How to Get Started in HVAC

How to Get Started in HVAC: Everything You Need to Know

Latest posts by Katrina Dent (see all)

    Getting started in HVAC can feel like a massive undertaking. After all, there are so many different job titles, career advancements, and skills you’ll need to start your HVAC journey. HVAC/R isn’t a one-size-fits-all career, but with job growth for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics set to expand in the next 10 years, it’s important you find your niche.

    In this article, we’ll show you how to get started in HVAC and help you decide which part of HVAC is right for you by comparing job descriptions, career advancements, HVAC tools of the trade, education, and expertise.

    What is HVAC?

    HVAC is an acronym that stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The HVAC system within an enclosed building is responsible for regulating indoor air quality and providing thermal comfort. HVAC system design is a subdiscipline to mechanical engineering and uses elements from fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and heat transfer. HVAC is an important part of residential structures, commercial buildings, vehicles, and marine environments. 

    The “V” in HVAC (ventilating or ventilation) exchanges or replaces air in any space to provide better indoor air quality, helping the “H” and “AC” proceed through the venting system. Ventilation aids in oxygen replacement, temperature control, and the removal of unpleasant smells and allergens, such as smoke, heat, dust, carbon dioxide, and airborne bacteria.

    HVAC&R or HVACR is another commonly used acronym, which adds the “R” for refrigeration. Refrigeration techs/mechanics and sheet metal workers are included in the HVAC umbrella even if they’re left out in the acronym. Other disciplines, like plumbers and electricians, may also work for HVAC companies, as they’re integral to residential and commercial construction.

    The Ins and Outs of HVAC: What You’ll Learn

    HVAC systems are used in both domestic and commercial environments to provide the three primary functions: heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. In individual systems, HVAC control system functions are integrated into one or more HVAC systems. District network systems are executed in individual buildings or enclosed spaces, which makes them more eco-friendly.

    Regardless of what network a system uses, they all use the same 3 components. While in college, trade school, or an apprenticeship, you’ll learn a lot about each HVAC function.

    Heating

    Heaters are appliances that generate heat for a building. This can be done with central heating through furnaces, boilers, or heat pumps to heat steam, water, or air in the furnace room (or mechanical room in a building). Heat can be transferred via conduction, convection, or radiation.

    • Generation: Heaters use fuel to produce heat, including liquids (gasoline), solids (wood), or gas (C02). Electrical heaters are used as a backup for heat pumps.
    • Distribution: Heat is transferred through a room via water through a circulator and radiators (in boiler systems) or air (in ductwork systems) by an evaporator coil. 

    The use of furnaces, boilers, and space heaters provides many dangers, such as incomplete combustion, which could cause harmful health conditions and even death. An HVAC tech is trained to find leaks and possibly condemn the furnace if C0 levels in the home are too high.

    Check out our full Boiler vs Furnace comparison guide.

    Ventilation

    Ventilation is the process of changing and replacing air in any space to remove excess moisture and for temperature control. Through ventilation, airborne allergens are removed and replaced with oxygen. Ventilating methods are separated between mechanical/forced and natural.

    • Mechanical/Forced: Ventilation is proved by an air handler to control indoor air quality. Excess odors, humidity, and contaminants are controlled with dilution or replaced with outside air. Kitchens and bathrooms have this type of exhaust to control humidity and are less noisy on average. Ceiling fans and table/floor fans also use this method.
    • Natural (Passive): Without using outside air or other mechanical systems, natural ventilation provides clean air through doors, windows, and grilles. In these systems, mechanical/forced systems are used as a backup in case natural airflow fails.

    Ventilation plays a major role in reducing the spread of airborne disease, but natural ventilation is more effective. Although mechanical ventilation can clean your air with air filters, it needs to be well-maintained to do this. Natural ventilation is inexpensive and requires little maintenance.

