About the Industry
Careers in Climate Control Technology are also known under the abbreviation HVAC/R, which stands for heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration. Occupations involve designing, selling, installing, servicing, and repairing HVAC/R systems in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
Think about it; every single building needs some form of heating, air conditioning, or both, and with the advancement in technology, controlling the climate of buildings has become a fascinating industry. Computers and electronics are being integrated into every new, or retrofitted HVAC/R system and those working in the field get to use the latest in sophisticated analytic and diagnostic testing and troubleshooting equipment. Green building techniques have infiltrated every facet of the HVAC/R industry and the installation and operation of today’s building automation systems require a highly skilled workforce.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the HVAC/R industry is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. The diversity of job opportunities and the advancement of building automation systems (BAS) makes the HVAC/R industry an attractive and rewarding career. Building automation is the automatic centralized control of a building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning, lighting and other systems through a building management system or building automation system.
Salaries identified under each job in the Careers in Climate Control Technology Map are based on California salary scales and show a wide range due to the geographic differences in the cost of living in California. Many occupations in the HVAC/R industry provide incentive-based pay programs which also affect an individual's earnings.
The Residential Sector of the Careers in Climate Control Technology Map describes occupations typically found in a residential setting – single family homes, townhouses, and apartments – that require the installation and maintenance of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems. There are a variety job opportunities in this sector and all are obtainable with a high school diploma or equivalent. Not surprisingly, most of the jobs in the residential sector involve engaging with homeowners so good customer service skills are important.
Because of the complexity and sophistication of HVAC/R systems installed today, many companies and contractors are seeking employees with some post-secondary education or training in HVAC/R technology. Employees will be expected to acquire EPA, NATE and/or OSHA Certifications; however, most companies will pay for the necessary certification training. Individuals who are already certified and have completed some post-secondary training typically start-out at a higher hourly wage rate. Overtime and incentive-based opportunities are abundant in the residential sector giving employees some control over wage earnings.
When you hear or read the word “commercial” think tall and short office buildings, medical centers, hotels, fast-food eateries, malls, retail stores, farm land, multifamily housing buildings, industrial factories, and warehouses. Working in the commercial HVAC/R environment offers a tremendous diversity of opportunity and a lifetime of learning and new experiences. In fact, many individuals working in the residential sector choose to migrate to the commercial sector because of the wide variety of opportunities. For example, becoming an Apprentice in the Commercial Sector can lead to numerous career pathways across all five sectors of the HVAC/R industry. Click the Apprentice job title to see for yourself.
It’s no coincidence that the Commercial Sector has the majority of occupations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012 there were over 5.6 million commercial buildings in the country with 87 billion square feet of floor space, and by 2050 the total floor space is expected to increase to 126 billion square feet. That is a lot of building space that will require climate control! However, it is not just controlling the climate in this space. Think fast-food as an example. Every pizza, burger, chicken, taco, and fish eatery requires Cooking Equipment Service Technicians to install and service all the cooking equipment, and Refrigeration Technicians to install and maintain the walk-in coolers, commercial refrigerators, and ice machines. The variety of occupations are immense in the Commercial Sector.
Sales and Marketing jobs have a significant influence on the profitability of every HVAC/R company and individuals who choose sales and/or marketing can have a very lucrative career if they are good at what they do. The Careers in Climate Control Technology Map has a separate sector for Sales & Marketing to highlight the need and importance of these jobs to the HVAC/R industry. To be successful in HVAC/R sales, individuals need to be personable, highly motivated, and have an in-depth knowledge of the HVAC/R equipment or service they are selling. Equally, in today’s digital world, a sales & marketing associate or manager who is tech-savvy with a solid understanding of search engine optimization and social media marketing would be a valued employee to any HVAC/R company. Individuals with these skill-sets have usually earned a marketing degree or similar.
There are numerous routes to a sales & marketing job. Individuals with no HVAC/R experience can start-out at the Warehouse Associate level and move up within the company to sales representative positions once they gain product knowledge and can demonstrate a personality ideal for sales and marketing positions. Those sales jobs usually involve selling HVAC/R products (parts and equipment). Many individuals seeking sales & marketing positions migrate from installation and service technician positions within, and across the Residential, Commercial, and Automated Controls sectors. Those sales positions tend to involve selling entire HVAC/R systems and services.
Thanks to technology advancements HVAC/R systems of single-family homes, townhouses, apartments, and commercial buildings are increasingly “smarter” with the overarching goal of improving energy efficiency, comfort, and air quality. Building Automation Systems (BAS) merge computer technology and electrical/electronic devices with HVAC/R systems to enhance a building’s operational intelligence. Along with a strong understanding of HVAC/R systems, people working in this space must be computer literate and demonstrate strong information technology (IT) skills to install and operate direct digital control (DDC) systems used in the HVAC/R industry. Individuals must also have excellent analytical and diagnostic skills to be successful in this sector.
All the jobs identified in the Automated Controls sector are classified as “green” jobs because they focus on improving the energy efficiency of a building. The rapid advancements in the worlds of information technology and electricity/electronics are allowing BAS systems to become more sophisticated each year. In fact, complete autonomous control of an entire facility is the long-term goal. Individuals working in the Automated Controls sectors need to keep pace with information technology changes creating a life-long learning adventure.
Increasingly, the boundaries between design and engineering are disappearing. In the HVAC/R world, as with other disciplines, design and engineering is about being creative. It’s about developing economical solutions to technical problems. Some jobs in this sector involve designing and manufacturing the components used in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems. Other occupations involve designing the HVAC/R systems that use those components to make them work together as a “system”. And with advancements in technology, still other jobs involve designing the HVAC/R computer software to make the HVAC/R systems operate more efficiently.
Let’s take a refrigerator as an example. Think of all the mechanical and electrical/electronic components that individuals needed to design and manufacture to fit into the refrigerator. Now think of all the wires and tubes that were designed to connect all those components together to create a working refrigerator! A large team of design engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers worked together to “create” that functioning refrigerator as a complete “system”.
The jobs in the Design & Engineering Sector do all of that and much more. HVAC/R system are constantly analyzed to ensure they are operating at maximum efficiency. Individuals seeking to work in this sector will need strong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. Additionally, the industry needs highly qualified HVAC/R instructors to ensure the industry has a skilled workforce, and experienced code inspectors to make sure systems are safe to operate.