The body has remarkable abilities to regulate its core temperature, but for houses and other buildings, you need HVAC experts. The field of HVAC, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning, is an evolving and adapting field that offers a range of career options.
HVAC engineering, a subset of mechanical engineering, entails designing systems for residential and commercial buildings that maximize a building's thermal comfort and air quality. Because heating and cooling accounts for up to half of a typical home's energy bill, these systems are increasingly being engineered to run as efficiently as possible.
HVAC technicians, on the other hand, generally work to install and/or maintain systems, and specialize in either residential or commercial buildings. Technicians often develop an area of expertise, such as plumbing, heating or green building technologies, including solar collectors and geothermal power.
With the right training, job opportunities for HVAC mechanics and installers could be excellent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov). The BLS projects employment growth of 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Owing to the complexity of HVAC systems, technicians with expertise in computers and electronics may be in particularly high demand.
Employers increasingly prefer applicants for technician positions who have completed postsecondary education from a technical or trade school, or an apprenticeship. Programs leading to a certificate or associate's degree typically last six months to two years. Careers in HVAC engineering generally require at least a bachelor's degree in an engineering field.
Careers in HVAC often begin with construction contractors. An entry-level job as a technician could be the jumping point for a position as a service manager, shop foreman, supervisor or jobsite superintendent. Some HVAC engineers and technicians go into business for themselves and enjoy the freedom of setting their own hours and pay scale.
In 2013 HVAC mechanics and installers earned a national median annual salary of $43,880 and a mean hourly wage of $21.10, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent earned $69,740 annually, while the bottom 10 percent earned $27,210.
|Career||Projected Number of New Jobs||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||39,600||13.6|
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2011 72 percent of HVAC technicians had a post-secondary certificate, 16 percent had a high-school diploma or equivalent, and 6 percent had some college with no degree. Approximately 9 percent of HVAC technicians are self-employed, according to the BLS, and the remainder work for construction contractors.
With the right training as a starting point, a career in HVAC may offer job stability and a rewarding lifelong profession.
"Five Reasons to Consider an HVAC Career," CBT College, December 21, 2012, http://blog.cbt.edu/category/technology/
Heat & Cool Efficiently, Energy Star, accessed June 2014, http://www.energystar.gov/?c=heat_cool.pr_hvac
Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes499021.htm
Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014
Summary Report for Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics and Installers, O*Net OnLine, 2013, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/49-9021.01