    Air Conditioning

    Air conditioning systems provide cooling and humidity control for homes and commercial buildings. Air-conditioned buildings must have sealed windows, as the cold air must work against the outside to maintain constant indoor temperatures. Most air conditioning units function by gathering outside air and mixing it with space to return air until it’s cooled down.

    Air conditioning and refrigeration are provided by removing heat, which is done through conduction, convection, or radiation. The heat transfers through the refrigeration system using air, water, ice, or chemicals which are referred to as refrigerants. Once a refrigerant is employed using a thermodynamic refrigeration cycle or free cooling system, it uses pumps to circulate the refrigerant to cool it down. The system has to be powerful enough to cool the entire home.

    HVAC Skill Levels and Sectors

    You’ve likely heard of HVAC career designations such as contractors, apprentices, and journeymen, but there are plenty of other careers in the HVAC/R industry that may interest you.

    HVAC jobs sit at three skill levels, but not all careers have a clear distinction between levels:

    • Entry Level: Requires less than a high-school diploma (GED) or high-school diploma and doesn’t require any prior HVAC/R education or experience in your sector of choice.
    • Mid-Level: Requires 1-4 years experience, apprenticeship, or post-secondary training (certificate, bachelor’s degree, masters) or a combination of all three in some cases.
    • Advanced: Requires 5+ years of experience, a bachelor’s degree or higher, a journey-level certification, or apprenticeship. Some job titles only need experience.

    Jobs in the entry, mid, or advanced skill levels can fall into five broad sectors: 

    • Residential: The Residential Sector includes jobs, careers, and titles that are found in a residential setting. Personal homes, apartments, condos, and townhouses are all considered residential buildings. As a residential HVAC employee, you’ll engage with homeowners and thus require good customer service skills on top of job training.
    • Commercial: Everything that falls beyond the scope of the Residential Sector falls on the Commercial Sector. Commercial HVAC employees will work on businesses, medical centers, farmlands, multifamily housing buildings, and sometimes, unfinished houses. The Commercial Sector can lead to numerous career pathways in all five sectors.
    • Sales & Marketing: Individuals who work in sales and marketing are significant in influencing the profitability of every HVAC/R company. Salesmen need to be motivated, personable, and knowledgeable on HVAC equipment. They’ll ideally be tech-savvy, so they can have a solid understanding of SEO and social media marketing.
    • Automated Controls: Smarthomes are becoming more popular, and so are the techs needed to fill IT roles. Building automation systems merge computer tech with electronic devices to enhance HVAC systems. Techs have to work with direct digital control systems daily and thus, need excellent analytical and diagnostic skills to be successful.
    • Design & Engineering: The boundaries between design and engineering in HVAC/R is disappearing. People who work in this sector have to be creative, so they can develop economic solutions to technical problems. Professionals who work in this sector will create HVAC components, design HVAC systems, or fully code computer software.

    Within the 5 broad sectors, there are different advancement routes and job titles. In the next section, we’ll look at the wide range of opportunities you can explore in the HVAC industry.

    HVAC Careers in Each Sector

    In HVAC, the options are endless for entry, mid-level, and advanced careers. Let’s take a look at what type of jobs you can acquire in each sector, their job descriptions, and duties.

    Residential Careers

    Job Title Job Description and Duties
    Residential Trainee (Entry) Under the supervision of a lead installer, trainees assist in installing new HVAC systems and service old models. Trainees can assemble metal fittings, install ductwork, wiring, and equipment, and perform maintenance and clean furnaces.
    Residential Installer (Entry) Installers are responsible for installing new HVAC equipment while following manufacturer blueprints, guidelines, and schematics. Installers may create and install duct systems, copper refrigerant lines, and air conditioning units.
    Residential Service Technician (Mid-Level) Service technicians will diagnose and repair HVAC systems according to company standards. They must have excellent communication skills and be able to troubleshoot and/or fix equipment while assisting customers on casual repairs.
    Service Dispatcher

     

    (Mid-Level)

    Dispatchers handle customer phone calls and organize service calls for HVAC technicians. Most of their job is computer-based. Dispatchers must be organized and detail-oriented to succeed.
    Residential Service Manager

     

    (Advanced)

    Service managers oversee technicians and trainees while they maintain, repair, and install HVAC units. They have direct involvement with their personnel and work to ensure customer satisfaction and the company’s goals are met.
    Residential Contractor

     

    (Advanced)

    Individual contractors are people who start their own businesses. They can either work alone or hire employees.

