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HVAC Technician Salary Exposed

By: CareerFactsheet editors- Updated: Jun 21, 2017
Becoming a HVAC Technician

Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) technicians work on heating, ventilation, and cooling systems. These technicians can also be known as Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) technicians when working with refrigeration systems in addition to heating, ventilation, and cooling systems. HVAC and HVACR technicians are mechanics and installers who work closely with climate-control systems in a variety of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.

What HVAC Technicians Earn

HVAC and HVACR technicians earn slightly more than the national average for all occupations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for HVAC/R technicians was $45,910 per year or $22.07 per hour in May 2016.

Typically, apprentices earn half the salary of an experienced journeyman. Salaries increase as you gain more experience as an HVAC/R technician. Earning potential and wages typically depend on where you work and what duties you perform. Salaries and wages can vary from less than $28,440 or $13.67 per hour for the bottom 10 percent of all employed HVAC/R technicians to over $73,350 or $35.26 per hour for the top 10 percentile. Salaries are rising when compared to figures from May 2010, when the median annual wage was estimated at $42,530, and salaries ranged from under $26,490 for the lowest 10 percent to over $66,930 for the top 10 percent.

Becoming a HVAC Technician

Technicians typically receive formal education from a trade or technical school, a community college, or a college or university. Formal training can also be obtained through an apprenticeship program. Generally, education programs can take between six months and two years, and apprenticeships can last from three to five years. Once formal training is completed, a HVAC/R technician can be employed as a full trade person and complete tasks without supervision from an experienced journeyman. As you progress from an apprentice to a journeyman, your salary typically increases with each year of experience you attain. Training can also be obtained from informal on-the-job instruction and work experience, where a technician progresses from basic tasks to increasingly complex tasks. Eventually, an informally trained technician can begin to work on their own following a number of years of supervised instruction.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states with the highest rates of HVAC/R technician employment in May 2016 were Florida, California, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania. The industry with the highest levels of HVAC/R installer and mechanic employment was building equipment contractors, which employed 212,810 technicians. The remaining industries among the top five employers had substantially less employees, including direct selling establishments (9,410 technicians), hardware, and plumbing and heating equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers (8,070 technicians), commercial and industrial machinery and equipment (except automotive and electronic) repair and maintenance (6,170 technicians), and colleges, universities, and professional schools (5,620 technicians).

Of the top five industries with HVAC/R technician employment, the highest wages were found within the aerospace product and parts manufacturing. Technicians within this sector earned an average hourly wage of $34.82 and an average annual wage of $72,430 in May 2016. By comparison, the sector with the highest level of employment, building equipment contractors, paid on average an hourly wage of $22.72 and an annual wage of $47,250. The second highest employer, direct selling establishments, provided HVAC/R technicians with averages wages of $23.61 per hour or $49,100 per year.

Maximizing Income Potential as a HVAC Technician

What Does A HVAC Make

Targeting sectors with the highest wages can help maximize your earning potential. The highest wages are often found in industries with low employment, which makes getting the highest paid jobs highly competitive. Ensuring you are trained and certified in any specialized equipment or climate-control system needed for the sectors will put you at a competitive advantage. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top paying industry for HVAC/R technicians is Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing. Technicians within this industry earned on average $34.82 per hour or $72,430 per year in May 2016. However, employment was very low, with only 350 technicians employed by the industry in May 2016. Other top paying industries included natural gas distribution (1010 jobs), educational support services (60) and wired telecommunications carriers (230).

Targeting Work Locations

Targeting your employment search to states with the highest average wages can also maximize your earning potential. Of the states with the most HVAC/R technician employment, New York offers the highest average salaries at $55,650 per year or $26.76 per hour. By comparison, the largest employer, Florida, offers average lower wages at $40,660 per year or $19.55 per hour. The highest salaries for HVAC/R technicians are found in District of Columbia, where the average HVAC/R mechanic and installer earns $67,230 per year or $32.32 per hour. The remaining top 5 paying states include the Hawaii, Alaska, North Dakota and New Jersey.

Making Yourself Adaptable and Obtaining Transferable Skills

Many manufacturers and contractors are increasingly hiring technicians who are available for year-round service contracts. This puts technicians who are trained and experienced in installing and servicing both heating and air conditioning equipment at an advantage. Typically, these technicians have stable employment throughout the year. Being training and certified in both areas of the HVAC/R industry is another way of maximizing your earning potential.

Ensuring you are prepared to adapt to the evolving nature of the HVACR sector can also help you remain competitive and employable. Increasingly, the sector is moving towards green and sustainable technology. Knowledge and skills in green construction and energy efficient climate-control systems will help ensure you are prepared for new occupations and opportunities in the HVAC/R sector as the industry evolves. Training and certification in green climate-control systems, such as solar power and geothermal heating and cooling, can be long-term assets.

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