What Do HVAC Technicians Do?
Essential Facts and Career Information
An HVAC technician installs, maintains, and repairs heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems. HVAC is an abbreviation for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (an alternative abbreviation is HVACR). Someone who works in this occupation may specialize in installation, or maintenance and repair. Some technicians concentrate on only one type of system, for example, heating, air conditioning, or refrigeration.
- In 2016, HVAC technicians earned a median annual salary of $45,910.
- This occupation employed about 292,000 people in 2014.
- Most HVAC technicians work for construction contractors, but approximately 1 out of ten are self-employed.
- Jobs are typically full-time, and overtime may be required during busy times of the year.
- The job outlook is excellent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment will grow much faster than the average for all occupations through at least 2024 and, for this reason, has designated it a "Bright Outlook" occupation.
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.
Training and Licensing Requirements
You will need formal training to work as an HVAC technician. Most employers prefer to hire workers who have received post-secondary instruction at a trade or technical school or completed a three to five year paid apprenticeship.
Apprentices acquire their skills both in the classroom and on-the-job. To learn about local HVAC apprenticeships, see My Next Move: Careers With Registered Apprenticeships (It is listed as "Heating & Air Conditioning Mechanics and Installers"). The U.S. Armed Forces also offer HVAC training.
Some states and localities require HVAC technicians to be licensed which usually means having to pass 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.
What Soft Skills Do You Need?
In addition to the technical skills you will obtain through formal training, certain soft skills, or personal qualities will contribute to your success in this occupation.
- Listening: To be able to solve a customer's problem, it is imperative that you understand what he or she is telling you.
- Speaking: As an HVAC technician, you will have to share information with your coworkers and customers. This skill will allow you to do that effectively.
- Time Management: To meet the demands of a busy schedule, you will need to be able to manage your time well.
- Critical Thinking: This will allow you to weigh various solutions to a problem and choose the best one.
What Will Employers Expect From You?
Here are some requirements, in addition to technical skills and experience, employers specified in actual job announcements on Indeed.com:
- "Observe all company procedures and safety rules"
- "Ability to work independently in a timely manner, making sure job is done correctly the first time"
- "Must be skilled at following directions"
- "Must have a clean driving record and be able to pass a drug screen and background check"
- "Professional demeanor and positive, caring attitude"
- "Lift up to 50 pounds; be able to push, pull, carry or maneuver heavier items (with additional manpower or appropriate devices)"
- "Carry ladders; work from heights, work in small crawl spaces"
Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?
- Holland Code: RCI (Realistic, Conventional, Investigative)
- MBTI Personality Types: ISTP, ISFP, ESTP, ISTJ (Tieger, Paul D., Barron, Barbara, and Tieger, Kelly. (2014) Do What You Are. NY: Hatchette Book Group.)
Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks
|Description||Median Annual Wage (2016)||Minimum Required Education/Training|
|Musical Instrument Repairers||Repair musical instruments, sometimes specializing in one type|
|Postsecondary certificate or apprenticeship|
|Plumbers||Install and repair pipes and plumbing fixtures||$51,450||Apprenticeship|
|Home Appliance Repairers||Install and repair washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and stoves||$37,570||Postsecondary certificate or apprenticeship|
|Automotive Mechanics||Maintain and repair cars and other small vehicles||$38,470||Postsecondary certificate|
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited June 19, 2017). Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited June 19, 2017).