    Commercial Careers

    Job Title Job Description and Duties
    Commercial Trainee

     

    (Entry)

    Under the supervision of a lead installer, trainees assist the installation of new HVAC systems and service old models. Trainees can assemble metal fittings, install ductwork, wiring, and equipment, and perform maintenance and clean furnaces.
    Tradesperson

     

    (Entry)

    Entry-level HVAC/R tradespeople also assist in installing and maintaining HVAC systems, except they are on the path to becoming a journeyman. An upper-level tradesman or journeyman supervises them.
    Commercial Installer

     

    (Entry)

    Entry-level HVAC/R tradespeople also assist in the installation and maintenance of HVAC systems, except they may or may not be on the path to journeyman. A lead installer supervises them.
    Apprentice (Entry) Apprentices are tasked with learning the tools of the HVAC trade while working in a full-time paid position. The company will typically supply structured training classes, pay for their advancement, and eventually become journeymen through a shortened path.
    Facilities Maintenance Technician (Mid-Level) Maintenance technicians solve issues related to the HVAC/R and plumbing systems. They are tasked with performing predictive, preventative, and unscheduled maintenance as needed.
    Cooking Equipment Service Technician (Mid-Level) A cooking equipment service technician provides customer service in the specialty field of commercial cooking, HVAC, and refrigeration equipment.
    Commercial Service Technician

     

    (Mid-Level)

    Service technicians will diagnose and repair HVAC systems according to company standards. They must have excellent communication skills and be able to troubleshoot and/or fix equipment while assisting customers on casual repairs.
    Stationary Engineer (Mid-Level) Stationary engineers are specialized technicians who renovate, maintain, operate, and repair boiler systems and other mechanical systems.
    Journeyman HVAC Technician (Advanced) After successfully completing an apprenticeship program, an HVAC technician can repair, install and maintain HVAC systems without supervision.
    Journeyman Refrigeration Technician

     

    (Advanced)

    After successfully completing an apprenticeship program, a refrigerator technician can repair, install and maintain HVAC systems without supervision.
    Commercial Service Manager (Advanced) Service managers oversee trainees and technicians while they maintain, repair, and install HVAC units. They have direct involvement with their personnel and work to ensure customers are happy and meet the company’s needs.
    Commercial Contractor (Advanced) Individual contractors are people who start their own businesses. They can either work alone or hire employees.
    Facilities Manager

     

    (Advanced)

    Facilities managers provide supervision, coordination, and direction for scheduling, planning, and implementing maintenance and operations for various building systems.

    Sales & Marketing Careers

    Job Title Job Description and Duties
    Warehouse Associate (Entry) Warehouse associates receive and verify incoming shipments and pack orders for customers. They gain valuable knowledge about the HVAC industry without being directly a part of it.
    Wholesale Counter Sales (Mid-Level) A sales associate provides customer service to individuals or corporations by answering questions, relaying orders, and coordinating with other departments.
    Sales & Marketing Associate (Mid-level) Sales & marketing associates support current customers by purchasing and shipping orders. They’re also in charge of finding new clients and analyzing sales trends.
    Customer Sales Rep and Estimator (Mid-Level) As representatives, they build strong relationships with customers. As estimators, they help potential and existing clients order products. Combined, they cater to the customer’s needs.
    Equipment Manufacturer Rep (Advanced) HVAC manufacturer reps specialize in HVAC-related products and offer solutions based on what a corporation or individual requires.
    Sales & Marketing Manager (Advanced) Sales & marketing managers oversee a team of sales associates and help them increase sales and facilitate growth. As the head of the marketing sector, they use their skills to keep the customer happy while keeping a positive company reputation.

