’s more, you can find labor unions, contractors and trade associations that offer HVAC paid training and pay apprentice wages while you master your trade.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians install, maintain and repair mechanical systems that provide clean air and climate control in homes and other buildings. Technicians must understand and comply with government regulations when handling and recycling toxic coolants. A typical day in the life of an HVAC specialist involves installing equipment, testing system components, troubleshooting and replacing parts. Communication and customer service skills are needed to explain the causes of malfunctions, estimate repair costs and review warranties.
Education and training requirements for becoming an HVAC technician vary by state. In some jurisdictions, you can learn the trade through HVAC on-the-job training under the supervision of a licensed contractor or an HVAC company that trains needed workers. Paid HVAC training can also be obtained through HVAC paid apprenticeship programs offered by labor unions, trade associations and construction organizations. Apprentices typically engage in three to five years of study, learning from experts on jobsites.
Public technical and community colleges offer affordable HVAC courses that entail six to 24 months of hands-on training, which leads to an advanced diploma, certificate or associate degree. For those who qualify, HVAC training may be covered or offset by financial aid, grants, veterans benefits or dislocated worker retraining programs.
License and Certification
HVAC technicians must pass an Environmental Protection Agency certification exam to work with refrigerants. Some states and local areas also require HVAC technicians to be licensed and registered. For those seeking specialization, organizations such as North American Technician Excellence offer NATE specialty certification in areas such as gas heating and commercial refrigeration.
HVAC technicians mainly work inside buildings where temperatures may be uncomfortable due to a malfunctioning heating or cooling unit. Furnace emergencies may require late-night or weekend service calls in inclement weather. They install, maintain and repair outside air conditioning units on hot summer days. Safety equipment is essential when working around chemicals and to protect from burns and electrical shock.
Years of Experience and Salary
Employers prefer to hire technicians who completed an apprenticeship or post-secondary HVAC school because modern heating, cooling and ventilation systems are complex, and the potential for injury is high without proper training, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS further reports that HVAC mechanics and installers earned a median annual wage of $47,610, as of May 2018. In other words, half of the workers included in the 2018 report earned a salary higher than $47,610, and half earned less.
Technicians in the lowest 10 percent bracket earned less than $29,460, and those in the top 10 percent income group earned more than $76,230. Working overtime can increase wages. Apprentices typically earn 50 percent less than HVAC technicians.
Job Growth Trend
Job demand for HVAC mechanics and installers is projected to grow an impressive 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. New construction of homes and buildings will be a driving force. Interest in energy-efficient, sophisticated climate-control systems is also expected to increase demand for qualified HVAC technicians who can install and service the equipment. Openings will be greatest for those who with troubleshooting skills and familiarity with electronic devices like tablet computers.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers
- HVAC Classes: HVAC Certification
- South Central College: Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
- HVAC School:Understanding the Apprenticeship Program
- U.S. Department of Education: Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education
- air conditioner, conditioning image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com