HVAC technicians install, repair, and maintain refrigeration units, heating systems, and air conditioning technologies for indoor air quality systems.
The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry, HVAC, is set to increase by $10 billion by 2030 according to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America Association (ACCA).
That is impressive growth.
Along with that growth in value is expected 13 percent growth in HVAC technician jobs.
Here are the pros and cons to consider if you are entering this fast-growing industry.
Article Table of Contents
- 1 Pros of Being an HVAC Technician
- 2 Cons of Being an HVAC Technician
- 3 Should You Become an HVAC Technician?
- 4 Pros and Cons of Being an HVAC Technician – Summary Table
Pros of Being an HVAC Technician
A career as an HVAC technician is a well-paying, secure profession in the HVAC industry.
Working with their hands, impacting how people live and work, and solving problems with indoor air control systems is what HVAC technicians do every day.
HVAC training can be completed in under a year’s time, although there are advanced programs that can still be done in two years or less.
A four-year degree is not for everyone, and skilled trades will always be needed to build and maintain infrastructure.
These are all pros of being an HVAC technician.
Great Job Outlook
Employment forecasts for the career you are considering are important in the career-planning process.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of HVAC technicians will grow by 5 percent between 2020 and 2030.
The job growth is driven by building construction and the growing demand for more sophisticated climate-control systems.
BLS reports there are almost 40,000 openings projected each year, with Florida, California, Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania.
HVAC Work Is Never Outsourced
Installing and repairing heating and cooling systems must be done onsite by a trained professional.
This can’t be outsourced to another country, so there will not be downsizings or layoffs for outsourcing to a cheaper labor force overseas.
And newer, energy-efficient technologies also require trained and experienced professionals who cannot be substituted with cheap unskilled labor.
This means job security in your career as an HVAC technician.
HVAC technician roles are well-paying positions.
The BLS reports that the median annual wages for HVAC mechanics and installers as of May 2020 was $50,590.
The lowest 10 percent of technicians earned $31,910, and the highest 10 percent earned $80.820.
The apprentices and inexperienced technicians earned about half of what experienced technicians earned, but pay increases with experience and advanced training and certification.
Top paying states for HVAC technicians are Alaska, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Washington, and Massachusetts, with annual mean wages between $64,670 and $79,630.
HVAC Is About Problem Solving
If you are a logical thinker and enjoy figuring things out to help people, HVAC could be a good career choice for you.
As an HVAC technician, you will be faced with troubleshooting heating and air systems daily, and will rarely be bored.
You will interact with many different people and have the opportunity to help out with heating, cooling, and indoor air quality problems that make a real difference in people’s environments and lives.
HVAC Professionals Work in Residential and Commercial Settings
As an HVAC professional, you will have opportunities to work and specialize in residential or commercial settings.
Residential HVAC involves working with the public with heating and cooling private homes.
Technicians work by appointment or on-call in the geographic areas they serve and may specialize in certain brands of furnaces and air conditioning units with specific manufacturer training.
Commercial HVAC involves working in commercial buildings or venues like sports arenas on bigger projects than residential ones.
Work with Big Equipment
HVAC technicians work with big equipment such as furnaces, heat pumps, walk-in refrigeration units, boilers, and 12-ton coolers.
While some residential equipment is smaller, much of the equipment that HVAC professionals work on is large, some of it is so large it has to be lifted by crane onto building rooftops.
If you enjoy working with mechanical equipment and adjusting and repairing motors, blowers, gauges, and valves, then you will enjoy an HVAC career.
Less than 4 Year Education Needed
Learning a skilled trade can take much less time and coursework than a four-year education, meaning you can be out of training and working sooner.
Technical and trade schools and community colleges offer programs in HVAC from six months to two years for certification or associate’s degree.
Unions may also have training and apprenticeship programs.
Cons of Being an HVAC Technician
While there are definitely many beneficial positives to a career as an HVAC technician, there are also some downsides.
Some people have a bad impression of the skilled trades, thinking that it is not higher education.
Education professionals like Pickens Technical College’s Kevin Simpson say it is stereotypes.
