What Is an HVAC Technician
If you’re searching for a new, rewarding, and well-paying career, you may have started researching jobs in the skilled trades. Skilled trades, which include jobs in construction, plumbing, electrical, automotive, and HVAC roles, is an industry that can offer plenty of opportunities for someone who is excited to work with their hands and start a stable career. HVACR technicians, in particular, can build and grow a career they are passionate about in the industry. But how do you know becoming an HVAC tech is the right move for your future? In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about what HVAC is, what technicians do, and what the job outlook is like!
Aug 01, 2022
11 min read
If you’re searching for a new, rewarding, and well-paying career, you may have started researching jobs in the skilled trades. Skilled trades, which include jobs in construction, plumbing, electrical, automotive, and HVAC roles, is an industry that can offer plenty of opportunities for someone who is excited to work with their hands and start a stable career.
HVACR technicians, in particular, can build and grow a career they are passionate about in the industry. Experienced HVACR technicians can earn over $80,000 in some states, and you may be able to begin a career in HVAC with as little as six months of online training. Like other skilled trades, such as construction and residential electrician, HVAC is a rapidly growing industry with a demand for new technicians.
But how do you know becoming an HVAC tech is the right move for your future? In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about what HVAC is, what technicians do, and what the job outlook is like!
What is an HVAC technician?
HVAC technicians work to repair, maintain, and install heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems in commercial and residential buildings. They’re skilled professionals who need to have particular knowledge – and certification – to perform their day-to-day job duties.
What do HVAC and HVACR stand for?
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. HVACR stands for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, AND refrigeration. The terms are often used interchangeably for the same career field, though some HVAC technicians may focus more on the air conditioning and heating aspects of the job, while HVACR techs may concentrate on refrigeration.
What does an HVAC tech do?
HVAC technicians have a hands-on job repairing, installing, and maintaining a variety of heating, cooling, refrigeration, and ventilation systems in residential homes, commercial buildings, warehouses, hospitals, and anywhere that requires temperature control. Typical HVAC technician duties include:
- Installing, cleaning, and maintaining HVACR systems
- Installing electrical components and wiring
- Inspecting and testing HVACR systems and components
- Discussing system malfunctions and necessary repairs with customers
- Repairing or replacing worn or defective parts
- Recommending maintenance to improve system performance
What does a day in the life look like for an HVAC technician?
A day in the life of an HVAC technician can vary depending on where you work, if you work for a company or own your own business, and can change based on the season.
A typical day, however, will often start early in the morning as you make your way to work or the first job site. Most HVAC techs work full time during the day, with occasional evenings and overtime hours depending on the number of service calls that need to be made.
Usually, once you get to work, you’ll be assigned jobs and travel to different sites, whether residential or commercial. There, you’ll evaluate the issue for the customer, inspect the heating or cooling system, and recommend repairs. You’ll likely have most of the tools and supplies you need on hand in your work vehicle to repair common HVAC problems, so once you have the customer’s approval, you’ll begin making any necessary fixes. Depending on the type of problem you’re addressing, this could take as little as fifteen minutes or as long as a few hours. After the issues are resolved and you’ve made sure to troubleshoot the system to make sure there are no other problems or concerns, you’ll head off to the next job!
Most days will follow the same pattern, but one perk of being an HVAC technician is that no day is ever completely the same. While you’ll have a schedule of site visits and service calls, each customer likely has a different issue to solve so the work you’re doing will vary for each client. For example, you may start your day repairing a refrigerant leak for a local business, then find yourself installing a new furnace for a residential customer and end your day performing routine maintenance on the heating and cooling system of a factory.
For those who become master technicians, you may also find yourself working with apprentices to show them the ropes.
Read more: 10 Skilled Trades Jobs in Demand Right Now
How much do HVAC technicians make?
“HVAC is a well-paying career field,” says John Reid, Academic Director of Skilled Trades Programs at Penn Foster and retired HVAC technician. “People can make a lot of money doing this job.”
In fact, the average starting salary for HVAC technicians was $48,630 per year as of May 2021, and technicians with over 7 years of experience currently make more than $80,000 in many states. Depending on where you work, your experience, and your certifications, you may have the potential to earn more.
How much do HVAC techs make by state?
The average salary for an HVAC technician can vary by state. For example, an entry-level technician in Alaska can earn $51,200 per year starting out, while an HVAC tech in Arkansas makes $40,100 per year.*
It’s important to compare the HVAC tech wage in your state to cost of living in your region or area. Sometimes a low cost of living can offset a lower hourly wage (and vice versa).
Also, when you’re considering becoming an HVAC tech, think about the cost of training. This can help you decide if an online HVAC course is a good investment.
HVAC Salary by State
Annual Mean Wage of Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers by State
|State||Annual Mean Wage||Annual Hourly Wage|
How much do HVAC techs make by experience?
The more experience you have under your belt, the more you’re likely to make! While a new HVAC technician in Alaska makes about $51K per year, for example, someone with over 7 years of experience can make as much as $92,900 per year.*
Best Paying States for HAVCR by Experience
|Entry (<2 years)||Intermediate (2-4 years)||Senior (4-7 years)||Supervisor (>7 years)|
Is HVAC hard to learn?
It’s not hard to learn HVAC if it’s something you’re passionate about pursuing. Like many skilled trades, the foundational skills for HVAC technicians often begin with math and science, which can seem intimidating if you’ve never thought of yourself as someone particularly good in either subject. But, according to Reid, “it’s practical math and science. There's so much that people know about math already but they get scared of it and don't realize they actually know it. They start doing it and it's like, ‘wow, that's actually very easy.’”
