Becoming an HVAC technician can be an excellent way to earn a living without having to complete a college degree.
But before you commit to this career path, you’ll likely want to do some research to figure out what type of salary you can expect to make as an HVAC technician.
How much do HVAC technicians make?
There are quite a few factors that can influence how much an HVAC technician earns. Here’s a look at each of the relevant factors and how they might impact an HVAC technician’s salary.
HVAC technicians tend to earn more in states where the cost of living is higher. For example, HVAC technicians earn an average of $44,990 in Alabama but take home an average annual salary of $79,630 in Alaska.
There can also be some significant intra-state differences in salary for an HVAC technician. It’s often the case that employees who work within a sizable metropolitan area earn more than those that work in rural areas.
TRAINING AND EXPERIENCE
The amount of training and experience that an HVAC technician can also impact how much they earn. Employers are often willing to pay more for technicians with a certain number of years on the job as well as those who have completed certain types of advanced training courses.
For example, Indeed says that HVAC technicians with less than one year of experience earn $21.95 per hour on average. But those with more than 10 years of experience earn $32.08 on average.
Your area of specialization can also impact your earnings as an HVAC technician. For example, the BLS says that HVAC technicians that work in educational services earn an average of $54,260. But those technicians that are plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors earn an average of $49,240 annually.
How much education do HVAC technicians need?
It is technically possible to get hired as an HVAC technician with just a high school degree.
However, most employers prefer to hire applicants that have either completed formal academic training or an HVAC apprenticeship.
Most HVAC technicians that pursue formal academic training do so at a technical school, trade school, or community college. They will likely complete certifications or associate’s degrees in programs that cover heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. These can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete.
An aspiring HVAC technician may also decide to complete an apprenticeship. These can take the place of formal academic training or act as a supplement to it.
HVAC apprentice programs typically last between three and five years. They give new HVAC technicians the opportunity to develop real-world skills by working alongside experienced HVAC workers. Apprenticeships are offered by unions, non-union groups, and trade schools, among other parties.
Average HVAC hourly rate and annual salary in the US
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is $50,590 per year. That comes out to an hourly rate of approximately $24.32.
What are the most high-paying states for HVAC technicians?
If you’re looking for a job as an HVAC technician and you have geographic flexibility, you might consider moving to one of the following states. These are the five parts of the United States where HVAC technicians earn the most.
HVAC technicians in Alaska earn an average of $79,630 per year. That’s the highest annual mean wage in the country. However, the BLS says that only approximately 300 HVAC technicians are employed in Alaska so it may be more difficult to find a job here.
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia is also a great place to be an HVAC tech. Workers here earn an average of $73,460 per year, which is good for second-best in the United States.
HVAC techs in Hawaii earn an average of $65,640 per year. That comes out to an hourly mean wage of $31.56.
California is home to approximately 32,410 HVAC technicians, which is the second highest in the entire country. Workers here earn an average annual salary of $63,560, which is one of the highest in the United States.
Metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas where HVAC technicians make the most
State-level salary data can be useful to think about as you decide where to look for jobs as an HVAC technician. However, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can get even more geographically specific.
For example, here are the metropolitan areas where HVAC technicians earn the most:
- Fairbanks, AK – $91,840
- Napa, CA – $82,650
- Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA – $76,440
- San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA – $76,180
- Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA – $72,860
The BLS also tracks data on the non-metropolitan areas with the highest-paying jobs available for HVAC technicians. Here’s what that data tells us:
- Hawaii / Kauai nonmetropolitan area – $74,370
- Alaska nonmetropolitan area – $72,890
- Northeast Minnesota nonmetropolitan area – $71,280
- Massachusetts nonmetropolitan area – $64,170
- Nevada nonmetropolitan area – $60,050
Figures like these show that you don’t necessarily have to live in one of the highest-paying states for an HVAC technician to make more than average in this profession.
For example, Nevada is not one of the highest-paying states for HVAC techs. However, you can make more than the national average of $50,590 if you live in a nonmetropolitan part of the state.
Are HVAC technicians happy in their jobs?
It’s difficult to make a blanket statement about how the tens of thousands of people employed as HVAC technicians feel about their jobs. Some are certainly very happy with the career and others likely wish they could do something else.
What’s more relevant is whether you would be happy as an HVAC technician or not. One great way to make that determination is to consider the pros and cons of the job.
PROS OF BEING AN HVAC TECHNICIAN
HVAC technicians spend their time at job sites working with their hands. That type of work is much more appealing than a standard office job for many people.
If you decide to pursue this career, you’ll also enjoy the fact that you will be able to live and work basically anywhere you go. HVAC technicians are always needed because HVAC systems exist throughout the United States, and further afield.
HVAC technicians also begin earning a fair wage right away. You won’t have to slowly work your way up from minimum wage in this career path.
CONS OF BEING AN HVAC TECHNICIAN
One of the potential downsides of becoming an HVAC technician is having to make yourself available to work at odd hours. When a client’s HVAC system malfunctions, repairs often can’t wait until normal business hours. You may sometimes get calls in the middle of the night or early in the morning.
Additionally, HVAC technicians encounter more hazards on the job than many other professionals do. That’s because they commonly work with heavy equipment and toxic materials. It’s why your risk of experiencing a workplace injury is higher than average as an HVAC technician.
How far can you go in your HVAC technician career?
If you’re still interested in becoming an HVAC technician, you may want to know what your ceiling in the trade is. In other words, exactly how much money can you expect to earn as an HVAC technician if you make it to the top of the profession?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the highest 10% of HVAC technicians in terms of earning make approximately $80,820 per year. But that’s not necessarily the absolute most that you could make in this field.
It’s possible to earn six figures as an HVAC technician as well. But to do so, you would typically need to start your own business and start seeing your own clients. Once you get enough clients, you may even be able to begin hiring other HVAC technicians so that you can move into more of a managerial role.
Learn more about becoming an HVAC technician with Rock The Trade
The amount of money that you can earn as an HVAC tech is just one factor to consider as you think about whether this career is right for you. If you’d like to learn more about what HVAC technicians do and what it takes to become one, you can download the Rock the Trades app here to learn more about HVAC technicians and what this career path could look like for you.