HVAC engineers find employment in the HVAC, plumbing, education and wholesale sectors. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 90% of HVAC technicians are self-employed. The professionals work to install, maintain and fix air conditioning units at residential and commercial levels. Becoming a HVAC technician could open doors to numerous career opportunities including HVAC Controls Technician, and Chief Mechanical Engineer. The future looks bright for HVAC engineers since the industry is forecasted to grow by 15% through 2026. Residential and commercial construction activities are expected to fuel much of this job growth.
Is HVAC a good career? Yes, a career in HVAC is a worthwhile option because it pays well and offers a wide range of employment opportunities. The profession can also be very fulfilling and might mean little or no student debt. HVAC is worth considering for those who want an occupation that doesn’t require staying at the desk daily.
I see a lot of solid proof that HVAC provides valuable employment opportunities for new techs and others within the industry. HVAC wages and the demand for new professionals increase day by day. Soon, there might not be adequate for workers to fulfill those needs. For those reasons, I recommend a HVAC career to entry-level workers as well as experienced employees who decide to switch careers. All in all, HVAC is a flexible and rewarding occupation. Read on to find out is HVAC hard? I’ll also discuss the HVAC technician salary, pros and cons of this profession and how to become an HVAC engineer.
Is HVAC A Good Career – Pros and Cons
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. So, a technician in this field handles repair, installation and maintenance of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. Below, I take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of a HVAC career.
- Minimal Student Debt
Earning a four-year or even a two-year college degree can be expensive depending on one’s location. Trade schools, which teach students specialized, career-specific skills, usually take less time, and, hence are less costly. Moreover, graduates from trade schools join the labor force much faster than those who pursue degrees from traditional four-year institutions. That enables, HVAC technicians from a trade school to begin working and paying off any loans they might have taken up relatively fast.
- Promising Employment Opportunities
HVAC systems are becoming more complex. Therefore, there are increasing job openings for professionals who know how to repair, install, maintain and troubleshoot these modern HVAC units.
- HVAC Work Cannot Be Outsourced
Different from many other vocations, HVAC work can’t be outsourced, because much of the work needs to be done on-site. HVAC techs work on-location to fix, maintain or install the residential or commercial HVAC equipment. The complex nature of those machines has made it hard for people to repair or maintain their systems without professional assistance.
- Work Fulfillment in Offering Clean Energy
Inefficient HVAC equipment inhibits working and necessitates replacement with an energy-efficient system. Moreover, an increasing interest in clean energy is creating new, exciting employment openings in the HVAC field. Future work opportunities include operating as energy auditors, green technology specialists, and carrying out equipment performance testing.
Without a doubt, HVAC is an exciting profession. Anyone who wants to enjoy a multitude of opportunities for career advancement should consider training in HVAC.
- Constant Travel
A career in HVAC involves traveling from one location to another for a variety of service calls. The calls can come from homes, offices, medical centers, factories or schools.
- It’s Not a Cozy Occupation
While most HVAC jobs involve working inside, some work might require working on exterior heat pumps or fittings in bad weather.
Additionally, the career also includes working in awkward or cramped places. Also, the techs usually have to work in too cold or too hot areas where the air conditioning or heating units are broken down.
- Safety is a Common Concern
An HVAC career has a higher likelihood of injuries than many other professions. HVAC technicians are constantly exposed to numerous hazards including electrical shocks, muscle strains and burns.
Additionally, the professionals in this field risk inhaling toxins when working with refrigerants. Direct contact with a refrigerant can lead to skin damage, frostbite or loss of sight.
- Demanding Work Schedule
The majority of HVAC engineers have to work on weekends, late evenings, summer and winter. Technicians who work for HVAC or plumbing contractors have less flexibility, but self-employed workers can set their own work schedules.
Generally, a HVAC career is more suitable for mechanically inclined, daring and energetic persons. That’s because the profession involves erratic work hours, operating under extreme atmospheric elements, hard physical labor and other risks.
What is HVAC Technician Salary?
Any expat considering a move to the UK or USA should think of taking up a HVAC career, because it pays well.