    Automated Controls Careers

    Job Title Job Description and Duties
    Controls Installer (Entry) Controls installers will install automated control components under the supervision of an upper-tradesman. They can work with energy management systems, electronic controls, and sensors.
    Building Automation Systems Trainee (Mid-Level) Under the supervision of building automation system technicians, a trainee utilizes HVAC knowledge and applies it to electrical systems in buildings to troubleshoot and install automated systems.
    Building Automation Systems Technician (Mid-Level) Building automated system technicians work with computer-based control systems to monitor electrical and mechanical equipment found in modern HVAC control panels.
    Senior Operations System Analyst (Advanced) Senior operations system analysts design and implement technical aspects of automatic systems. They also make assessments on building control systems to help optimize them.
    Building Automation Systems Engineer (Advanced) Engineers supervise lower-level techs as they install and maintain automation systems. They primarily create centralized control systems that operate from an HVAC and lighting panel.
    Building Automation Systems Manager (Advanced) Managers have total responsibility for the building’s automation systems. They work with field technicians, programmers, system engineers, and subcontractors to create new automation systems.

    Design & Engineering Careers

    Job Title Job Description and Duties
    CAD Assistant (Entry) CAD assistants use computer-aided design software and work with lead drafters to create schematics for building and electrical parts. CAD software is essential in creating small machine parts.
    Test & Balance Tech (Mid-Level) Test techs use specialized tools to test equipment to adjust, test, inspect and balance HVAC systems in all sectors. They do this to achieve the high-performance standards dictated by the industry.
    Commissioning Specialist (Advanced) Specialists evaluate and test automation systems to ensure everything is operational and achieving peak performance.
    Energy-Analyst (Advanced) Energy analysts are knowledgeable on green technology and can market eco-friendly machinery to their consumers. They specialize in analyzing energy data and building efficiency.
    Mechanical Engineer w/HVAC Expertise (Advanced) Mechanical engineers that have HVAC learning expertise are capable of designing HVAC/R systems in all sectors.
    Code Inspector (Advanced) Code inspectors go on-site to check if a house or commercial building is up to state and federal coding laws. HVAC code inspectors will especially check these systems.
    Energy Engineer (Advanced) Energy engineers offer energy advice and provide technical expertise for companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.
    HVAC Instructor (Advanced) HVAC instructors are formal teachers in the educational system that help trainees and students fulfill their roles correctly. They are typically seen in a formal classroom setting.
    Project Manager (Advanced) Project managers oversee the planning, design, and installation of HVAC systems in new or existing buildings.

    HVAC Career Advancement

    In HVAC, there are several ways you can advance your career from the entry level. To start, you’ll either be a trainee straight from Highschool, fresh out of trades college (a 1-2 year additional experience course) or an apprentice who works under an upper-tradesman.

    Some careers require a professional degree. Many jobs within the sales & marketing, automated controls and design & engineering sector can’t be obtained without a bachelor’s level of education. However, HVAC techs in the residential and commercial sectors can advance high in their careers with a journeyman ticket, which is obtained by going to trades school for 4 years.

    Common HVAC career advancement roadmaps will be as follows:

    • Two Year Technical College Certificate (Level 2 Apprentice) -> 1-Year On-The-Job Training ->  Trades School for 1 Year (Level 3 Apprentice) -> 1-Year On-The-Job Training -> Trades School for 1 Year (Journeyman).
    • High School Education -> Trainee -> Apprenticeship Through Job -> 1-Year On-The-Job Training ->  Trades School for 1 Year (Level 1 Apprentice) -> Repeat 1-Year Job Training, 1-Year at Trades School -> Journeyman
    • High School Education or Previous Experience –> On-The-Job Training -> Promotion to Another Job Title That Doesn’t Specifically Require a Degree
    • High School Education or Previous Experience or HVAC Ticket -> On-The-Job-Training -> Promotion to Another Job Title Where Experience is Equivalent for a Degree.
    • Bachelor’s Degree or Certificate -> On-The-Job-Training -> Promotion to Position.

