Purpose: To teach those interested in a career in HVAC more about the field.
- The demand for HVAC technicians.
- What is involved in a career in HVAC.
- Career opportunities and pay in HVAC.
At present a career in the HVAC industry is a highly exciting prospect, as with the increased reliability of technology, efficiency of HVAC units and the overall long term savings homeowners can make; the demand for HVAC systems in US households is ever increasing.
As a result, the high demand has led to an expansion in the industry which means more positions opening up for suitable people to fill. The positions often appeal to those who love to have variety in their work as moving between locations, facing different challenges, meeting new people and solving various issues with HVAC systems are all a routine part of the role.
What Does HVAC Involve?
HVAC is an acronym for “Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning” sometimes with an added “R” which stands for Refrigeration. It’s an industry which deals with the regulation and control of temperature, air quality and humidity within properties.
This of course springs to mind the types of conventional systems that you may end up working with: furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, AC units, ducting; but in fact there’s many more aspects to HVAC than you might think. Some jobs might have you working with hazardous gasses, air filtration, large industrial cooling towers, material ventilators and so on.
As you can imagine, an HVAC technician or most other roles in the HVAC industry will require you to have some good familiarization with the vast range of products that are utilized in diverse types of buildings, a whole host of tools used to perform different types of jobs, the skills needed to get things done and the knowledge of the concepts and principles at work.
Roles in the Industry
The HVAC industry is typically considered to be split into two parts. You have the fast growing residential side, which is generally easier for getting your foot in the door and then there is the lucrative commercial side.
The commercial side of the industry will require a lot more experience, education and training to get into but by means of average income it has a much higher earning potential though this does depend on the role you have in mind.
People tend to think of jobs in HVAC as being in service, maintenance and installation but in reality there is a vast range of opportunities for all sorts of people. You could indeed work in the field as a technician, but there’s also sales, sheet metal fabricators and estimators. There’s also jobs in warehouses, shipping, purchasing and freight on the distribution side of things whilst manufacturing deals with B2B sales, engineers, sourcing, technical support and more.
The opportunities in HVAC are incredible and there’s a role for everyone whether you do or don’t like to move around, whether you’re highly educated or not, or if you have a busy lifestyle.
What is the Expected Income?
The income you’ll earn does heavily depend on the role you take and what state you work within; the most popular role is without a doubt is the HVAC technician. The wage of a technician in Chicago is $15.20-$36.41 hourly, according to payscale.com.
At entry level, you can expect to earn a salary of around $20,000 annually but if you are within the sales or distribution departments, extra commissions can be earned on top of that. With a formal education, and some experience under your belt, salaries can rise up to between $40,000 and $80,000 per year.
It doesn’t have to end there, as if you did climb the ladder in distribution or project management, the annual salaries can reach between $60,000 and $100,000. But no matter which side of the industry you find suits you best, if you have a wealth of experience and if you apply yourself you can go far. You can even set up your own company which is when your potential can be fully reached.
HVAC Career Requirements
Your path to a career in HVAC can start in many different ways. If you don’t have a formal education, or if you have a family and need to earn while you learn or you just don’t have money to spare then the best choice is to seek out private companies who offer apprenticeships or on the job training.
For those that do have the time and the spare cash, obtaining HVAC certification is the best route, no matter what side of the industry you aim to achieve a job in. Not only will it show your potential employers, customers and clients that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform your job correctly but also safely and responsibly.
The main license that you’ll want to achieve is that from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which is required by federal law for you to hold to be able to work with HVAC related appliances, especially when it concerns the handling of refrigerant chemicals.
Otherwise any other requirements would be dictated at the state level, and it can differ between states which exact licensing you’ll need. For example, in California, licensing for all in the construction industry is overlooked by the Contractors State Licence Board which would require examinations as well as proof of work experience to be supplied.
Even when formal education is not a requirement, it’s still a massive advantage over other jobseekers within the HVAC industry to have some sort of formal qualifications. The option of attending a trade or technical schools is there for those who want to gain the edge over their competition as on the job training can be expensive for companies, they would rather somebody who is already qualified.
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Grabbing the Opportunity
Getting licences and certification in some states can be quite complicated, with procedures which require you to front cash for exams which of course you will need to purchase study materials for, but if you have the time and resources it’s a worthy investment.
The key is to focus on one stage at a time. First get yourself qualified, make sure you can show an employer that you have the skills and knowledge that it takes to be a professional and then get the licencing out of the way when you are confident you can land that job.
And if you are restricted by time and money, try to land that apprenticeship or on the job experience, as whether you attain the qualifications or not, having experience under your belt is going to be just as important in making your way on a HVAC career path.
Guest Post by Dave Miller
Dave is an HVAC tech who now dedicates himself to sharing knowledge on his website heattalk.com. He has worked for over twenty years in the industry. For the last five years, he has run his own contracting business. Dave can be found on Facebook or Twitter at @heattalkcom