In the U.S, HVAC Service Technicians earn an average of $20.83 per hour, which equates to $44,673 per year. An entry-level technician with less than 12-months experience makes an average of $14.85 per hour. An experienced professional with at least twenty years of experience earns an hourly pay of $27.
HVAC engineers in the United States earn an average of $66,076 per year. Entry-level workers with one-year experience earn $55,051 on average. HVAC engineers with a working experience of 20 years or higher make an average of $83,214.
The average HVAC Engineer Salary in the UK is £32,104 per year. An engineer with 1-4 years of experience earns an average wage of £29,492. A professional with 20 years or more of working experience makes about £37,500 per annum.
HVAC technicians in the UK earn an average salary of £34,641 per year.
Is HVAC Hard?
Well, HVAC is a good career option, but like any other profession, it comes with its own set of downsides. For starters, it’s hard to get started in this vocation without experience. People without hands-on experience might face difficulty in getting hired initially. Without formal education, breaking into the HVAC industry or related-field can be tedious.
Secondly, HVAC is a physically demanding occupation. Technicians usually need to be on their feet for more than 40 hours per week doing laborious tasks. That might not be a problem for young technicians, but as they grow older, they might begin to experience the negative physical effects.
Moreover, it takes time and experience to learn about different HVAC systems. It’s not possible to master it all in just one day. Since, different issues come up on the job, which one might have never seen before, troubleshooting, is very critical.
However, the drawbacks of a HVAC career are outweighed by the advantages. A HVAC profession can make one an invaluable skilled trade worker in an industry where demand continues to increase. The increasing demand means added job security and bigger salaries. HVAC technicians play a vital role in the contemporary world; therefore joining the profession can bring a feeling of fulfillment.
The HVAC industry offers different types of job titles including HVAC managers, installers, refrigeration technicians and engineers.
How to Become a HVAC Engineer
HVAC technicians and HVAC engineers work with complex machinery, but a technician’s work is more hands-on.
To become a HVAC technician, one must meet the following requirements:
- Possess a high school diploma or equivalent
- Have basic HVAC certification from a trade school or training program
- Earn extra certification related to a HVAC career e.g., EPA Type I-III certifications, Universal EPA Certificate or North American Technician Excellence certificate
HVAC engineers have varying responsibilities. They can design units, work along with HVAC installers, enhance a system’s maintenance or engineer repairs. Additionally, they can work directly for HVAC contractors or explore opportunities at design companies, government bodies, or HVAC equipment manufacturers.
The following are the requirements for becoming an HVAC engineer:
- Pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering
- People who want to take on management roles need to pursue a master’s degree
- Have a license to work, which should be renewed yearly
- Possess certificates to validate skills
Anyone who wants to start working in HVAC straightway can train to become a technician first. And then go back to school to finish the requirements to operate as an engineer.
Multiple vocational schools offer degree transfer choices that transfer some or all of a student’s credits to a 4-year institution. However, it’s essential to check with the college or university because admission requirements vary among schools.
A typical workday for an HVAC technician varies depending on the type of company they work for. The work schedule might begin whenever a service is required. A person working for a home building firm might have a regular 9 am to 5 pm schedule.
The start of a day for an HVAC professional begins with going to the office to prepare for the job ahead. After knowing about the schedule for that day, the appropriate equipment will be loaded into the business vehicle. After that, the tech(s) will head out to the worksite.
A technician may work for an appointment-based organization that goes from one home to the next installing and maintaining heating or cooling systems. That sort of job might be suitable for somebody who loves the variety and working closely with people.
For technicians who work in the industrial or commercial fields, it’s possible to be at the same worksite all day or for weeks. In such a case, there may be an HVAC manager that’s talking with the client directly. That might be an ideal fit for people who enjoy working on larger projects for a long time without dealing with customers.
A day might include any of these jobs or all of them: preventative maintenance, installation, fixing worn out parts, or unexpected client emergencies. Calls for emergency repair can come up at any time. While that might seem stressful, it provides HVAC professionals with a chance to earn extra cash working overtime.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.