Many believe manual labor is beneath them and that it is not creative or intellectual.
Many do not believe people can be passionate about skilled trade work and feel that work in the trades is hard, dirty work.
Aside from these stereotypes, there are some real cons to HVAC work that might make you reconsider this industry.
HVAC Professionals May Always Be On-Call
Early mornings and late nights may be part of an HVAC technician career.
You may not have a 9 to 5 Monday through Friday schedule.
HVAC technicians may work off-hours depending on where you are employed.
You may have long shifts and weekend work.
Some jobs may have an on-call component where you have to be available for evening and emergency service work.
While many people work non-traditional schedules, if you cannot adjust, it may be stressful and unfulfilling.
HVAC Work Is Physically Demanding
If you choose an HVAC career, you can expect the work to have some physical demands.
It is not a job where you are sitting at a desk all day.
You will be working with equipment and mechanical parts with tools, in different locations.
There may be some traveling involved unless you are assigned to a permanent site for maintenance and repairs.
You will be standing, bending, lifting, and working in tight spaces like attics and basements sometimes.
HVAC Techs Pay for their EPA Certifications
It is a federal requirement of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that technicians working with refrigerant chemicals must be certified.
There are four types of EPA certifications: for small appliances, for high and very high-pressure appliances, for low-pressure appliances, and universal for all appliances.
Some employers may require EPA certification before extending an offer.
Certifications can be expensive.
Some employers or apprenticeship programs may pay for certification but for most individuals, it will be part of the training and education expense.
You Need a Degree, Certificate, or Licensing
HVAC is a skilled trade, and while the training and education needed is less than a traditional college degree, there is still a process and some levels to achieve success as an HVAC technician.
Ongoing training and education is the best path to success in the HVAC industry, and that may be available with the right union or private employer.
But it is still an initiative that technicians need to take for good positions and pay after entry-level.
Occupational Safety Hazards
The occupational safety hazards of an office job are very different than those for an HVAC technician.
You will not have many paper cuts or eye strain from a computer screen.
But the BLS reports that HVAC technicians have one of the highest rates of injuries of all occupations.
They list hazards as electrical shock, muscle strains, burns, and stress injuries from moving heavy equipment.
They sometimes work with hazardous materials such as refrigerants that are flammable and cause inhalation and skin injuries.
Overworked Field Technicians
Some employers may feel the need to over-work their HVAC field service technicians due to a variety of factors.
They may be short-handed, they may have unrealistic revenue quotas, or they may not have a proper dispatch system for the best customer service and employee experience.
This can lead to technician burnout and poor service.
This is different than overtime work, and it can be stressful and difficult to sustain working under pressure that does not stop.
Customer Service is Part of the Job
Especially in residential HVAC, technicians are expected to provide customer service on the job.
Talking to homeowners about maintenance and repair services and pricing, explaining the cause of problems, and presenting their company in the best possible light are all part of the work.
Technicians who do not want to do this part of the work should look at commercial HVAC instead of residential, which is more likely to have an account manager handling customer service for jobs and projects.
Should You Become an HVAC Technician?
Short training time, good pay, fast job growth, and no outsourcing are just a few of the positives of becoming an HVAC technician.
Of course, you should also look at any downsides to the career you are thinking of, but if you like to work with mechanical things, solve problems, and make a difference for people, you should consider working in the HVAC industry.
Pros and Cons of Being an HVAC Technician – Summary Table
|Pros of Being an HVAC Technician||Cons of Being an HVAC Technician|
|Great Job Outlook||HVAC Professionals May Always Be On-Call|
|HVAC Work Is Never Outsourced||HVAC Work Is Physically Demanding|
|Excellent Pay||HVAC Techs Pay for their EPA Certifications|
|HVAC Is About Problem Solving||You Need a Degree, Certificate, or Licensing|
|HVAC Professionals Work in Residential and Commercial Settings||Occupational Safety Hazards|
|Work with Big Equipment||Overworked Field Technicians|
|Less than 4 Year Education Needed||Customer Service is Part of the Job|