Salaries in HVAC

A 2018 connecteam survey on salaries in the HVAC industry offers very exciting news for people looking for their first job or hoping to advance into a better position. The HVAC industry’s diversity of jobs, opportunities for increased responsibility and pay, and the exposure to new technology make this an excellent field to find a rewarding, lifelong career. The growth of HVAC is bumping up against a shortage of HVAC technicians providing excellent opportunities for stable, high paying jobs for people ready to commit to building a future for themselves. Within the survey are key points related to how both entry-level and experienced employees can increase their pay over time, most notably in the areas of education and certifications, position held and longevity.

Regarding education and certifications, the survey shows that employees with significant training, including college degrees, or advanced certifications, like refrigeration, earn on average 20% or more than the industry’s median salary of $55,000 per year. The salary advantage of these training degrees can start at the beginning of the employee’s career and can provide an “edge” in their career.

Technicians who remain in the industry with only the minimum entry-level certifications required to do HVAC work, a refrigerant license or journeyman’s card, for example, earn far less over the course of their careers than those who continue schooling or obtain higher level certifications. Employees holding commercial (as opposed to residential) air conditioning certifications earn 20% more than the median salary and commercial refrigeration certification holders (those focusing on large refrigeration equipment) make 25% more. That’s a huge pay difference compared to entry-level and, although the higher salary is realized only after nearly two decades in the industry, the data indicates that having higher certifications, including college degrees, over time, leads to higher pay compared to those without.

As with many surveys, it doesn’t tell 100% of the story, and there are plenty of successes that don’t start with degrees or education first, but instead hard work and a focus on bettering oneself.

“College is one way to show commitment to higher education, but it certainly isn’t the only way. My experience shows me that anyone who invests in themselves through continuous improvement and learning will come out ahead whether they have a degree or certificate or not. The information is so much more readily available now so that anyone who wants to get ahead can keep learning if they are so inclined,” says Bryan Orr, co-founder of Kalos Services in Florida, and HVACRschool.com. “I encourage young people to enter this trade and to invest in education at every level as they go. This is a business where a dollar spent learning can translate to much bigger earning in a short time.”

The job you do, of course, plays a significant role in how much you earn, but there are some surprises in the study. HVAC Engineers, that is those with university degrees in engineering, average $80,000 per year and are near the top of the list. However, HVAC Refrigeration Technicians who likely do not have an engineering degree, but instead hold high-level trade certifications earn $72,000 per year-not far from the engineer with an advanced degree. The salary survey also shows that income is higher as an employee’s level of supervisorial responsibility increases, meaning the more people who work under you, the more you make. Installers and technicians with no managerial or supervisory responsibilities earn near the bottom of the survey, whereas those who oversee teams or departments may earn nearly twice as those with no managerial duties.

Not noted in the salary survey, but often reported anecdotally, most service managers and supervisors start their HVAC careers as entry-level installers and technicians. Through hard work, increasing experience, and their ability to manage people and projects these employees get promoted to supervisory positions with higher annual salaries. Some technicians-turned-managers continue the rise and start their own HVAC companies where a company owner has a median income of $76,000. An article in Contracting Business encourages technicians that they can “start out as a technician in the HVAC industry and a world of possibilities lies before you. You can become a service manager, move into sales, morph into building or plant maintenance, start your own HVAC business.”

Finally, the number of years working positively affects earnings when the employee remains in the HVAC field for a long time. People who just keep working make more money over time simply as a function of the experience that naturally comes from doing the same job year after year. However, for employees who do the same job without increasing their education or professional certifications, their median wage will remain below the national level for the first decade of their career. Between years eleven and sixteen, their wages jump to 16% above median, but the increases slow after their seventeenth year suggesting that longevity alone is the slowest route to higher pay.

The connecteam survey gives us excellent data on HVAC salaries including what jobs make the most money and what education and certifications yield higher pay. Within the report, lies an exciting roadmap for people who want to plot out their careers with rising wages and increasing responsibilities within their companies. More education and technical accreditations and taking on greater managerial responsibility leads to increasing pay in the HVAC field. With the shortage of HVAC technicians and the overall expansion of the industry, now is a prime time to enter into a vocation that will provide lifelong opportunities for advancement and good wages.

Next Steps

  • Read our post “Top Three Ways to Maximize Your HVAC Technician Earning Potential”.
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