If you are interested in starting a new, successful career, check out a career in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. HVAC is an excellent place to start, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts careers in this industry will grow by 13 percent by 2028.
People interested in HVAC quickly discover why these careers are growing so quickly. One involves homeowners using government tax credits to upgrade to more energy-efficient comfort systems. There's also the transition away from R-22 Freon®, which impacts older equipment. Finally, there’s the ever-changing real estate market exacerbated by a property shortage that’s spurred further growth in new construction homes.
One of the most in-demand careers is working as an HVAC technician. Learn more about their skill set, how to become one and about how much you can expect to make.
What Are HVAC Technicians?
A HVAC technician should be able to repair, install and maintain heating and cooling systems. Most technicians will earn experience on equipment in both homes and commercial properties. And, most importantly, you’ll be knowledgeable about:
- Air conditioners
- Mini-splits and heat pumps
- Thermostats and home zoning
- Indoor air quality products such as air filters and air purification systems
Some apprentices even become HVAC-R technicians, and they are further trained to provide refrigeration.
Is There a Shortage of HVAC Technicians?
Qualified HVAC technicians are in high demand because of shrinking labor force within the industry. There are several reasons for this discrepancy, including an aging workforce and competition from other industries. Many younger people also pursue college degrees rather than a licensed trade like HVAC.
Is HVAC a Hard Career?
While HVAC often requires physical exertion, it can still be quite gratifying. As a technician you'll be expected to occasionally:
- Work in unpleasant settings, like tight or dirty spaces.
- Work in high or low temperatures since HVAC systems are usually outdoors.
- Work evenings, weekends and overtime around peak demand.
A stubborn falsehood about HVAC is that it’s a blue-collar career. In reality, you need an extensive skill set, specialized education and continuous recertification.
It’s an excellent first career if you prefer to:
- Minimize student debt.
- Work outdoors instead of in an office.
- Have job security since HVAC positions can't be outsourced.
- Gain the experience you need to start your own successful business.
Is HVAC a Difficult Job?
Any job can be stressful. HVAC technicians handle complex equipment and may be subject to cramped or uncomfortable working conditions. Appropriate experience and tools can help address any concerns. Additionally, paid training and a steady supply of work help HVAC professionals reduce some of the most common reasons for work-related stress.
Is HVAC Hard on Your Body?
Carrying heavy objects and performing repetitive motions are both common during HVAC work. Accessing and servicing large equipment can be exhausting. HVAC technicians should be physically fit, and you may benefit from a healthy diet and exercise regimen to stay in good shape.
Would a Recession Impact HVAC Jobs?
While a recession can affect any industry, HVAC is consistently avoiding the worst of economic downturns due to the essential nature of heating and cooling equipment. Repairs and installation will always be required, , which means professionals in HVAC can often find work in many different cities.
Is HVAC a Good Career for the Future?
As HVAC equipment becomes more complex, professional servicing will become even more important. New forms of heating and cooling systems use less energy or generate it from renewable sources such as solar and wind. Greener HVAC equipment will continue to grow in popularity, as will the need for competent HVAC professionals.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
To become an HVAC technician, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED as well as professional training. Other, more specialized (and higher paying) HVAC careers require additional education or certifications.
You can secure the needed certifications by enrolling in classes at a community college or trade school. How much time is needed to become an HVAC technician may fluctuate depending on the specific program, which is most often around six months to two years. Your employer might also require NATE certification. Standing for North American Technician Excellence, this industry-leading accreditation builds on your existing industry knowledge to maximize your capabilities.
Even though basic concepts of an HVAC career could be learned on your own, getting the necessary education means combining classroom programs with on-site training. At the same time, HVAC careers aren't reliant on things like advanced math. While a little math is needed, the majority of an HVAC professionals’ skill set utilizes critical thinking, used to identify problems and ensure quality installation.
Career Explorer reports that having experience with things like tablets, electronics and troubleshooting will be vital as equipment becomes capable of even more.
Another benefit of working in HVAC is little to no student debt.
According to Midwest Technical Institute, attending a technical or trade school typically costs around $15,000. A community college is usually around $5,000 annually. In comparison, the average student debt for a bachelor’s degree is $25,921.
A Day in the Life of an HVAC Technician
The daily schedule may vary on the work site as well as your specific skill set. If you are a repair technician, you may work early, late or be on call throughout the day. For technicians or installers working in construction, you are more likely to have a set schedule during normal business hours.
As a technician, you’ll respond to different locations for repair, maintenance or installation work. Complex jobs might take longer than others, so the number of calls each day can fluctuate.
Like we mentioned earlier, you should be comfortable working outdoors in severe weather as well as in dirty or cramped spaces. For jobs that work with customers or clients, strong customer service skills are always useful.
Can You Make a Good Living in HVAC? Average Salary for HVAC Technicians and Other HVAC Careers
Because HVAC is a fast-growing industry, your salary should reflect that. The national average salary for an HVAC technician is $49,242, according to ZipRecruiter. Top earners make between $56,600 and $68,000. However, total compensation can depend on where you live and its cost of living. Experienced HVAC technicians transitioning to a position in management in a high-paying state could earn a salary as high as six figures.
In addition to owning your own business, there are other paths for career advancement. These include:
- HVAC manager, $72,515 average salary
- HVAC service manager, $71,176 average salary
Types of HVAC That Pay More
There is a lot of room for specialization in the HVAC industry, and continuing education and certification opportunities open doors for niche positions with great salaries. For example, master engineers with project management or custom system design experience could receive six-figure salaries. Larger salaries are also more likely if you have experience with advanced equipment like commercial HVAC systems, geothermal heat pumps or radiant in-floor heating.
What States Need HVAC Workers the Most
HVAC technicians are needed in cities throughout the country, but even more so in Florida, California, Texas, New York and Illinois. According to hvacclasses.org, these states need the greatest number of HVAC professionals and are experiencing enormous growth in the construction industry. Here’s why:
- Florida: Hurricanes, education and healthcare facilities.
- California: Wildfires, transportation, energy and utility projects.
- Texas: Hurricanes, energy, utility and other infrastructure upgrades.
- New York: Residential and infrastructure updates.
- Illinois: Companies relocating to the Chicago area.
Where HVAC Technicians Will Be in High Demand in the Future
Projections Central, who develops long-term occupational projections, expects these states to have the greatest demand for technicians by 2028:
- Utah, 31.1%
- Colorado, 29.7%
- Nevada, 27.9%
- Arizona, 21.4%
- Iowa, Oregon and Montana, 18.5%
- Arkansas, 16.3%
- Florida, 16.2%
- South Carolina, 16%
- Texas, 15.9%
- Idaho, 15.7%
- Washington, 15.6%
- North Carolina, 15.5%
- Tennessee, 15.2%
- Wyoming, 14.3%
- Nebraska, 13.9%
- Indiana, 13.8%
- North Dakota, 13.8%
Here’s where the highest number of new positions during that time frame are expected to be:
- Florida, 5,420
- Texas, 5,530
- California, 4,100
- North Carolina, 2,510
- New York, 2,290
- Colorado, 2,000
- Ohio, 1,550
- Pennsylvania, 1,510
- Virginia, 1,500
- Tennessee, 1,360
- Washington, 1,290
- Georgia, 1,270
- New Jersey, 1,170
- Utah, 1,170
- South Carolina, 1,1060
- Indiana, 940
- Maryland, 820
- Missouri and Arizona, 810
- Michigan, 780
Weather and a healthy economy will further encourage growth in these states, according to hvacclasses.org.
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