Although a university degree is valuable, it isn’t the best route for every high school graduate. Many college graduates today work outside of their degree, in spite of devoting several years of their life to time-consuming studying. According to the Harvard Business Review, recent graduates tend to be underemployed and sometimes don’t get paid enough to cover their school debts and basic living costs. This isn’t to say that no one should get a college degree, but there are other effective routes that lead successfully into high-paying careers. One great example of a satisfying career that doesn’t require a lot of schooling is that of an HVAC technician.
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The term refers to the systems in buildings that keep people comfortable. In addition to the heating and cooling systems, the HVAC needs in a building generally include adequate ventilation, moving fresh air into homes or businesses, and moving air away. Especially as construction becomes more air-tight, it’s important that ventilation systems replenish the oxygen in buildings. A good ventilation system also moves carbon dioxide, excess humidity, and unpleasant smells. HVAC work also includes attention to the filters on heaters, AC units, and vents. Filters remove dirt, allergens, and other particles from the air.
More Than Installation and Repair Work
The work done by HVAC technicians has a big impact on the health and comfort of the people who live or work in buildings. These professionals are responsible for installing and completing maintenance for heating, cooling, or combination systems. They may be hired to plan or repair ventilation or climate-control systems in homes or businesses. There’s more involved in keeping these systems running than just showing up to complete repairs. Technicians must understand how factors such as the size of the room, the amount of insulation, and how much power is available to affect the successful operation of heating, cooling, and ventilation appliances.
Although some education and training are required to become an HVAC technician, the amount of time spent in a classroom and the cost of the training is much less than would be spent for a university degree. Most employers require a high school diploma or equivalent; it is easier to get a job with more education or some time spent in an apprenticeship. There are some schools that specifically offer a certificate or an associate degree for HVAC work. These often take less than a year and may be offered online.
In addition to earning the initial certificate, some technicians opt to complete trainings specific to focused areas of heating, cooling, and ventilation. For example, a technician may choose to focus only on refrigeration systems, or a technician may choose to handle installations, leaving maintenance and repair work to another professional. Sometimes, technicians specialize in specific equipment, such as commercial refrigeration or heating systems. Much of this training happens while on-the-job whether through an internship or similar program.
Licensing and Certification
In a few cases, it isn’t necessary to have schooling or training to get a job as a technician. However, many states require a license and certification. When states require a license, the technician may need to successfully complete an exam and verify a specific amount of postsecondary schooling or work experience or a combination of both. Certification, on the other hand, is required for every technician. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires the completion of Section 608 certification before anyone works with refrigerant.
Further Training and Certification
Technicians with more experience and more completed training under their belts are more likely to get comfortable jobs and make more money. Some of these options include specialized training for heat pump systems, electrical work, or HVAC load calculations. It may also be helpful for HVAC technicians to develop skills such as welding, customer service, and plumbing.
There’s a lot of demand for HVAC technicians, and as long as people want to feel comfortable in their homes, there will probably be a consistent demand for them. The job growth in this area is comparative to electricians and plumbers (other jobs that pay well without a lot of school requirements.) The median pay for heating and air conditioning technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is $48,730 per year and $23.43 per hour.
A Path to a Satisfying Career
Pursuing a college degree may be the best route for some careers, but it isn’t the only route to successful employment and a comfortable lifestyle. The path to working as an HVAC technician is shorter and less expensive than completing a college degree. The workload and continuing education requirements aren’t as demanding as working part or full-time while attending a university. Overall, the path to a successful career as an HVAC technician requires some schooling, training, licensing, and certification. Once these requirements have been completed, work as an HVAC technician can lead to satisfying employment and a comfortable life.