HVAC Career Options
By: Reggie Hucks | Sep 02, 2021
Career opportunities in HVAC and refrigeration are more diverse than many other trade-oriented professions. Air conditioning, refrigeration, ventilation, and heating touches every section of the civilized world, and is rarely impacted by bumps in the economy. As a result, many lucrative HVAC jobs exist that make rewarding careers. Beginning at the most entry-level position and working our way up, let’s discuss some of the HVAC career options out there.
This can be an entry-level position for a job seeker right out of high school. The applicant starts as an apprentice, working under experienced craftsmen, and moves up as a journeyman. Although there is a lot to learn about duct construction, learning how to install the ductwork is the priority. From there, a journeyman will learn how to put together sheet metal or duct board, insulate ductwork, lay out duct systems, install fire dampers, and operate sheet metal equipment such as brakes and plasma machines. Commercial companies that contract larger systems will pay installers more due to the specialized requirements of commercial installations.
All machines eventually break, and most machines require maintenance. As technology changes, machines may become more complicated. Car engines are classic examples, and the same applies in HVAC. When HVAC equipment needs maintenance, trained technicians are required to keep things going. To get that training, there are various options available. Some trade schools or technical colleges have HVAC programs that offer enough training to start as an HVAC mechanic. There are also national training organizations such as North American Technician Excellence (NATE) that offer certifications through associated training and testing. With these programs, a technician trainee can work for a company while they are getting their certification. Gaining on-the-job training opportunities with some of the larger HVAC companies is another option. While service/mechanic jobs can pay more than a duct installer, they take longer to master.
Sales jobs could be considered for those who prefer to use soft skills instead of working with their hands. A thorough knowledge of HVAC system installation is required, but the actual installation is usually done by others. Sales positions require strong communication and math skills, plus the ability to execute contracts. Some of the best salespeople have marketing degrees with specialized training in HVAC. While it takes longer to be a top salesperson, the pay can reflect the effort.
The Job Numbers
With a shortfall of around 100,000 workers and an increase in available jobs of 4% per year, the HVAC opportunities are significant. While starting pay for an installer depends on location, one can expect to earn around $40,000 annually. Service and salespeople may have commission added to their annual pay, potentially doubling their salary. Since there are so many employers seeking help, bonuses may even be a part of the pay equation.
Education costs can vary, ranging from zero to the cost of a college degree. In some states, technical schools offer free education to state citizens. There are also colleges that offer four-year degrees in HVAC. It really depends on the individual’s career goals, but the opportunities are out there.
So, there you have it. If you don’t mind getting a little dirty, are service-oriented, technically savvy, have effective communication skills, and enjoy the peace of mind that steady employment brings, the HVAC and refrigeration industry is calling you. Roll up your sleeves and go for it!