HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) technicians install, maintain and repair heating, ventilation and cooling systems in residential homes, commercial buildings and industrial facilities. An aspiring HVAC technician usually enters the field through a company-sponsored or state-approved apprenticeship. The end goal of the apprenticeship is to thoroughly train the apprentice in all aspects of HVAC installation, maintenance and repair.
Education and Training
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many HVAC technicians enter the industry through technical, vocational and community colleges that offer coursework in HVAC. Most HVAC apprenticeship programs take anywhere from six months to two years to complete. However, there are still many HVAC technicians who receive informal on-the-job training.
HVAC apprentices must have excellent communication and listening skills. They should have a strong command of both simple and complex mathematical concepts in algebra and geometry. This is useful for understanding blueprints and HVAC installation design. Apprentices are given both elementary and complex instructions by their trainer, and they need to be able to carry out the instructions sometimes with very little supervision. HVAC apprentices must also be physically fit enough to work for long periods of time in crawlspaces, wall voids and attics.
The majority of HVAC technicians work a standard 40-hour workweek, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are also required to work for long periods of time in tight and sometimes hazardous spaces. HVAC technicians are regularly exposed to high-voltage circuits when installing HVAC systems so there is the hazard of electric shock.
The average hourly wage for HVAC technicians in the United States ranges from $15 to $23 per hour, according to PayScale.com. This translates to roughly $34,000 to $55,000 per year, which includes any overtime and bonus pay. This compensation largely depends on the technician's experience and the size of the employer. In general, apprentices earn about 50 percent of what experienced, or journeyman, HVAC technicians do.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook, HVAC jobs are expected to grow by nearly 28 percent. This is a significant growth compared to the average growth rate of about 13 percent for the majority of occupations surveyed by the BLS.