Skilled Trades

HVAC vs. Electrician: Comparing Career Paths

Skilled TradesDecember 01, 2023

HVAC vs. Electrician: Comparing Career Paths

With college tuition at an all-time high, many individuals are looking for careers that don’t require a traditional four-year degree. The skilled trades provide viable career paths for those who are willing to devote the time to learn a unique craft.

Skilled trade jobs generally involve hands-on work and require specialized training. Two popular options are electrician and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technician. Because every home and business depends on electricity and an HVAC system, there is a significant demand for these specialists.

When comparing HVAC vs. electrician careers, it’s important to understand the responsibilities of each role, its educational and skill requirements, and its opportunities for employment before choosing a path. 

What Is an HVAC Technician?

HVAC technicians help homeowners and businesses maintain ideal temperatures and clean air throughout their buildings. Typically, they spend their day responding to service calls for repairs, performing preventive maintenance, and installing new HVAC systems. Some HVAC technicians specialize in specific areas, such as commercial HVAC or radiant heating systems.     

HVAC Technician Duties and Responsibilities

To be effective in their role, HVAC technicians must have a comprehensive knowledge of HVAC systems and products. Through extensive training, they are able to provide various essential services to their clients. During a typical day, an HVAC technician may perform any of the following duties:

  • Installing a new HVAC system
  • Performing maintenance services on an existing HVAC system
  • Troubleshooting and repairing a malfunctioning HVAC system
  • Identifying and replacing an HVAC system’s parts or components reaching the end of their life span
  • Educating customers about HVAC systems and how to maintain them
  • Maintaining detailed records of HVAC services performed
  • Selling HVAC subscriptions that include preventive maintenance services 

HVAC Technician Skills and Competencies

HVAC technicians perform hands-on, technical work on a variety of residential and commercial HVAC systems. It’s a customer-facing job, which means soft skills are just as important as technical skills. The following are some of the most in-demand HVAC skills and competencies:

  • Extensive knowledge of HVAC systems, both new and older models
  • HVAC technical and mechanical skills
  • Ability to explain HVAC information in terms customers can understand
  • Troubleshooting, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills
  • Customer service and relationship building skills
  • Effective time-management skills
  • Detail-orientation and analytical skills 

What Is an Electrician?

Almost all homes and businesses rely on electrical power. Electricians are essential to the proper installation, servicing, and maintenance of electrical systems.

Electrician Duties and Responsibilities

Throughout a typical day, an electrician will visit businesses and residences to perform repairs, maintenance, and the installation of new systems. Their common responsibilities include:

  • Reading technical diagrams and blueprints
  • Performing inspections of electrical systems and components
  • Identifying electrical system problems and troubleshooting them
  • Installing and testing new electrical systems
  • Using a variety of industry-specific tools
  • Responding to emergency service calls
  • Maintaining detailed records of work orders 

Electrician Skills and Competencies

Electricians must have a comprehensive understanding of electrical systems, electrical codes, and safety regulations. Successful electricians demonstrate advanced technical, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills, including:

  • Proficiency in reading schematics and blueprints
  • Ability to assess electrical systems and identify issues
  • Troubleshooting and problem-solving skills
  • Physical capabilities, such as being able to lift heavy objects, bend for long periods, and work in tight spaces
  • Knowledge of industry-specific tools
  • Customer service and interpersonal skills 

Differences Between HVAC Technicians and Electricians

When comparing HVAC vs. electrician careers, it’s clear the two have many similarities, such as working in similar environments, providing a service to customers, and applying a specialized knowledge to properly maintain essential systems. However, some key differences set them apart.

  • Electricians and HVAC techs specialize in different systems.
  • HVAC technicians must remain up to date on new HVAC systems and appliances. By comparison, electrical systems are slower to innovate.
  • HVAC technicians experience busy periods during the summer and winter since extreme temperatures can impact an HVAC system’s performance. Electricians are less affected by seasonality.
  • Electricians must demonstrate their comprehension of the National Electric Code (NEC) to qualify for the role. HVAC techs must earn the Section 608 technician certification through the Environmental Protection Agency.

HVAC vs. Electrician: Job Outlook

The employment outlook for each job is a huge factor for most people deciding between HVAC and electrician careers. It’s important to know if the vocation a person trains for will remain relevant in the coming years. Currently, the job outlook for these two roles is comparable, with employment of both HVAC techs and electricians projected to grow by 6% between 2022 and 2032, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is slightly faster than the national average job growth projected for all occupations.

Kick Off Your Career in the Skilled Trades

Those who have been searching for a rewarding career that doesn’t require a four-year degree will find a wealth of opportunity in the skilled trades. Electricians and HVAC techs are essential to creating and maintaining homes and businesses nationwide. Additionally, their skills and competencies are transferable, meaning an electrician or HVAC tech can work in any of a variety of different work environments.  

When evaluating HVAC vs. electrician in terms of a career, it’s best to learn more about each individual skilled trade and how to train for it. The Electrical Trade training program at the Fortis Institute in Birmingham teaches the most in-demand skills and competencies for aspiring electricians in Alabama. 

Fortis also offers HVAC training programs in 25 cities across the country that provide real-world training to prepare individuals for entry-level employment as an HVAC technician.

Discover how Fortis can help you transform your ambition into a career.

Recommended Readings
The Importance of Soft Skills in an HVAC and Refrigeration Career
New Year, New Technologies in HVAC
Benefits of Trade School: Why a Hands-On Skilled Trades Career Might Be a Good Fit

Indeed, “10 HVAC Skills and How To Highlight Them to Employers”
Indeed, “21 Skilled Trade Jobs in Demand”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Electricians
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers