HVAC Training 101: Your Potential Career Path

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Last updated: 
July 20, 2017

The statistics paint a compelling picture: This is a good time to consider an HVAC training and explore the many careers in HVAC and refrigeration.

The outstanding job prospects, good pay and interesting work are among the top reasons HVAC-R is a career path many are already looking into.

Employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 14 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The above data is according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The BLS predicts that nearly 40,000 jobs will be added in the industry during that decade, with opportunities across the United States.

hvac training

What Does an HVAC Career Offer You?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of getting HVAC training and pursuing an HVAC career. Below you can see the advantages.

1. Outstanding Job Outlook

The 14 percent job growth expected through 2024 is a top reason for considering HVAC training. See Best Options below for a breakdown of top jobs within this sector.

2. Good Pay

The median income is $45,910 per year based on an hourly wage of $22.07 (BLS statistics).

3. Mobility

This sector is experiencing job growth across the country, though the most jobs opening for those with HVAC training are east of the Mississippi and in the South. So, you’ll have options for finding a job where you want to live. Interestingly, places like North Dakota and Montana have fewer job openings than densely populated areas. But wages are higher because of the scarcity of trained HVAC professionals.

There are tens of thousands of job openings outside the US too, if you’re the adventurous type that would like to see the world while building a career and earning good pay.

4. Job Diversity

While most jobs are in installation, repair and maintenance, there are many related fields that require HVAC training. Even as an HVAC tech, each repair or installation job is a new setting. So, you’re never stuck in one location day after day.

If the hands-on work isn’t for you, the HVAC industry needs:

  • Managers;
  • Sales pros;
  • System designers;
  • Customer service representatives.

5. Accessibility to the Career

HVAC training is not long or expensive compared with many other professions. Basic HVAC training and certification programs take as little as six months. Most HVAC training programs are 10-12 months. Those offering associate’s degrees are 18-24 months.

HVAC tuition costs for a basic certificate program average $6,000 to $9,000 and $17,000 to $30,000 for an Associate’s degree in HVAC. Many local trade schools and community colleges have HVAC programs, so moving away from home to get the education probably isn’t necessary.

6. Innovation

The rising global demand for ecofriendly, efficient heating, air conditioning and refrigeration makes this an exciting time to be part of the industry. Innovation is occurring rapidly in technologies such as:

If you want to be involved in an industry that is having a positive impact on the planet and on individual homes, the HVAC-R meets that criteria.

The Cons Are:

  • Some HVAC program graduates find it hard to get that first job without experience. So, it makes sense to get training from a school that offers internships or apprenticeships;
  • The job can be physically demanding, for example when you’re hauling an old furnace out of a basement or are on your knees for hours installing an air handler in crawlspace;
  • Long work hours during peak times in summer and winter. But the upside is overtime pay for those hours;
  • Many local heating and air conditioning companies offer 24-hour emergency service. So, there might be times you’re called out in the middle of the night or on a weekend to make a repair. However, technicians often receive premium pay when on-call and making emergency repairs;
  • Technicians working for small, local heating and cooling companies don’t have as many career-advancement opportunities as those working for large service companies. That’s why having a robust education and NATE certification (see below) are recommended.

What Skills Do You Need to Be an HVAC Technician?

Generally, you should be comfortable using hand tools and enjoy working with mechanical systems. This translates into taking machinery apart, repairing it and putting it back together. The specific HVAC technician skills you must have are also those that HVAC training programs provide. These include expertise and experience in:

  • EPA 608 certification and R-410a refrigerant certification;
  • Climate control systems;
  • Thermostatic controls;
  • Electrical wiring;
  • Air conditioning and heat pump systems;
  • Boilers;
  • HVAC troubleshooting, installation, maintenance and repair;
  • Refrigerant system recharging;
  • Warm-air heat systems;
  • Energy-efficient/green HVAC technology;
  • Refrigeration systems and control (If you want to work in refrigeration).

Six-month programs don’t cover all these bases. The more education and training you have, the better your entry-level job prospects will be, the higher your wages will be and the faster you will be able to advance in your career. Our post on HVAC Certification includes a list of schools offering HVAC training and information about each program.

Also plan to become NATE-certified. NATE stands for North American Technician Excellence. It is a professional organization that offers testing in basic HVAC knowledge and skills and in specialty fields within the industry. Certifications include:

  • Work-Ready certificate;
  • HVAC Support Technician certificate;
  • Professional certificate.

It also has specialties in:

  • Gas and oil hydronic systems;
  • HVAC efficiency analyst
  • Ground source heat pump loop installation;
  • Air distribution.

NATE certification tells employers that you have mastered the knowledge and skills necessary to get the job done correctly the first time. Some employers require the appropriate NATE certifications before hiring or advancing an employee.

Best Options in the Field of HVAC

The BLS reports that more than 294,000 people work in the HVAC industry. Also, the field offers a variety of career options. Yet, installing and repairing residential and commercial HVAC-R equipment is the largest segment.

  • HVAC-R mechanics and installers: 212,810;
  • HVAC direct sales: 9,410;
  • HVAC wholesale sales: 8,070;
  • Commercial & industrial HVAC service: 6,170;
  • Educational facilities: 5,620.

These HVAC occupations account for 78% of all jobs in the industry. The statistics don’t include self-employed HVAC contractors such as the owners of local HVAC companies that employ most of the 294,000 workers in the industry. Most of those owners began their careers as HVAC technicians and later started their businesses. That’s an attractive career path for those with practical experience as an HVAC technician who have also obtained a business education.

A small percentage of the HVAC careers are in aerospace manufacturing, telecommunications, natural gas distribution and a wide range of related jobs.

To the Point

If this information has raised your interest in HVAC training, search online for training schools or call your local community college to find out what training programs are available near you.

Your friends and followers on social media might appreciate the information too as they consider their career. So, please pass it along if it has been helpful to you!

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