When it comes to stability and a promising job market, you can’t go wrong getting skilled in a trade. If you’re looking for a trade that offers job growth and a relatively short training time, you may want to consider becoming an HVAC technician. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Refrigeration usually falls into that category, too. It’s an industry for hard workers who like going to different locations, meeting new people, and troubleshooting different problems all the time.
HVAC techs need to have a mechanical aptitude, a mind for details, and enough proficiency in math to calculate the load requirements that ensure equipment properly heats and cools. They also need good customer service skills since they’re likely to be working in customers’ homes or business offices. This trade is particularly physically demanding. Techs often find themselves working in an attics and crawlspaces when temperatures are extreme. It routinely requires lifting, moving, and repairing large equipment. In addition, Techs have to be amenable to making service calls at odd hours, including weekends.
But contrary to popular misconceptions, HVAC isn’t strictly a seasonal industry. During the summer HVAC techs are busy with air conditioning, and in the fall and winter they’re busy running maintenance on on cooling systems and installing heaters. This industry is relatively recession proof, too. No matter what the economy is doing, people always need cooling and heating.
Employment in the HVAC industry is projected to grow 13-15 percent between now and 2028— meaning it will add over 40,000 fresh openings to the existing pool of 350,000+ working HVAC mechanics and installers around the country. That rate of growth is a lot faster than the average for other occupations.
HVAC pay depends on credentials, industry, employer, skill level, and level of experience, as well as geographic location. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual income for HVAC jobs is $47,080 (about $23 per hour), though most techs end up working some overtime which boosts their annual earnings. Techs who can combine sales skills with new installations stand to earn a good deal more. HVAC techs in Alaska can earn as much as $39.00 per hour.
Technologies keep evolving while existing equipment keeps aging. HVAC is an industry that’s always striving to develop more efficient, effective, and environmentally friendly ways to operate. As systems become more complex and computerized, technicians who want to earn top dollar need to stay abreast of the latest developments. Candidates who don’t care to continue to learn need not apply.
The requirements for becoming an HVAC technician differ from state to state. Though certification isn’t legally required in every location, it’s widely recognized in the field because it validates the technician’s knowledge. In order to receive certification, technicians must pass a knowledge-based exam. You can earn an HVAC technician certificate in as little as six months, though if you want a more robust career, there are associates degree programs that are more comprehensive and take up to two years to complete.
Veterans can apply for benefits and training with in a variety of HVAC programs through the GI Bill Education benefits (Post-9/11 GI Bill Apprenticeship Program). In addition, there are scholarships available. Here are a few:
EGIA Foundation HVAC Scholarship
Awards: $2,500 annually to 20 students.
For who are interested in or currently pursuing a degree or technical certificate in the areas of HVAC, especially at the residential level. This can also include an interest in green or sustainable home design and technology.
Deadline: March 31
Website for more information and to apply for this scholarship: EGIA Foundation
The Rees Scholarship Foundation
Awards: Up to $2,000 (multiple awards)
For future heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians who are enrolled in an institutionally accredited school.
Caroline Sposto is a writer, actor, and the founder of Savvy Civility, an educational company that specializes in civilian role play training. She has a passion for the arts, education, and small business.