Career Opportunities

Many career opportunities are available in heating, ventilating, and air conditioning fields, and they extend over several levels of educa­tion and training. Accordingly, the career opportunities open to an individual seeking employment in these fields can be divided roughly into four categories, each dependent upon a different type or degree of education and/or training. This relationship is shown in Table 1-1.

Among workers in these fields, engineers receive the highest pay, but they also undergo the longest periods of education and train­ing. Engineers are usually employed by laboratories, universities, and colleges or, frequently, by the manufacturers of materials and

Table 1-1 Relationships between Career Category and Type of Work or Education and/or Training Required

Career Category

Type of Work



Design and development

4 years or more of college


Practical application

Technical training school and/or college

Skilled worker

Installation, maintenance, and repair

Apprentice program or on-the-job training (OJT)

Apprentice or

Training for skilled-

High school degree

OJT worker

Worker position

Or equivalency

Equipment used in heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and related industries. Their primary responsibility is designing, developing, and testing the equipment and materials used in these fields. In some cases, particularly when large buildings or district heating to several buildings is employed, they also supervise the installation of the entire system. Moreover, industry codes and standards are usually the results of research conducted by engineers.

Technicians obtain their skills through technical training schools, some college, or both. Many assist engineers in the practical appli­cation of what the latter have designed. Technicians are particularly necessary during the developmental stages. Other technicians are found in the field working for contractors in the larger companies. Their pay often approximates that of engineers, depending on the size of the company for which they work.

Skilled workers are involved in the installation, maintenance, and repair of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment. Apprentices and OJT (on-the-job training) workers are in training for the skilled positions and are generally expected to complete at least a 2- to 5-year training program. Local firms that install or repair equip­ment in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings employ most skilled workers and trainees. Some also work on the assembly lines of factories that manufacture such equipment. Their pay varies, depend­ing on the area, their seniority, and the nature of the work. Most employers require that both skilled workers and trainees have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent (e. g., the GED). The require­ment for a high school diploma may be waived if the individual has already acquired the necessary skills on a previous job. The pay for skilled workers and trainees is lower than that earned by engineers and technicians but compares favorably to salaries received by skilled workers or equivalent trainees in other occupations.

Pipe fitters, plumbers, steam fitters, and sheet-metal workers may occasionally do some work with heating, ventilating, and air condi­tioning equipment. Both pipe fitters and plumbers (especially the for­mer) are frequently called upon to assemble and install pipes and pipe systems that carry the heating or cooling conveying medium from the source. Both are also involved in repair work, and some pipe fitters can install heating and air conditioning units.

Steam fitters can assemble and install hot-water or steam heating systems. Many steam fitters can also do the installation of boilers, stokers, oil and gas burners, radiators, radiant heating systems, and air conditioning systems.

Sheet-metal workers can also assemble and install heating, venti­lating, and air conditioning systems. Their skills are particularly necessary in assembling sheet-metal ducts and duct systems.

Some special occupations, such as those performed by air con­ditioning and refrigeration mechanics or stationary engineers, are limited to certain functions in the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning fields. Mechanics are primarily involved with assem­bling, installing, and maintaining both air conditioning and refrig­eration equipment. Stationary engineers maintain and operate heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment in large build­ings and factories. Workers in both occupations require greater skills and longer training periods than most skilled workers.

It should be readily apparent by now that the heating, ventilat­ing, and air conditioning fields offer a variety of career opportuni­ties. The pay is generally good, and the nature of the work provides considerable job security. Both the type of work an individual does and the level at which it is done depend solely on the amount and type of education and training acquired by the individual.

Posted in Audel HVAC Fundamentals Volume 1 Heating Systems, Furnaces, and Boilers