Besides math and science, a lot of the training to become an HVAC technician may seem like something you need to learn by doing. So how can you learn to become an HVAC technician through an online training program?
But what most people forget is that, even in a classroom setting, studying HVAC, you don’t start with the hands-on training first thing. You have to learn the process before you can apply it to real situations. And that’s what you get in an online HVAC training program like Penn Foster’s.
“What we're doing,” says Reid, “is taking all of that step-by-step process and letting you learn that at your own pace. You take your time, you do it. If you have any questions, give us a call, we'll walk you through it step-by-step.”
Penn Foster’s online course also helps you visualize how it’s supposed to work in the real world. Once you’ve learned the whys and hows behind the processes, applying those skills to hands-on work isn’t difficult. And while you may worry that learning HVAC skills online could hold you back from starting a career in the field, it’s not the barrier you may think it is.
“When you go to a prospective employer and you're sitting in an interview and you're talking about what you may know, the skills that you've learned,” Reid advises, “it’s okay to say, ‘I may not have touched it, but I know the process.’ The benefit to the employer is that there's less time that they’ll have to spend training somebody.”
Is HVAC a good career?
A career in HVAC is great for someone who is mechanically minded, likes working with their hands, and wants a well-paying job with plenty of opportunities for work. “The jobs are out there,” Reid says. And while many other careers have been impacted by the pandemic, HVAC is one in which there’s been a stable and increasing need for skilled workers. With more people working at home, there’s an increase in residential calls and even businesses that have downsized their offices still need cooling, heating, and ventilation systems.
“So now the industry that already needed people - now they need more people,” Reid says. “I've talked to multiple people and businesses; I talked to a big company Thursday, and then I had a guy text me on Saturday, both looking for people, wanting to know if I knew anybody. They said, ‘Hey, we're hiring. Do you know anybody?’”
The industry, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is expected to add about 38,500 new HVAC jobs each year for the next decade.
Pros of being an HVAC technician
Like any career field, there are pros and cons to working as an HVAC technician. The pros to working in HVAC include
- Great pay.
- Strong job outlook.
- The ability to live and work anywhere – almost everyone has a heating or cooling system that will need maintenance and repair.
- Opportunities to advance your career.
- Interesting work.
- A (mostly) regular work schedule.
Cons of being an HVAC technician
The cons of being an HVAC technician include
- Some long hours and overtime are required.
- Potential occupational safety hazards.
- Having to work outside in very hot or cold weather.
Related Article: Construction Trades Careers and How to Find the Perfect One for You
Is HVAC in high demand
Yes, there’s an increasing need for skilled HVAC technicians – especially in those states that face extreme cold or hot weather and rely on heating and cooling systems to keep them safe and comfortable.
Over the next decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the need for HVAC techs will increase by about 5%, adding 38,000+ new jobs in the field each year.
How to become an HVAC technician
Becoming an HVAC technician requires training and education. It’s one of the careers where you can’t just decide one day to apply to jobs in the field; you need to know your stuff first.
To start a career as an HVAC technician, you’ll need to follow these steps.
- Formal education. To prepare for a career in HVAC, you need to learn the foundational skills and concepts required to be successful and perform the required job duties. This usually involves earning a career diploma through a career school or technical college. You may also need a high school diploma or equivalent – especially since earning a diploma can help you earn more*. To earn a high school diploma as an adult, look for an online, self-paced program.
- Certification. In order to work in the field, you’ll need to have your Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification. This certification is required to install and repair heating and cooling systems, and to work with refrigerants.
- Apprenticeship. While an apprenticeship isn’t always required to work as an HVAC technician, it can be an important step to help you gain hands-on experience and start your career in the field.
- Understand licensing requirements. Besides EPA certification, some states may require you to have certain licenses, or be licensed as an HVAC technician, to work in the field. For example, in many states, you may not need to be licensed as an entry-level technician if you’re working under a licensed HVAC technician or contractor. Others may require you to have an HVAC contractor's license to work, no matter what level of skill you have. Some states may even only require licensing to perform specific jobs. Check out licensing requirements for your state to find out what you need to do.
- Prepare for further certification. After starting your HVAC career, you may want to advance and learn more about the field. That's where additional HVAC certifications and licenses may be useful. Having additional credentials on your resume could also help you stand out to future employers, so even when it’s not required, it can be a good thing to have.
Start a new career with online HVAC training
Whether you’re a high school student searching for a rewarding career path post-graduation or you’re an adult looking for the perfect job for you, becoming an HVAC technician could be the right move. Through Penn Foster’s HVACR Technician Training online, you’ll learn the fundamentals necessary to working in the field including classes in refrigeration systems, residential and commercial HVAC systems, and electrical systems. You’ll also prepare for the required EPA certification so you can start looking for a job as soon as you graduate!
To learn more about becoming an HVAC technician or to start training today, reach out to our expert Admissions Specialists at 1-888-427-6500!
Service Titan, Mike Persinger. “HVAC Technician Salaries in 2022: A State-By-State Guide.” Accessed July 19, 2022.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. "Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers." Occupational Outlook Handbook. Accessed July 19, 2022.
Statements found in the United States Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook are not a guarantee of any post-graduation salary, in part because the data used to create the Occupational Outlook Handbook includes workers from differing educational backgrounds, levels of experience, and geographic areas of the country.
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