HVAC is a common term that people use to talk about the heating, venting, and air conditioning infrastructures present in homes, businesses, and vehicles today. All of the different systems that move air between outdoor and indoor environments are part of this industry, along with the equipment that heats or cools the air for distribution throughout the structure. Careers in this field can be lucrative because of the specialty knowledge that is necessary for a successful experience.
HVAC systems are also responsible for improvements to the quality of the indoor air that everyone breathes. This process occurs in two different ways: natural and mechanical ventilation.
If you begin an HVAC career, then your job will be to install and maintain these systems. You can operate as an independent contractor, employee, or a small business owner. Most people begin their work as a technician (“tech”), working on refrigeration units, heating systems, or air conditioning technologies that improve the indoor environment in multiple ways. Each worker must be current on the updated government regulations on installation, maintenance, and disposal to maintain their licensing.
If you are thinking about pursuing an opportunity in this field, then these are the HVAC career pros and cons to consider.
List of the Pros of an HVAC Career
1. An HVAC career allows you to work in a variety of settings.
When you decide to pursue work in the HVAC industry, then you can position yourself as a residential, commercial, or industrial provider. Some people who operate in small communities might decide to work in two or all three sectors as a hybrid operation as well. You can work with the public and enjoy variety with your day, stick to a schedule with appointments while working with business providers, or be ready to respond to emergencies as more of a mechanic where projects take months to complete.
2. You don’t need to worry about automation or outsourcing.
When a heating and cooling system needs to be installed or repair for a residential structure or an organization, then there must be a trained professional available to complete the work. You don’t need to worry about an AI taking over this job because it requires someone with two hands to complete the work. Outsourcing doesn’t happen in this industry when you have an HVAC degree or certificate because of the specific skills that are necessary to be successful.
3. HVAC careers encourage problem-solving behaviors.
If you love to solve problems over the course of a day, then an HVAC career could be an option to consider. You will be troubleshooting issues for your customers every day. That means you will regularly encounter new situations, have an opportunity to think through the concern, and then have a chance to implement a resolution. Getting bored rarely happens in this industry because there are always new challenges available that work to keep you on your toes. That’s why it is much easier to be motivated with this job.
Whether you are getting the A/C working on a hot day or repairing a furnace so that a family can heat their home, you’ll always know that the work you do in your HVAC career is appreciated because it is needed.
4. You can earn a fair wage immediately in an HVAC career.
The salary that you earn as an HVAC technician depends on the demand for your skill in that region. You’ll earn about $50,000 per year with this choice, along with additional benefits that include vacation and healthcare insurance, if you are working for a traditional employer in the United States. There is also the option to start your own business in this industry.
If you can make it into the 10% of earners as an HVAC technician, then you can make upwards of $70,000 per year. Once you get beyond the first five years of your career, most workers make about $60k with their experience. You’ll want to work in Alaska, Hawaii, or the District of Columbia to earn the most. There are some techs in Washington State that earn more than $76 per hour.
5. The job prospects in the HVAC industry are excellent for new technicians.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be more than 20% job growth in the HVAC industry over the next 10 years. That means current techs are going to be busier than ever, so there are plenty of new opportunities to look at taking if you are just getting into this field. The top three states for growth are Texas, California, and Florida. Because there is such a rapid influx of new technologies, companies and homeowners are constantly upgrading their equipment to help them take advantage of the improvements.
6. There is a wide range of HVAC careers from which to choose.
When you decide that the HVAC industry is where you want to be, then there are numerous job opportunities for you to enjoy with your skills and education. You can work as an engineer, installer, manager, or a refrigeration tech to fill the demands for new installations or repairs. You can start your own small business as a provider in your chosen field as well. As long as you have a high school diploma and your basic HVAC certification, you can get to work. There are additional certificates to earn that will further your development curve as well.
7. Even managers are not sitting behind a desk every day.
If you like to be active with your work, then an HVAC career is something to consider. You are rarely sitting behind a desk with what you do, even if you are in a management position. Most people are punching in, grabbing their tools, and then driving to their first appointment for the day. When you work in the same building, like a stadium, then you will receive specific assignments for inspection, maintenance, installation, or repair. Instead of watching the time tick by on a clock while you sit behind a screen, you are doing something meaningful that makes a person’s life better.
8. There is a high sense of accomplishment available in this career.
When you choose to start working as an HVAC tech, then there is a tremendous sense of accomplishment that you can experience after every job. Some workers like to see a system built from scratch with their input. You’ll also receive the appreciation from people who benefit from the improved indoor environment that you create. There might be a lot of hard work and some safety factors for you to consider with this career option, but it can also be a very rewarding and stable job that will put a roof over your head and food on your table for years to come.
9. Some states in the U.S. don’t require licensure for employment.
If you live in Washington State, then there is no requirement to require or offer an HVAC license to get started with this career opportunity. There is a requirement to carry a journeyman or trainee electrical license. If you work in Seattle, then a gas piping and refrigeration license is necessary as well. Although this documentation might require renewal every 12-24 months, you’ll see a lessening of the restrictions after at least 2,000 hours of service in the HVAC industry.