    There are many ways you can succeed in HVAC, as indicated by out next section.

    HVAC Education and Career Map

    To use this career map, search one of the careers mentioned in the “HVAC Careers in Each Sector ” section to see how to advance in your field. All entry level jobs only require a high-school diploma, but many employers will prefer prior experience or additional training.

    Residential Career Map

    Residential has the fewest opportunities because this sector relies on building new homes. However, there are still a lot of ways you can advance your career or move into another sector if you want to progress further. Residential job skills transfer well to commercial and sales.

    Job Title Career Track and Qualifications
    Residential Trainee (Entry) Residential Installer: 1-2 Years experience and HVAC certification.

     

    Commercial Trainee: None.

    Commercial Installer: None, but HVAC certification helps.

    Tradesperson: None, but 1-2 years experience helps.

    Warehouse Associate: None, but forklift certification helps.

    Residential Installer (Entry) Residential Service Technician: 1-3 years experience and HVAC certification.

     

    Commercial Installer: Additional experience.

    Apprentice: None.

    Residential Service Technician (Mid-Level) Residential Service Manager: HVAC knowledge and customer service skills.

     

    Service Dispatcher: Excellent communication and customer service skills.

    Commercial Service Technician: None.

    Facilities Maintenance Technician: 1-2 years sales experience

    Apprentice: None.

    Sales & Marketing Associate: 1-2 years sales experience.

    Wholesale Counter Sales: Excellent verbal, interpersonal and sales skills.

    Service Dispatcher

     

    (Mid-Level)

    Residential Service Manager: HVAC knowledge and customer service skills.

     

    Equipment Manufacturer Representative: Post-secondary and sales skills.

    Customer Sales Rep and Estimator: Post-secondary and 1-2 years in sales.

    Sales & Marketing Associate: Sales training is necessary.

    Residential Service Manager

     

    (Advanced)

    Residential Contractor: State licensing and/or 4-5 years experience in HVAC.

     

    Commercial Service Manager: 2-4 years experience in HVAC.

    Equipment Manufacturer Representative: Technical training.

    Residential Contractor

     

    (Advanced)

    Commercial Contractor: More experience as a commercial contractor.

    Commercial Career Map

    The commercial sector has a total of 13 different job titles as of writing this, making it the most fruitful sector for new HVAC employees. Commercial job skills transfer into all 5 sectors, but additional post-secondary education unrelated to HVAC will be required to move into automated controls or design & engineering. Some may transfer into these industries with experience.

    Job Title Career Track and Qualifications
    Commercial Trainee

     

    (Entry)

    Residential Trainee: None.

     

    Tradesperson: Post-secondary experience.

    Warehouse Associate: None, but forklift certification helps.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Additional technical training.

    Tradesperson

     

    (Entry)

    Residential Installer: Additional training and HVAC certification.

     

    Residential Service Technician: Additional technical training.

    Commercial Installer: Additional training and HVAC certification.

    Apprentice: Willingness to participate in an apprenticeship program.

    Warehouse Associate: None, but forklift certification helps.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Additional technical training.

    Commercial Installer

     

    (Entry)

    Residential Service Technician: 1-2 years as a Commercial Installer.

     

    Facilities Manager: Post-secondary training and strong management skills.

    Apprentice: Willingness to participate in an apprenticeship program.

    Wholesale Counter Sales: Excellent customer service skills.

    Controls Installer: Post-secondary training.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Post-secondary automation training.

    Apprentice (Entry) Residential Service Technician: Excellent customer service skills.

     

    Facilities Maintenance Technician: Completion of an HVAC/R apprenticeship. 

