An HVAC technician installs, maintains and repairs heating, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. HVAC is an abbreviation for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Someone who works in this occupation may specialize in installation or in maintenance and repair and in either heating, air conditioning or refrigeration work.
There were almost 268,000 HVAC technicians employed in the United States in 2012. A majority worked for plumbing, air conditioning and heating contractors. A few were self employed. Most jobs were full time and, during busy times of the year overtime is usually required.
Working as an HVAC technician can be uncomfortable or even dangerous. He or she spends time working in cramped spaces in unheated or very hot buildings. Refrigerants, used in cooling systems, are hazardous and can cause serious injuries. One may also be subject to shocks, burns and muscle strains if the proper precautions are not taken.
Most employers prefer to hire HVAC technicians who have completed formal training. This may include an apprenticeship or classroom instruction. Classroom instruction can take place at a trade or technical school, or at a community college. The US Armed Forces also offers HVAC training. Apprenticeships generally last three to five years and are jointly sponsored by local chapters of unions, for example the Air Conditioning Contractors of America or Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association. To learn about local HVAC apprenticeships, see My Next Move: Careers With Registered Apprenticeships.
Some states and localities require HVAC technicians to be licensed which typically means passing a written test. Find out what the licensing requirements are in the state in which you plan to work. See the Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop.
In addition to the technical skills obtained through formal training, one also needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this occupation. An HVAC technician needs good listening skills to receive information about the problem he or she is trying to solve. Good speaking skills will allow him or her to convey information to coworkers and customers. In order to meet the demands of a busy schedule, one also needs good time management skills. Critical thinking skills allow the technician to weigh various solutions to a problem and choose the best one.
Some HVAC technicians may advance to managerial positions while others may move into sales and marketing jobs. There are HVAC technicians who become building superintendents, cost estimators and system test and balance specialists.
The job outlook for HVAC technicians is excellent. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this occupation will grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2022.
HVAC technicians earned a median annual salary of $43,640 and median hourly wages of $20.98 in 2012.
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a HVAC technician currently earns in your city.
A Day in an HVAC Technician's Life
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for HVAC technician jobs found on Indeed.com:
- Oversee installations.
- Troubleshoot and repair HVAC/R equipment.
- Apply local HVAC codes in a practical manner on each job.
- Provide excellent customer service.
- Provide technical support in the field
- Collaborate with sales and engineering to develop product definitions responsive to customer needs and market opportunities.
- Layout, design and install low voltage wiring.
- Run after hours calls as required.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm (visited April 23, 2014).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics and Installers, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/49-9021.01 (visited April 23, 2014).