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HVAC Design Engineer: Employment Info & Career Requirements

Mar 28, 2019

Read on to learn what HVAC design engineers do. Find out what kind of education and skills you need for employment. See what the career outlook is for this job to decide if it's right for you.

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Career Definition for an HVAC Design Engineer

HVAC design engineers usually work for consulting or design companies. They work directly with clients to design new or replacement heating, cooling, and refrigeration systems specific to customer needs and building specifications. They may focus on solving problems related to air quality issues, environmental issues, or energy efficiency. HVAC design engineers work on residential, commercial, and industrial projects. Their tasks include completing HVAC-related drawings, preparing project estimates, and overseeing the installation of projects to completion.

Education Bachelor's degree required, graduate certificates also available
License and Certification Requirements vary by state and locality
Job Skills Communication, design, time management, project management
Median Salary (2017)* $85,880 for mechanical engineers
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 9% for mechanical engineers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

HVAC design engineers generally earn a bachelor's degree in HVAC technology, architectural engineering, or mechanical engineering. HVAC design engineers can also earn a certificate in HVAC design after completion of a related bachelor's degree. HVAC design engineers study calculus, physics, building construction, fluid mechanics, and systems design in order to prepare for their careers.

Licensing and Certification

State and local licensing requirements for HVAC design engineers may vary. For example, some need professional engineer certification. Specialized professional certification is also possible through the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

Skills Required

HVAC design engineers need to have outstanding communication and design skills. Computer-aided design skills are crucial, as are time management and project management skills in order to meet client and company needs promptly and efficiently.

Career and Economic Outlook

Mechanical engineers, including HVAC design engineers, earned a median annual salary of $85,880 as of May 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). HVAC design engineering's overall career outlook is good, according to the BLS; this is due to technological advancements in HVAC refrigerants that need eventual replacement, regulations surrounding proper disposal of old refrigerants, and the potential for current or future government incentives to invest in newer and more energy efficient systems. The BLS also reports that mechanical engineering jobs are expected to increase by 9% from 2016-2026.

Alternate Career Options

You can also choose from these alternative careers involving mechanical engineering and HVAC:

Mechanical Engineering Technician

Mechanical engineering technicians assist mechanical engineers by developing and testing their designs, testing manufactured parts and comparing them to design specs, and reporting observations back to mechanical engineers. Workers frequently have an associate's degree in mechanical engineering technology or related education. The BLS predicts that jobs in this field will increase 5% from 2016-2026. The BLS also reports that the median salary in this field was $55,360 in 2017; pay varied by industry. For example, those who worked in research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences earned median pay of $60,620, while those who worked in machinery manufacturing earned median pay of $52,350.

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanic and Installer

In this occupation, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC) mechanics and installers set up and start HVAC systems per provided blueprints. When there's a problem, these mechanics and installers diagnose causes, repair or replace parts, and recalibrate systems as needed. Employment is possible through an apprenticeship or with postsecondary education in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. Voluntary professional certifications are available. State licensing may be required. Special certification for handling refrigerants may also be required. The BLS projects that jobs in this field are expected to increase 15% from 2016-2026 and that these jobs paid a median salary of $47,080 in 2017.

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