    Cooking Equipment Service Technician: Additional equipment training.

    Commercial Service Technician: Customer service skills and experience.

    Stationary Engineer: Additional training and 2-3 years as an apprentice.

    Journeyman HVAC Tech: Completion of an HVAC/R apprenticeship.

    Journeyman Refrigeration Tech: Completion of an HVAC/R apprenticeship.

    Sales & Marketing Associate: None, just motivation to sell.

    Wholesale Counter Sales: Excellent customer service skills.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Post-secondary training.

    Controls Installer: Knowledge on how to build automation systems.

    Test & Balance Tech: 1-3 year specialized training course and certification.

    Facilities Maintenance Technician (Mid-Level) Cooking Equipment Service Technician: Additional experience.

     

    Commercial Service Technician: Additional experience.

    Stationary Engineer: Post-secondary and experience.

    Sales & Marketing Associate: 1-2 years of sales experience or sales degree.

    Wholesale Counter Sales: Excellent customer service skills.

    Customer Sales Rep and Estimator: Post-secondary and sales experience.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Additional training.

    Test & Balance Tech: 1-2 year specialized training course and certification.

    Cooking Equipment Service Technician (Mid-Level) Commercial Service Technician: May require additional training.

     

    Stationary Engineer: Post-secondary and may require experience.

    Commercial Service Manager: Management, leadership, HVAC knowledge.

    Equipment Manufacturer Rep: Specialized training and customer service skills.

    Sales & Marketing Associate: Be a motivated self-starter.

    Wholesale Counter Sales: Excellent customer service skills.

    Customer Sales Rep and Estimator: Post-secondary and sales experience.

    Commercial Service Technician

     

    (Mid-Level)

    Residential Service Manager: Management, leadership, additional experience.

     

    Stationary Engineer: Management, leadership, HVAC knowledge.

    Journeyman HVAC Tech: Completion of an HVAC/R apprenticeship.

    Journeyman Refrigeration Tech: Completion of an HVAC/R apprenticeship.

    Commercial Service Manager: Management, leadership and HVAC knowledge.

    Equipment Manufacturer Rep: Specialized training and customer service skills.

    Sales & Marketing Associate: Be a motivated self-starter.

    Wholesale Counter Sales: Excellent customer service skills.

    Customer Sales Rep and Estimator: Post-secondary and sales experience.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Automation systems degree.

    Test & Balance Tech: 1-2 year specialized training course and certification.

    Stationary Engineer (Mid-Level) Building Automation Systems Trainee: Automation systems degree.

     

    Test & Balance Tech: 1-2 year specialized training course and certification.

    Code Inspector: Certification, licensing, and 1-3 years of equivalent experience.

    Commissioning Specialist: Certification, licensing, and 2 years of experience.

    Energy-Analyst: Certification, licensing, and 3 years of experience.

    Project Manager: Business or computer science degree or HVAC experience.

    Journeyman HVAC Technician (Advanced) Stationary Engineer: Post-secondary and additional experience.

     

    Commercial Service Manager: Management, leadership, HVAC knowledge.

    Equipment Manufacturer Rep: Specialized manufacturing training.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Automation systems degree.

    Test & Balance Tech: 1-2 year specialized training course and certification.

    Code Inspector: Certification, licensing, and 1-3 years of equivalent experience.

    Commissioning Specialist: Certification, licensing, and 2 years of experience.

    Energy-Analyst: Certification, licensing, and 3 years of experience.

    Project Manager: Business or computer science degree or HVAC experience.

    Journeyman Refrigeration Technician

     

    (Advanced)

    Stationary Engineer: Post-secondary and additional experience.

     

    Commercial Service Manager: Management, leadership, HVAC knowledge.

    Equipment Manufacturer Rep: Specialized manufacturing training.

    Customer Sales Rep and Estimator: Sales experience.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Automation systems degree.

    Test & Balance Tech: 1-2 year specialized training course and certification.

