If there’s any business that is literally never going to fail, it’s the HVAC industry. Heating and air-conditioning isn’t exactly a luxury – depending on where you live, it could be an absolute necessity. Try telling a resident of Phoenix, Arizona that they don’t need their AC, or a survivor of a North Dakotan winter that they should give up their heater.
Every building built in the past 30 years has HVAC systems, and most buildings older than that have been retrofitted with them.
When it comes to a career in HVAC, you’ll be set-up for a long time.
What is the National HVAC Salary Average?
The fact is, there are dozens of HVAC positions across the entire spectrum of the industry, which is why it’s so hard to nail down an exact average.
So, instead, we’ll break down all of the most common HVAC job titles and give the normal ranges for each. Whether you’re looking for HVAC techs, engineers, installers, management, or sales, you can an accurate picture of common HVAC salaries and the requirements to earn them.
The job title “HVAC technician” covers a plethora of careers, from entry-level all the way to seasoned professional.
We’ll start at the bottom and move up as we go.
HVAC Salary for an Assistant
Also called a “helper” or an “apprentice,” the HVAC assistant is pretty much the lowest rung of the HVAC career. It’s a good starting point, though, giving you a good picture of what the work is like, and giving you an entry into the field. It’s a good place to meet technicians and prove yourself to a company while you go to school or complete your certifications.
The job description covers a broad array of tasks. The helper’s job is to help with the delivery of HVAC materials for the installers, and the removal of old equipment. Often the helper cleans the ventilation and will also pick up after the install – refuse, debris, packing material, dust, all of the various detritus that ends up on the floor after a project.
They assist in small repairs and must be handy with tools and have a mind for how things go together.
HVAC Salary for an Installer
An HVAC installer does exactly what it sounds like an HVAC installer does.
But, all jokes aside, an HVAC installer is responsible for all of the work of removing old equipment (if it exists), and putting in all of the new gear needed, based off the specifications of the client. Installers make up the backbone of the industry, perhaps combined with HVAC service technicians, and are always in demand.
Most installers require either an associate degree in HVAC tech, or an HVAC tech certificate. Depending on where you live, you also may be required to get a special HVAC license. If you handle any refrigerant chemicals, then the EPA requires that an HVAC tech pass a written test.
HVAC Salary for a Service Tech
An HVAC service technician is the tech you’re going to see most often – they service, maintain, and repair existing HVAC systems.
Not only will you need knowledge of troubleshooting chillers, thermostats, heaters, and the like, but you’ll also be working with clients and customers far more than most HVAC installers and start-up techs. And considering how grumpy folks can get when their AC has been busted for hours (or days), the job requires a gentle hand and a level head.
The average HVAC salary for a technician is around $50,000, though it could change dramatically based on your location and the company you end up working for.
HVAC Salary for a Start-Up Tech
The start-up technician comes in after the installers have finished their job, and it’s their duty to make sure that everything is done correctly and can start up without a problem.
The start-up technician requires a good eye for detail, a head for local laws and regulation, and the ability to troubleshoot extremely complicated systems with multiple points of failure.
It’s their duty to not only find out what problems might occur down the line (or notice what problems have already been created by installation complications), but also to anticipate where the system could be improved or even done better. They inspect the installation during and after the process, keeping in mind both the specific needs of HVAC like insulation and leaks, but also construction needs to safely support all of the installed equipment.
In order to become a start-up tech, you’ll have to follow the same requirements as an installer, plus you’ll need 2-4 years of experience as an HVAC installer. A comprehensive knowledge of local construction laws could be a massive help.
On average, a start-up technician makes around $74,000 a year.
HVAC fabricator is an extremely technical job that requires precision, the ability to read plans and follow instructions, and skill with multiple power tools and welders.
It’s the job of the HVAC fabricator to custom-make duct work for buildings, using the specifications created by the contractor, engineers, and the other HVAC technicians involved in the job.
They cut and weld sheet metal and put it together exactly as required for the space it’s going to go in.
Welding skills are an extremely valuable requirement, including both spot and MIG welding. Sheet metal is extremely thin, and welding on it can be tricky, so an experienced welder is required – usually with at least 3 or 4 years of welding experience.
The average salary for an HVAC fabricator is around $50,000.
HVAC Engineer is by far one of the most technical positions in the HVAC industry, and their HVAC salary reflects that fact.
First, the job of an HVAC engineer is to analyze, provide estimates, design HVAC systems, and coordinate the installation of HVAC systems. This involves working with the client, the HVAC installers and start-up techs, and pretty much every rung along the ladder from top to bottom.
In order to become an HVAC engineer, it’s best to start with a bachelor’s degree in either mechanical engineering or HVAC engineering. Often an architectural engineering degree can also help, as long as you have the practical HVAC experience to back it up.
You’ll need a bit of a laundry list of skills to pull down an HVAC engineering job – it’s not a profession for the faint of heart. Not only will you need advanced knowledge of refrigeration systems, ventilation, and heating systems, but you’ll also need to have a comfortable understanding of computer software. HVAC engineers use programs like AutoCAD to design systems and fit them into existing buildings. In fact, a CAD certification could do wonders for your job prospects.
The certifications required will change depending on where you live, but even if they’re not required, it might be smart to pick up some certifications that will prove you have all of the many skills that are written on your resume
The HVAC salary for an engineer averages around $83,500 per year, and has a 5% predicted job growth from 2018-2024.
This is a position often forgotten about when discussing HVAC careers. In fact, none of the techs or designers are going to be able to get any work down without a salesperson closing the deal first.
HVAC sales work with clients and potential clients, managing their needs, wants, and expectations with the realities of price and construction time.
It’s not just about being a convincing person with a silver tongue – though that helps. HVAC sales does require some knowledge of the field, to best understand what it is the client wants, and also how to translate engineer-speak into something the client can understand.
While the mathematical average wage of an HVAC salesperson is $48,000, the salary range has an extremely wide spread. It’s not uncommon to see an experienced salesperson at a successful company making near $80,000, while a phone salesperson at a smaller company might make only $25,000.
How Well Does the HVAC Industry Pay?
As it turns out, HVAC pays pretty well, and it’s an industry that has solid job growth predictions for years to come.
Many of the decent paying jobs don’t even require much schooling – an apprenticeship and the appropriate certifications can take you a long way. That, a good attitude, and a strong work ethic could keep you employed and making money the rest of your career.
Whether you’re a salesman, you’re good with your hands, or have a keen mind for learning quickly and understanding mechanical systems, there’s a path in the HVAC industry for you.