There are various career routes for those working in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry, each with different education and certification requirements. Many HVAC engineers obtain a bachelor's or master's degree, while going into installation may only require completing a certificate.
The HVAC industry includes a wide variety of specialties that each have different education and training requirements. Popular careers in HVAC include the installation and maintenance of commercial heating or cooling systems, system engineering and new product design, and HVAC control systems.
|Career Titles||Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||HVAC Engineers|
|Education Requirements||Certificate or associate's degree in HVAC Technology||Bachelor's degree in Mechanical or Electrical Engineering|
|Other Requirements||Licensure to work with refrigerants||Licensure for engineers who serve the public|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||(Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers) 14%*||(Mechanical Engineers) 5%*|
|Median Annual Salary (May 2015)||$45,110*||$83,590*|
Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
Variable career options exist in the area of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration, depending on a candidate's prior education. Some positions graduates might pursue include HVAC installation or HVAC engineering. Opportunities could also exist in HVAC control systems.
Installation and Maintenance
A variety of skills are required for residential and commercial installation, maintenance and repair of HVAC systems. Some HVAC installers and mechanics - also known as technicians - receive training through certificate or associate's degree programs in HVAC or a related discipline, such as electronics. These programs can be completed in 6-24 months. A degree can often be substituted for a part of the apprenticeship program and allows new employees to get a leg up in the business.
Many HVAC technicians begin in an apprenticeship program that lasts four years and includes both on-the-job training and classroom instruction. Apprentices learn electronic and electrical components, airflow physics, blueprint reading, pipefitting, sheet metal work, plumbing and refrigerant handling.
Engineering and Design
For research, development and design of new HVAC systems, employers normally prefer to hire those with at least a bachelor's degree in mechanical or electrical engineering. For some positions, a master's degree is preferred, although companies will at times hire non-degreed research and development team members from among other experienced HVAC workers.
Another avenue of entry into the HVAC engineering and design field is an associate's degree in HVAC engineering. Graduates of a 2-year program in HVAC engineering are normally employed as HVAC engineering technicians and assist engineers in the design or retrofitting of HVAC systems.
From pneumatic (air-powered) controls to direct electronics, a wide range of knowledge is necessary for those who wish to find a job in HVAC control systems. This may include training in ladder logic or block computer programming, electronics and signaling, networking, fluid dynamics and other similar technologies. Often employers in HVAC control systems are searching for applicants who have an associate's degree in electronics, a Cisco networking certification, several years of experience in the HVAC field or some combination of the above.
Regardless of whether one decides to go into engineering or installation, technical skills are important to a career in the HVAC industry. Engineers may have to put in more schooling time than those seeking jobs in installation, but both paths require some type of program completion and training.