10. You can get started at an early age with this career option.
If you like the idea of working in the HVAC industry, then most jurisdictions will let you get started on your 18th birthday in the United States. Prospective techs with a GED qualify for apprenticeship or training programs as well. Although you might be working as a trainee for 3+ years, you’ll still earn a living wage and be able to carve out a career for yourself that can pay well without the need for a degree or certificate.
List of the Cons of an HVAC Career
1. As the technology evolves, you must also improve your skills.
The HVAC industry is creating many new energy-efficient technologies to ensure that the heating and cooling systems for structures of all sizes continues to evolve. That means your skills in this career must continue to improve through ongoing educational opportunities that come at an added cost. Although when you are well-trained to do the work, you are more likely to receive a contract, there are licensing requirements that you must pay out-of-pocket to continue giving yourself opportunities to be successful.
2. You must be on-call for at least some of your HVAC career.
It’s not just early mornings or late nights that you’ll need to worry about if you begin an HVAC career. This industry provides services at all hours of the day. Depending on where you decide to work or the type of business you start, most days are not going to be the typical 9-5 that office workers enjoy. Some days will require you to pull a long shift or do some weekend work. You might also get an after-hours call that forces you out of bed to provides services to a customer.
You’ll receive overtime pay (unless you’re a salaried worker) for that extra work, but the money does not always balance the scales of the time you lose with your family.
3. There are physical demands on your body to consider with an HVAC career.
When you work as an HVAC technician, then you must expect to be busy. That means your body must have the strength and stamina to withstand the stresses that you’ll put on it with your work. You are going to be on your feet throughout the day. There are times when you’ll need to navigate a crawl space or push through an attic. If you’re not staying in shape or wearing protective clothing, then it is very easy to get injured on-the-job if you choose this career.
4. It takes time to earn your degree, certificate, or licensing.
If you take a certificate program at your local community college, then you’ll obtain enough knowledge to take you into an entry-level laborers’ position in the HVAC industry. It takes a lot of time, ongoing educational opportunities, and on-the-job training to develop enough expertise to maximize the wages you can earn in this industry. There are new problems that you will encounter every day that will push the envelope of learning for you with this career choice. It is vital that you stay patient with this process to find the success you want.
The outcomes of this disadvantage are what drive many promising HVAC career professionals out of the industry. Instant success doesn’t happen here. You must put in the work every day.
5. Some markets are not seeing high levels of employment growth.
HVAC careers might be popular in states like California or Florida, but there are some places in the United States where breaking into this industry can be almost impossible. If you live in Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, or the Dakotas, then there will not be as many openings for you to enjoy.
Although North Dakota has one of the lowest job concentrations for HVAC techs in the United States, it also offers one of the highest median wages.
6. Most HVAC techs pay for their EPA certifications out of pocket.
If you want to make the most of your opportunities in the HVAC industry, then American workers will need to become EPA-certified at some point in their career. Some employers might require this certification before extending a job offer. There are three options from which to choose, appropriately labeled Type I, Type II, and Type III under Section 608.
- Type I certification allows you to work on small appliances with less than 5 pounds of refrigerant.
- Type II certification approves your work with medium to very high pressure appliances.
- Type III certification involves low-pressure appliances.
If you want to work with motor vehicle air conditioners, then you will also need to complete EPA Section 609 certification to be in compliance. Each test is about $25 for online testing, while the certification classes are about $300 for six contact hours.
7. You can’t get started unless you have the necessary experience.
Unless you have some type of hands-on experience in the HVAC industry, it is challenging to secure your first job in most communities. Even if you have a certificate that shows you have the primary knowledge necessary to be successful, the process can be tedious. Local unions might prefer that you use apprenticeship opportunities to get involved, which means your income maximization process might not get started right away. You might want to speak with local contractors during your busy season to see if you can latch onto something at the very start.
8. You are generally working by yourself in this career.
If you enjoy working with other people, being a mentor, or having social contacts while you work, then an HVAC career could be challenging. You’ll get to teach other people after you gain enough experience, but that tends to be in an apprenticeship role. When you combine the longer hours that you might be working and the uncomfortable conditions of some assignments, the brutal conditions can sometimes trigger problems with loneliness.
People who like to work independently will find this work to be meaningful and personally pleasing. According to data from Owl Guru, 2 out of 3 techs say that they are satisfied with their job.
9. Employers care more about your skills than your certification.
You can find some fast-track schools online that might charge upwards of $14,000 for a certificate so that you can start your HVAC career. The reality of employment for this industry is that your boss wants to see what you can do instead of showing off the paperwork that you can hang on your wall. It is not unusual for a prospective hire to go through a trial run to demonstrate their skills as evidence of competency. That’s why you must select your education program wisely.
Verdict on the HVAC Career Pros and Cons
Starting your HVAC career could be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. It could also turn into a nightmare if you are not prepared for what will happen as you progress toward more expertise. You are serving a need for your community, but the hours are long. The work is usually physically demanding.
It can also feel like no one appreciates all of the sacrifices that you go through each day to provide a comfortable indoor environment. 48% of HVAC technicians feel like their work doesn’t provide a needed service.
That’s why the pros and cons of an HVAC career are essential to review. If you have a passion for this part of a building’s structure and love to work indoors and outside, then you might find the available jobs to be highly rewarding. If not, then a different employment choice is the better solution to pursue.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.