Good pay, independence, great job outlook
Watch video: A day in the life of an HVAC technician
HVAC technicians work on the heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the temperature and air quality in buildings. It's a career path with huge projected growth and opportunities across multiple industries. If you're a problem-solver, great communicator, and like working independently, then HVAC could be the career path for you.

What is HVAC?

HVAC (sometimes called HVACR) stands for heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems—all the systems that heat and cool buildings. HVAC technicians are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing these systems everywhere from hospitals and office buildings to shopping malls and your own home.

When something goes wrong with a heating or cooling system, the HVAC technician has to visit the site and test the system. Then they have to find the problem, communicate it to the building owner, and figure out the best way to repair it.

It's a job that's part electrician, part plumber, and part problem solver. And, in addition to technical training, it requires a mix of other skills to excel.

Important Skills
Communication Technicians often work in customers' homes or offices, so they must be friendly, polite, and punctual.
Attention to Detail Technicians must maintain detailed records for every job: the kind of work performed, how long it took, and all the parts used.
Math Skills Technicians must calculate the correct load requirements to ensure that the equipment properly heats or cools the space.
Mechanical Skills Technicians work on complicated climate-control systems, so they must be able to assemble, disassemble, and program the HVAC components.
Stamina & Strength Technicians spend many hours on their feet and may have to lift heavy equipment.
Time Management Technicians must be able to keep a set schedule of daily maintenance calls.
Troubleshooting Technicians must identify problems on malfunctioning HVAC systems and then determine the best way to repair them.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The good news? While becoming an HVAC technician does require training and often an extended apprenticeship, there are endless opportunities and many career paths to choose from in this growing field.


Huge Projected Growth

“The EPA's new carbon standards could add nearly 274,000 for some skilled trade jobs to the economy. Many of these jobs are likely to be HVAC-related jobs as inefficient HVAC equipment stops working and requires replacement with an energy efficient HVAC one.”
-Oanh Nguyen, The Refrigeration School

As heating and air conditioning systems age, there's a huge demand for skilled technicians who can service old systems and replace them with new ones. In fact, the job growth for HVAC is projected to be double that of other industries in the coming years.

Industry Average Job Growth Period
Other industries 7% 2016-2026
HVAC 15% 2016-2026

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Good Pay

In 2016, HVAC technicians earned an average annual salary of $49,530. And this number was even higher on the west coast, where skilled technicians are in even more demand.

State Average Annual Wage for HVAC Installer
Washington $53,510
Oregon $50,440
California $56,350

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Potential for Self-Employment 1 in 10 HVAC technicians is self employed.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Many HVAC technicians work for construction companies, but 10% are self employed or own their own businesses. In fact, the majority of service technician companies were started by owner-operators who got their start in the field.

And working in construction has benefits too. Many companies will sponsor you for further training and education at no cost to you.

Variety of Career Paths

HVAC technicians work with everything from pipes to electrical systems, so it's more varied than other trades. Start out as a technician in the HVAC industry and you could move on to become a service manager, move into sales, morph into building maintenance, or start your own HVAC business.

More reasons

Satisfaction of diagnosing and fixing a problem on your own.
Your choice
Your choice to work as an independent contractor, for a service technician business, or in construction.
Stable career path
Stable career path. HVAC technicians must be very skilled and work onsite, which makes this job very hard to outsource.
Active Work
Active Work. HVAC technicians have some of the most active jobs in the US, which comes with health benefits like reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Source: Business insider

Is HVAC right for me?

Watch Video:
The Life of an HVAC Technician

HVAC is a career path with many opportunities, but you need a unique set of skills to excel. You need the problem solving skills to diagnose a problem, communication skills to explain the problem to the customer, and the technical skills to fix it. Ask yourself:

  • Do you enjoy solving problems and working with your hands?
  • Do you have good communication skills?
  • Do you enjoy working independently?
  • Are you highly organized?
  • Can you keep detailed records?
  • Are you comfortable working outside regular hours during the in-demand season?

How would I get started in HVAC?

HVAC systems are complex, so most employers prefer workers who have received postsecondary instruction at a trade or technical school or completed a three to five year paid apprenticeship. Some states or cities also require HVAC technicians to be licensed, which usually means you have to pass a written test.

Certificate or Associate's Degree Apprenticeship Licensing and Certifications (Only required in some states)
Cost $1,200-$15,000 $0-$2,000 $25-$300
Length 6 months ~ 2 years 3 - 5 years

(many people do an apprenticeship in addition to a certificate)

A few hours
How Earn a certificate from a technical school, trade school, or community college Get an entry level job and be paired with an experienced technician for on-the-job training Take a written test to earn EPA certification
  • Shorter path to professional certification
  • Often have an easier time finding a position
  • Often get a higher starting salary
  • Many groups or employers sponsor apprenticeships, so you might not pay anything
  • You earn some income while you get on-the-job training
  • Be professionally certified
Disadvantages Higher cost
  • Takes longer
  • Can be more challenging to find a position with no previous training

Ready to get started? Explore current opportunities.

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Here's a list of HVAC licensing requirements and granting organizations by state. Link:
Enter your state to find a list of the HVAC schools or certificate programs near you. Link:

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