    Project Manager: Business or computer science degree or HVAC experience.

    Mechanical Engineer w/HVAC Expertise: Mechanical engineering degree.

    Commercial Service Manager (Advanced) Commercial Contractor: Prior contractor experience and state licensing.

     

    Facilities Manager: Post-secondary and management skills.

    Equipment Manufacturer Rep: Specialized manufacturing training.

    Commissioning Specialist: Bachelor’s of engineering or HVAC experience.

    Energy-Analyst: Bachelor’s of engineering or HVAC experience.

    Project Manager: Business or computer science degree or HVAC experience.

    Commercial Contractor (Advanced) Residential Contractor: More experience as a residential contractor.
    Facilities Manager

     

    (Advanced)

    None

    Sales & Marketing Career Map

    HVAC employees who want to work with people may switch into a sales or marketing role. As long as you worked in HVAC at some point, your skills are highly transmissible across the sales & marketing sector. It’s easy to climb up the sales career ladder without a marketing degree.

    Job Title Career Track and Qualifications
    Warehouse Associate (Entry) Residential Trainee: None.

     

    Residential Installer: 1-2 years experience and HVAC certification.

    Commercial Trainee: None.

    Tradesperson: 1-2 years of trades experience.

    Wholesale Counter Sales: Excellent customer service skills.

    Wholesale Counter Sales (Mid-Level) Residential Installer: 1-2 years experience and HVAC certification.

     

    Tradesperson: 1-2 years of trades experience.

    Sales & Marketing Associate: None, just motivation to sell.

    Customer Sales Rep and Estimator: Sales and HVAC/R experience.

    Controls Installer: Post-secondary training or 1-2 years experience.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Post-secondary automation training.

    Sales & Marketing Associate (Mid-level) Equipment Manufacturer Rep: Specialized manufacturing training.

     

    Customer Sales Rep and Estimator: Additional experience.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Post-secondary automation training.

    Customer Sales Rep and Estimator (Mid-Level) Service Dispatcher: None

     

    Equipment Manufacturer Rep: Specialized manufacturing training.

    Sales & Marketing Manager: Sales degree and previous HVAC experience.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Post-secondary training.

    Equipment Manufacturer Rep (Advanced) Sales & Marketing Manager: Sales degree and previous HVAC experience.

     

    Building Automation Systems Engineer: Engineering degree, HVAC experience.

    Senior Operations System Analyst: Automation or engineering degree.

    HVAC Instructor: HVAC related degree or equivalent experience.

    Sales & Marketing Manager (Advanced) None

    Automated Controls Career Map

    While you won’t need a bachelor’s degree to start in an automated controls field, you’ll need to invest in one if you’re serious. Your primary job involves you installing and fixing electrical equipment in HVAC equipment, which essentially makes you a specialized electrician.

    Job Title Career Track and Qualifications
    Controls Installer (Entry) Apprentice: None.

     

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Experience/automation systems degree.

    Test & Balance Tech: Specialized training course and certification.

    Building Automation Systems Trainee (Mid-Level) Building Automation Systems Technician: Post-secondary automation training.

     

    Test & Balance Tech: Specialized training course and certification.

    Building Automation Systems Technician (Mid-Level) Commercial Service Technician: Excellent customer service skills.

     

    Stationary Engineer: Additional HVAC/R experience.

    Equipment Manufacturer Rep: Specialized manufacturing training.

    Customer Sales Rep and Estimator: Sales, customer service experience.

    Senior Operations System Analyst: Automation or engineering degree.

    Test & Balance Tech: Might require extra certification.

    Commissioning Specialist: Bachelor’s of engineering or HVAC experience.

    Energy-Analyst: Bachelor’s of engineering or HVAC experience.

    HVAC Instructor: HVAC related degree or equivalent experience.

    Senior Operations System Analyst (Advanced) Stationary Engineer: Additional HVAC/R experience.

     

    Equipment Manufacturer Rep: Specialized manufacturing training.

