Finding a career field that offers lots of opportunities, lifelong possibilities, immediate employment, attractive work environments, and good compensation is a challenge for young people just starting out. It's also difficult for people with established careers to make job changes. The HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) field offers all of those possibilities. Jefferson Davis Community College offers a certificate HVAC training program for students.
This school's programs can be the starting point for a career in HVAC. Located in coastal Alabama, Jefferson Davis Community College serves a large region, providing a variety of academic and technical programs aimed at career preparation or advancing to other institutions for degree programs. The HVAC program is a two-semester technical program leading to a certificate.
HVAC Career Outlook
Within the HVAC world, there are many possible areas of concentration and a variety of types of jobs. It is possible, especially in a densely populated area, to specialize in a particular type of equipment and possibly even a particular brand of that equipment. In other areas, technicians may need to be prepared to handle a variety of service requirements for different brands and different types of equipment. Demand for HVAC technicians doesn't just depend on new construction projects. Every building has some kind of HVAC system which will need repair or replacement at some point.
Your only experience with HVAC technicians might be the in-home technician who comes to your house when the furnace or air conditioner breaks down. And yes, that is a big part of what HVAC technicians do. However, think about what's on the roof of almost all commercial buildings, particularly restaurants, schools, and health care institutions. All that equipment on the roof is part of the building's HVAC system and needs HVAC technicians to install, maintain, and repair. This is a field of work that is expected to continue to grow for years to come, making it an attractive career to consider.
Types of HVAC Jobs
HVAC Technician Working for a Small Firm
Small firms generally specialize in one kind of equipment or service, or they may provide service for the full range of HVAC equipment. A small firm may be dependent on a few large businesses for contracts, or they may have a large and varied client base of homeowners and small businesses. In a small firm, you will come into contact with a number of clients, and you will also be exposed to a variety of equipment models and vintages.
This can be a good stepping stone to work for a larger firm, for specializing in the equipment you most enjoy working on. This is also a way to get the experience you will need if you are considering eventually having a business of your own.
HVAC Technician Working for a Single Institution
Some major facilities, such as universities or hospitals, employ staff technicians to keep their systems going. A job as a technician with one of these institutions is more likely to offer regular, daytime hours than working for a firm that responds to emergency calls for service. Single institutions may offer opportunities for advancement within a department, job security, and good benefits.
Working for a firm of any size as a service technician who goes to the client can be a lonely job. As an in-house technician you will have the opportunity to work as a team and to build relationships within the organization.
HVAC Technician Working for a Specialized Large Firm
A firm that specializes in one brand or one type of equipment might be a good choice for a person who likes routine and prefers to be an expert in one area rather than a generalist working on many things. Large firms offer the possibility of set schedules, good benefits, and opportunities for advancement to supervisory and management positions.
HVAC Technician Working for a Large Multi-Service Firm
Large firms that work on all kinds of equipment offer similar advantages to the large specialized firm but offer the opportunity for experience on a broader range of equipment.
Owner of a Small HVAC Service Business
A person with skills and an education in HVAC may plan to have his or her own business one day. Ownership provides flexibility, special opportunities for the owner, and the ability to grow as large as desired by employing and managing other HVAC technicians.
Management opportunities exist in firms of all sizes, as well as in the institutions that have an in-house technical staff. Some people love to be in a hands-on position throughout their career. For other people, advancement and change are important. The manager is responsible for supervising technicians and holds them to standards of accountability. Having an HVAC educational background, such as the program offered at Jefferson Davis Community College, is a valuable asset for advancement.
Technician at an Equipment Manufacturing Company
The companies that make all the equipment that technicians install and repair also employ technicians. Like the large firms and institutions, this is a more corporate environment and enables the technician to gain expertise in a specific product brand.
What Work Life Is Like for a Technician
Working for a full-service company will mean a lot of variety in your work, and you will be working with a lot of different clients. A person who works well with customers will do well in this environment. As a technician working at the client's site, you will have quite a bit of independence. Jobs in industrial or commercial settings may mean being at the same job site for weeks at a time. This kind of schedule is good for the person who prefers a more structured routine or who may not be as comfortable interacting with a number of clients.
Schedules May Vary
In small firms, the work week may not always be 8 to 5. Emergency breakdowns are the lifeblood of many service companies. Technicians who work in small firms that respond to all kinds of service calls will need to be flexible about their schedule. After-hours calls can mean an opportunity for overtime for the hourly employee. For the self-employed technician or small business owner, it is an opportunity to charge after-hours rates.
Technical Training Is a Great Head Start
Getting hired in the first place may be difficult. This is where a formal education in an HVAC certification program provides a strong advantage. Technicians are needed everywhere but, there isn't always turnover in the field. Some geographic areas and high growth areas are experiencing a growing demand for HVAC technicians. If you can relocate, the job search may be easier.
Areas with high growth may offer more immediate opportunities for the beginner in the field. This is a career field where there aren't layoffs. Once you get an education and some experience, you can be fairly confident that you will keep your present job and also have other opportunities.
The work of HVAC technician can be physically demanding. You may be on your feet most of your workday. There is some heavy lifting. Younger workers may not be bothered by the physical demands of the job. For older workers, a supervisory position or a position quoting and managing the details of service orders may be good ways to use technical skills in a less physically demanding capacity.
Training, Certification, & Salary
High demand for skilled HVAC technicians is reflected in Bureau of Labor Statistics that show techs made an average of over $48,000 a year in 2016. Hourly workers had an average wage of $23.23. Salaried technicians started in the range of $28,000 to $40,000, advancing to a range of $60,000 to $70,000 later in their careers. Statistics compiled by Jefferson Davis Community College indicate that students who complete their program typically earn just over $35,000 a year as they start their career.
With technical training in the HVAC field, graduates can expect to find employment and an attractive starting wage, particularly when compared to workers who start in entry-level positions without training certificates and must learn on the job.
Technical training programs issue certificates to students who complete their programs. This isn't a field where there are government requirements for certification. The certificate serves the worker who enters the job market by providing evidence that the person has completed the program. The length of training programs varies among institutions. At Jefferson Davis Community College, the full HVAC program takes 30 weeks to complete.
Jefferson Davis Community College HVAC Training Programs
The Jefferson Davis Community College program for HVAC Training is a two-semester curriculum. Students receive a certificate for each semester completed. The first semester is the basic course and the second semester is the advanced course. Course offerings include units on refrigeration, electric systems, heat pumps, gas heating systems, and other commercial heating systems, service procedures and workplace skills.