Career Outlook

What do HVAC/R Technicians do?

HVAC/R personnel are responsible for installing, repairing, and servicing many different types of systems. This includes systems that allow us to have fresh food available, safe medical services, and provide us with human comfort.   The medical industry could not provide sanitary health care without refrigeration, refrigeration systems provide both frozen and fresh food, and air conditioning systems supply us comfortable living environments.  Hospitals, schools, restaurants, churches, malls, grocery stores, industrial plants, residential homes and many other locations all need HVAC/R Technicians.   HVAC/R Technicians must have proper electrical training, 75% of all HVAC/R repairs are electrical problems.  HVAC/R personnel also must be able to work with chemicals, piping, natural and LP gases, sheet metal, and lumber.  The goal of our training at Southern Union is to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in the HVAC Industry.   Students will learn to perform tasks in an educational environment where safety is infused with theory and labs using equipment designed to portray real life scenarios and build confidence needed to surpass expectations for an entry level technician in the HVAC/R industry.

Career as a HVAC/R Technician

Technical jobs are the fastest growing segment of the economy.   Employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is expected to grow 34 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.  Rising demand for trained technicians will result in excellent employment opportunities.  The median pay scale for trained technicians is $42,530 per year or $20.42 per hour according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics 2010.

Work Environment

HVAC/R Technicians must be willing to work in many different locations as the equipment in this industry is installed in inconspicuous places.  Installers mostly work in residential homes, schools, hospitals, office buildings, or factories.  Their worksites may be very hot or cold because the heating and cooling system they must repair is broken.   Working in cramped spaces is common.  The majority of HVAC/R technicians work full time, with occasional evening or weekend shifts.   During peak heating and cooling seasons, they often work overtime or irregular hours.  Although the majority of technicians work for construction contractors, about 16 percent are self-employed workers who have the ability to set their own schedules.

Pay (source U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.  The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,490, and the top 10 percent earned more than $66,930.  Apprentices usually earn about half of the wage paid to experienced workers.  As they gain experience and improve their skills, they receive periodic raises until they reach the wage of experienced workers.

Career Outlook

Employment of heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to increase 28 percent during the 2008-18 decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.  Heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers work with sheet metal and piping, and repair machinery, such as electrical motors, compressors, and burners.  Other workers who have similar duties include:

  • Boilermakers
  • Electricians
  • Home appliance repairers
  • Plumbers, pipe layers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Engineers

Many HVAC/R Technicians eventually own and operate their own business and become their own boss.

How to Become an HVAC/R Technician

A growing number of HVAC/R technicians receive postsecondary instruction from technical or community colleges that offer programs in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration.

High school students interested in becoming HVAC/R technicians should take courses in shop, math, and physics.   Some knowledge of plumbing or electrical work and a basic understanding of electronics can be helpful.  The program at Southern Union leads to an Associate in Occupational Technologies.

Notes: STC=Short Term Certificate, AOT=Associate in Occupational Technologies