    Customer Sales Rep and Estimator: Sales, customer service experience.

    Building Automation Systems Engineer: Engineering degree, HVAC experience.

    Building Automation Systems Manager: Automation systems knowledge.

    Commissioning Specialist: Bachelor’s of engineering or HVAC experience.

    Energy-Analyst: Bachelor’s of engineering or HVAC experience.

    HVAC Instructor: HVAC related degree or equivalent experience.

    Project Manager: Excellent leadership and management skills.

    Building Automation Systems Engineer (Advanced) Building Automation Systems Manager: Automation systems knowledge.

     

    Energy Engineer: Mechanical engineering degree.

    HVAC Instructor: HVAC related degree or equivalent experience.

    Project Manager: Excellent leadership and management skills.

    Mechanical Engineer w/HVAC Expertise: Mechanical engineering degree.

    Building Automation Systems Manager (Advanced) Commercial Contractor: More experience as a commercial contractor.

    Design & Engineering Career Map

    Although design & engineering jobs are often left out of the HVAC career map, we included it here because of its importance. Without designers or engineers, HVAC techs wouldn’t be able to repair, install or service machinery. If you already have a degree in engineering, you can transfer into this HVAC sector. Otherwise, you’ll need post-secondary education past entry-level.

    Job Title Career Track and Qualifications
    CAD Assistant (Entry) Controls Installer: Post-secondary training or 1-2 years experience.

     

    Building Automation Systems Trainee: Experience/automation systems degree.

    Mechanical Engineer w/HVAC Expertise: Mechanical engineering degree.

    Test & Balance Tech (Mid-Level) Commercial Service Technician: Excellent customer service skills.

     

    Building Automation Systems Technician: Post-secondary automation training.

    Commissioning Specialist: Bachelor’s of engineering or HVAC experience.

    Energy-Analyst: Bachelor’s of engineering or HVAC experience.

    Commissioning Specialist (Advanced) HVAC Instructor: HVAC related degree or equivalent experience.

     

    Project Manager: Excellent leadership and management skills.

    Mechanical Engineer w/HVAC Expertise: Mechanical engineering degree.

    Energy-Analyst (Advanced) Commissioning Specialist: Bachelor’s of engineering or HVAC experience.

     

    Energy Engineer: Building, sustainable and green construction experience.

    Mechanical Engineer w/HVAC Expertise (Advanced) Facilities Manager: Leadership, knowledge or refrigeration systems and chillers.

     

    Building Automation Systems Engineer: Automation systems knowledge.

    Building Automation Systems Manager: Excellent leadership skills.

    Energy Engineer: Mechanical engineering degree.

    Project Manager: Excellent leadership and management skills.

    Code Inspector (Advanced) None.
    Energy Engineer (Advanced) None.
    HVAC Instructor (Advanced) None.
    Project Manager (Advanced) None. 

    Frequently Asked Questions FAQ

    Question: How long does it take to become an HVAC tech?

    Answer: On average, it takes between 2 to 5 years to become a fully qualified HVAC technician. The amount of time depends on the route you take and who you’re training with. For a short, quick path to a journeyman certification, find an upper-level HVAC technician that will take you on as an apprentice. You may need to take 2 years of college before being accepted.

    Question: Do HVAC installers make good money?

    Answer: Entry-level HVAC technicians make $14 an hour starting, but the journeyman rate can range between $30-40 dollars an hour depending on if you work for a union. The most lucrative fields are in automated controls or design & engineering, but you need to have a bachelor’s degree to work in those industries. For example, a Mechanical Engineer makes six figures on average. 

    Question: Is HVAC a hard career?

    Answer: Working in HVAC can be challenging, but it isn’t difficult once you learn the skills you need to succeed as a technician. You’ll receive a lot of training from journeymen, teachers, and instructors because you’re expected to handle jobs by yourself. After working in HVAC for a while, your job will become routine, just like any other career, unless you pivot.

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