Choosing a career is never easy. It’s not surprising, considering that there are over 800 different occupations available to pursue in the United States. But it’s a good market for job seekers right now, and there’s no industry more eager for skilled talent then those of us in the HVACR world. Maintenance and repair technicians, installers and control systems experts; HVACR technicians can enter the labor force with less than two years of education, and less debt than a standard four year college degree. We’re an industry boasting a projected 15 percent growth over the next 8 years, and there’s no better time to enter the trade than now.
HVACR is a rewarding, but demanding, career choice. It offers a wide variety of work environments, from homes to retailers to laboratories and more. And the potential for job growth is high. Technicians typically start their careers at a basic service level, changing filters, addressing simpler water leak problems and honing their troubleshooting skills during their maintenance services. Through field experience and continued education, technicians move on to other more complex equipment, working with advanced programming (IoT BMS), chillers, boilers, and built-up systems. Knowledgeable technicians who gain a solid grasp of refrigeration repair are also highly sought-after.
Workloads are usually seasonal, and overtime during high volume months is often necessary. Here in California, for example, high-heat summers foster intense demand from late spring to mid-late fall. Our more moderate winter seasons are slower, with lower HVAC call volume. Unless you work for a company like RESSAC that services refrigeration equipment as well. Coolers and freezers don’t care about the weather, and provide steady workflow throughout the cooler months. We also have expert technicians with specialized training in BMS and Controls, who work on large, strategically scheduled projects during the off season.
A few other key factors of an HVACR career include:
- Ladders. They will be your constant companions while on the job. Whether it’s your own company ladder, or a roof access in a building, you will be climbing daily. Technicians working for commercial customers especially will need to prepare for multiple story climbs throughout their day.
- Physical fitness is a priority. You won’t just be climbing all those ladders. You’ll be hauling up your tools, gauges, refrigerant tanks, filters, and replacement parts with you.
- You’ll be working on rooftops or in attic crawlspaces. And, though regional experiences vary, more often than not it will be hot during peak season.
How to Start a Career in HVACR.
Still interested in HVACR? Then you’ll want to know what it takes to get your career started. In California, you’ll want to prioritize getting the necessary education from a qualified technical school. HVACR programs typically take 1 to 2 years to complete, with full or part-time education schedules available. These programs provide you with the troubleshooting, repair and maintenance skills necessary to enter the job market shortly after graduating.
The average cost for an HVAC program here in California is around $15,000. Let’s compare that cost to an average 4 year college program’s. For simplicity, only straight tuition/material costs are compared below:
We see that a typical HVACR program costs less than a 4-year degree, but the real competitive advantage it offers is in how quickly you can move into the job market. By 6-12 months, you’re ready to hit those rooftops as an entry level technician. It’s also not uncommon for technicians-in-training to choose the extended 2 year, part-time options, taking the opportunity to work alongside their education and leaving their programs with little to no debt. And with the average 4-year college debt in California at $22,744, that’s a serious point in HVACR’s favor.
Entry level positions in California range between $27,000-$30,000, increasing with experience to a state average of $51,000 per year. At RESSAC, we also offer a competitive benefits package alongside our above average wages for light commercial work, including 401K with company matching, education stipends, healthcare and paid holiday/sick/vacation days.
A career in HVACR offers solid benefits, compensation, and a positive outlook for future employment. Our industry, as well as the other skilled trades, is constantly on the lookout for talented workers. Check out the HVACR curriculum offered at your local state university, or at specialty schools such as Brownson Technical School in Orange County.