Skilled Trades

The Career Path for HVAC

Skilled TradesDecember 11, 2023

Heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) technicians, service managers, and contractors are essential skilled workers who keep homes, offices, and industrial buildings comfortable and safe. 

While a college degree isn’t required to pursue the HVAC career, most states require anyone employed in HVAC to obtain licensure. Licensure requirements vary by state, but in most cases, they involve completing an accredited HVAC training program, logging a specific number of hours as an apprentice, and passing an examination.

Why Should You Pursue an HVAC Career?

The job market can be unpredictable, and some careers come and go as trends and technology change. However, homes and businesses will always rely on skilled HVAC workers to design, install, maintain, and service their HVAC equipment. The HVAC career path offers unparalleled stability and job security.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment in this field will grow by 6% between 2022 and 2032 due to the construction of homes and businesses; the demand for air conditioning and heating repair; and consumers’ desire to install newer, more energy-efficient HVAC components.

The HVAC career path is ideal for those who like to work with their hands and find practical solutions for common problems. Most HVAC technicians work full time and spend one or more weekends a month on call, which means that they must be available to respond to emergency service calls after normal business hours.  

HVAC Career Path and Opportunities

The HVAC career path has many entry-level, midlevel, and senior-level positions to aspire to, depending on a professional’s interests, experience, and goals. 

Entry-Level Positions

At the entry level, the HVAC career path can begin with an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship provides aspiring HVAC technicians with the hands-on experience and skills they need to be successful in the trade. An HVAC apprentice works alongside a more experienced technician and takes on more responsibility over time. 

At first, an apprentice may simply observe an HVAC technician as they carry out repairs or installations. Later, the apprentice may assist with different aspects of the job, and then carry out the duties under the close supervision of an experienced technician. Apprenticeship requirements for licensure vary by state, but most HVAC workers remain apprentices for three to five years, resulting in 2,000 to 3,000 hours of on-the-job experience.

After completing an apprenticeship, most HVAC workers apply for various entry-level positions that involve installing, repairing, and servicing furnaces, boilers, air conditioners, and ventilation systems. Some entry-level roles are HVAC installer; HVAC repair technician; HVAC mechanic; HVAC service technician; and, most commonly, HVAC technician.

Midlevel Positions

An HVAC technician who has five or more years of experience and a strong understanding of the role may choose to become an HVAC service manager. This job involves supervising a team of HVAC technicians, as well as creating daily schedules, assigning jobs to the technicians, and recruiting new employees as needed. 

An experienced worker may also choose to pursue a career as an HVAC controls technician. These individuals are responsible for wiring and installing the equipment and programming the computers involved in creating control sequences. Control sequences provide the HVAC equipment with instructions that ensure that it functions properly. As HVAC equipment becomes more complex and requires more intricate design and troubleshooting, the demand for HVAC controls technicians will likely grow. 

An experienced HVAC professional may consider becoming a manufacturer’s representative. These individuals work for the manufacturers of HVAC units, systems, and components as both salespeople and experienced HVAC technicians. Their hands-on experience will help them better understand customer needs.

Senior-Level Positions<  

Several senior-level HVAC career paths are available for professionals with 10 or more years of experience in the field. One of the most desirable roles is the HVAC controls or automation systems engineer, which involves implementing, modifying, and maintaining HVAC control systems. These engineers also supervise the installation and maintenance of centralized controls that operate a building’s lighting, ventilation, heating, and cooling systems. Some employers prefer candidates who have four-year degrees, so this path may require additional education.

An HVAC technician who wants to help others enter the field may choose to become an HVAC instructor. HVAC instructors train students on the skills needed to pursue entry-level positions. They may also develop continuing education courses or revise curriculum and training materials as technology changes.

Finally, experienced HVAC workers who have the required business skills may even choose to open their own businesses. HVAC installation and repair are essential services, and anyone with good managerial and marketing skills could consider opening a business to serve commercial or residential customers. 

Take the First Step in the In-Demand HVAC Trade 

Whether you want to become an HVAC controls system engineer or start your own HVAC repair business in the future, your HVAC career path begins with education and hands-on learning. The accredited HVAC Skilled Trades program at Fortis prepares you for various entry-level positions that set the stage for your future. 

Recommended Readings
The Importance of Soft Skills in an HVAC & Refrigeration Career
Benefits of Trade School: Why a Hands-On Skilled Trades Career Might be a Good Fit
Trends in HVAC: The Need for Training to Service New HVAC Technology

Fieldpiece, Why Exploring an HVACR Career in 2023 Could Be Rewarding
Indeed, How to Become an HVAC Apprentice in Four Steps (With Skills)
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers
Zippia, Job Outlook for HVAC Technicians in the United States