You want to begin a career in Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) but are unsure of your job options. Whether a high school graduate or HVAC/BR program graduate, this list may help point you in the right direction.
This is by no means a complete list of career possibilities. This list is meant to serve as a starting point in your job hunt.
What is HVAC?
HVAC refers to systems used to control air quality, temperature, and humidity. HVAC may also be referred to as Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) to include refrigeration system experts. HVAC technicians install, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair climate control and refrigeration systems.
While HVAC technicians may be trained to install, repair, and maintain refrigeration systems, this is not their expertise. HVAC/R technicians have received additional training to specialize in proper installation, maintenance, and repairs of refrigeration and cooling systems. These systems may include refrigerators, ice machines, walk-in coolers, vending machines, and more.
HVAC school programs may be called Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Basic Refrigeration (HVAC/BR). These programs include training in proper handling, disposal, and recycling of refrigerants in accordance with the Clean Air Act.
Entry-Level HVAC Positions
These positions are ideal for applicants with post-secondary training, but no previous HVAC/R work experience. They also require the use of hand and power tools. These positions may require workers to lift heavy objects during installations and removals.
- HVAC Apprentice
Apprenticeships allow aspiring technicians, referred to as apprentices, to learn their trade as they complete their education. Apprentices earn a wage throughout their apprenticeship as they gain work experience. They perform routine HVAC tasks which will increase in complexity as they progress through the program.
Apprentices train and work under the direct supervision of a Journeyperson. Upon completion, apprentices will graduate to become Journey-Level Technicians.
Apprenticeships can be completed without attending a vocational or post-secondary program. However, apprenticeships are often completed alongside an HVAC or HVAC/BR program. Doing so may reduce the time it takes to complete an apprenticeship.
Apprentices may work with commercial and/or residential clients.
This position may also be called a Residential Trainee. Helpers work under the supervision of a lead installer or technician to provide support during installations, maintenance, and repairs. Trainees may perform minor electrical system repairs relating to heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems.
Helpers assist in ensuring HVAC systems are installed in compliance with industry standards and regulations. They troubleshoot equipment to identify potential problem areas which may lead to malfunctions. They provide clients with expert advice to ensure their HVAC systems meet their current needs.
Helpers may also schedule pickups and deliveries to verify the correct materials and equipment arrive at the correct job site.
- Commercial Trainee
This position may be called a Commercial HVAC Service Technician Trainee, Installer Trainee, or a Commercial Technician Trainee. Trainees work under the supervision of a Journey-Level HVAC technician or a Lead Commercial Installer. Much like Helpers, Installer Trainees assist in installing, maintaining, and repairing HVAC systems.
Trainees are expected to troubleshoot HVAC systems for mechanical or electrical faults, fit ductwork, and comply with industry standards. Trainees may also be required to lift or move equipment and oversee equipment deliveries to the work site.
HVAC Positions Requiring Experience
These positions are ideal for applicants with post-secondary training and 1 or more years of HVAC/R work experience. These positions also require the additional HVAC or HVAC/R certification. Two common certifications are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 608 certification and the North American Technical Excellence (NATE) certification.
These signify your completion of proper training, understanding and demonstration of industry standards and requirements, and how to handle refrigerants.
- Residential HVAC Installer
Residential HVAC Installers are responsible for installing new HVAC systems in residential areas. They may remove old systems and can perform general maintenance and small repairs. They test new installations and perform immediate adjustments or repairs to ensure optimal performance.
Installers may troubleshoot installations and install electrical components relating to the new HVAC system. They engage with customers, clean, and adjust new systems, and ensure installations are performed in compliance with industry standards. Installers provide recommendations, feedback, and advice to clients to verify the system chosen for their installation best suits their needs.
- Commercial HVAC Installer
Commercial HVAC Installers install new heating and air conditioning systems in industrial properties, medical facilities, hotels, warehouses and more. They troubleshoot existing units and replace defective parts to increase efficiency and confirm the unit complies with industry standards. They are also expected to read and understand blueprints and schematics to confirm installations are performed properly.
They monitor ductwork and drain lines to optimize efficiency. They may be required to work after hours and perform emergency repairs with little notice.
- HVAC Technician
In addition to installations, maintenance, and repairs, HVAC technicians inspect and diagnose climate control and ventilation systems. They perform emergency, simple, and complex repairs to improve the performance of new and existing HVAC systems. They order parts, train junior team members, and communicate with customers and vendors.
They work with pipes, duct systems, furnaces, air conditioning units, coolants and more. They can interpret technical data such as blueprints and pressure. They may be expected to work late or perform emergency services with short notice.
Alternative HVAC Career Path
Just because you have training and experience in HVAC/R doesn’t mean you have to perform installs, repairs, and maintenance. HVAC sales positions allow you to use your understanding of HVAC systems, installs, and maintenance to sell parts and supplies. HVAC sales associates work with warehouses and clerical staff to maintain orders and oversee returned merchandise.
Many HVAC salespeople have a few years of field experience under their belt. Depending on the sales position, you may be expected to read and interpret blueprints and instruction manuals.
HVAC sales roles may include:
- HVAC Counter Sales
- HVAC Outside Sales Associate
- HVAC Sales Specialist
- HVAC Service Maintenance Sales and more!
Apprenticeships can be done alongside your HVAC program or independent of an HVAC program. Becoming a Helper or Trainee is an excellent way for entry-level aspiring technicians to gain commercial, residential, and customer-service experience. They work underneath the watchful eye of an industry-experienced professional and improve their skills and understanding with each client.
HVAC installers can work for residential or commercial clients. In either case, they handle and troubleshoot the installation of new HVAC system installations. HVAC technicians are experts at performing installs, routine maintenance, and repairs.
They oversee the training of junior technicians while servicing customers. If you aren’t interested in performing installs, maintenance, or repairs, consider a sales position. You can apply everything you learned during your HVAC programs to sell and recommend parts and supplies.
Ready to start training for your career in the HVAC industry? Call us at (833) 988-3850 or visit our website to learn more about our HVAC/R Technician program.