Are you looking for a career opportunity that can make money and offer the potential to travel around the country? If you are not planning on pursuing a Master's Degree, but want an education that will open doors of opportunity, then a career as an HVAC technician could be a good fit for you. This path could also save you thousands of dollars in student debt and give you payouts earlier than most college degrees.
The HVAC Industry Overview
HVAC technicians are responsible for installing and maintaining heating and cooling systems in homes, offices, and businesses. They keep these buildings comfortable by making sure that temperatures remain within a specific range at all times. In addition to installing the equipment, HVAC technicians also repair any problems that may arise with it.
The need for these professionals is expected to grow by 10% from 2016-2026, which means there will be plenty of opportunities for those who want to pursue an education in this field.
The job market for HVAC technicians is strong, with many opportunities to work for large companies or small ones. You can even start your own business if you want. The pay is good and there are all kinds of benefits that come with the job.
There are some drawbacks, however. The work can be physically demanding, especially if you're working on commercial systems. The hours are long and unpredictable and you may have to travel from one job site to another during the day.
You'll be paid well for your hard work, though. As of 2021, median annual earnings for an HVAC technician range from $50,590 to $75,000 per year depending on your level of experience and education level.
If you're working full-time as an HVAC technician, this means that you'll be earning over $23 per hour! That's more than double what most high school graduates earn fresh out of college.
Training and Certification
There are many HVAC schools and training programs that can prepare you for a career in the industry. Here are some of the most popular options:
1. An associate's degree program. These programs typically take two years to complete and may include both classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Some schools offer certificates that can be earned in one or two semesters, but these typically aren't as comprehensive as an associate's degree program.
2. A certificate program — These range from one semester to two years in length, depending on the school and its curriculum requirements. They're typically offered by community colleges or technical schools, but some companies offer their own education programs as well.
3. An apprenticeship program — Apprenticeships are available through unions such as the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers or the United Association of Journeymen Plumbers and Steamfitters (UA).
An apprenticeship is a combination of on-the-job training and technical instruction. The employer provides the training and the employee receives a wage while learning valuable skills that will help them succeed in the field. It's also a great way for an employer to get quality employees at a lower cost than hiring someone with no experience or education.
In order to become an apprentice, you'll need to find an employer willing to take on an apprentice — but don't worry, finding one isn't hard! There are plenty of companies looking for new talent just like you!
Financial Advantages of Becoming an HVAC Technician
The average cost of a four-year degree in mechanical engineering or other related fields is between $28,000 for undergraduate, and $32,000 for graduate programs at most schools in the United States. On top of that, students have to pay for room and board while they're enrolled in college classes.
On the other hand, becoming an HVAC technician costs much less and still provides students with valuable skills that can be applied right away in their job. The average cost of HVAC training ranges from $4,500 to $8,500 depending on location and school type (community college vs. private). This amount includes all course materials and equipment needed for hands-on training such as refrigerant recovery equipment or air conditioner compressors.
Here are some other financial benefits of becoming an HVAC technician:
Reduced student loan debt. Many people choose HVAC careers because they don't have a lot of money for tuition payments. That's especially true if they're paying for their own education without help from their parents or other relatives. An HVAC certification can help reduce student loan debt by allowing students to complete their training in less time than it would take to earn a four-year degree.
The HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industry is a stable one. Demand for heating technicians is expected to increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS predicts that employment for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers will grow by 12 percent by 2026, which is much faster than average.
Career Growth and Opportunities
There are many different types of career paths within the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. There is a wide range of opportunities for HVAC technicians, from those who work on residential applications to those who work on commercial or industrial applications.
Here are some common career paths:
HVAC Technician: HVAC technicians are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems in residential, commercial, and industrial settings.
HVAC Installer: HVAC installers specialize in the installation of new HVAC systems, working with construction teams to ensure proper installation and setup of equipment according to specifications and codes.
HVAC Service Technician: HVAC service technicians focus on the maintenance and repair of existing HVAC systems. They diagnose issues, perform regular maintenance, and repair or replace faulty components to ensure optimal system performance.
HVAC Design Engineer: HVAC design engineers are responsible for creating the blueprints and specifications for HVAC systems in new buildings or retrofit projects. They work closely with architects and construction teams to ensure that the systems meet the required standards for efficiency, comfort, and safety.
HVAC Controls Technician: HVAC controls technicians specialize in the installation, programming, and troubleshooting of building automation systems (BAS) and energy management systems (EMS) that control HVAC equipment.
HVAC Sales Representative: HVAC sales representatives work for manufacturers or distributors, promoting and selling HVAC products and services to contractors, builders, and end-users.
HVAC Project Manager: HVAC project managers oversee the planning, execution, and completion of HVAC projects, ensuring that they are completed on time, within budget, and according to specifications.
If you're willing to invest the time in yourself, there are plenty of opportunities available to you in the HVAC industry. From commercial HVAC technician to residential HVAC specialist, there's something for everyone!
What will you need to get started? To become an HVAC Technician, you will need to:
- Earn a high school diploma or GED. A high school degree or GED is typically a requirement for HVAC schooling programs. Courses in physics, environmental science, and computer science can help strengthen your skills for a career in heating and cooling.
- Enroll in a training program. HVAC technicians can complete a certificate program, which can be finished in as little as 10 months. Alternatively, some HVAC technicians attend a college or university to earn a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor's degree.
- Complete an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships offered through unions and companies can last 2-5 years and provide hands-on experience in the field.
- Obtain an HVAC certification. There are various certifications available, depending on your area of specialization and the state in which you plan to work.
- Optional: Consider obtaining additional certifications to enhance your skills and employability. These certifications can be from organizations like North American Technician Excellence (NATE), which offers the Certified HVAC Professional (CHP-5) certification.
There are many advanced certifications that HVAC technicians can earn to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in the field. Some of the common ones are:
EPA Section 608 Certification: This is a mandatory certification for anyone working with refrigerants. It has four types: Type I (small appliances), Type II (high-pressure appliances), Type III (low-pressure appliances), and Universal (all types of appliances). To get this certification, you need to pass an EPA-approved test administered by an EPA-approved organization. Want more information?? Check out these Section 608 Prep Courses.
R-410A Certification: This is a voluntary certification for technicians who work with R-410A refrigerant, which is widely used in modern air conditioning systems. It covers topics such as safety, installation, service, and troubleshooting of R-410A systems. To get this certification, you need to pass a written and practical exam.
HVAC Excellence Certifications: These are a series of certifications offered by HVAC Excellence, an organization that promotes professionalism and excellence in the HVAC industry. They have different levels of certifications for high school students, entry-level technicians, and experienced technicians. Some examples are Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology (H.E.A.T.), H.E.A.T. Plus, HVAC Master Specialist, and HVAC Educator.
So if you're hoping to get into a great career, there really is no better field to enter than HVAC. Becoming an HVAC technician is more accessible than ever, thanks to a wealth of online resources and training materials.
And the job outlook for HVAC professionals is bright, with plenty of opportunities for the hopeful, hardworking individual. So what are you waiting for? Go and learn everything that you need to become a successful, upwardly mobile HVAC technician.