How to Become a Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Engineer


Step-By-Step Guide

Although there are other paths to take, here is a brief overview of what it takes to become an HVAC Engineer:


1. Excel in math, science and technology coursework while in high school

2. Make sure you have the right personal traits for this work

3. Pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering

4. Get work experience as a student via internship and co-op opportunities 

5. Get an ‘Engineer-in-training’ job after graduation

6. Earn “Professional Engineer” status and other relevant industry certification

7. Advance into roles of greater responsibility and pay, or into roles in related fields


Reading on below will give you a good idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Engineer in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful occupational information for this field, such as what you’ll be doing, what you could earn, and actual job postings in your area!



What Education Will I Need?

Becoming an HVAC engineer typically requires a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Through such a program, you would study electronics, computer-aided design, physics, calculus, network analysis, mechanical design and control engineering. 


If you have an undergraduate degree in a different area, you can still get into this field with a graduate certificate in HVAC engineering.





What is a Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Engineer?

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers are mechanical engineers who design and develop systems which cool, heat, purify, circulate, humidify and dehumidify air. These systems not only increase comfort in living and working spaces, they also help machines, computers and equipment work at optimum levels. 



What Do They Do?

HVAC engineers are responsible for designing, developing, evaluating, maintaining and repairing HVAC systems for residential, commercial, institutional or industrial clients. Specifically, their job duties can include:


• Solving problems unique to each building, vehicle and environment

• Designing systems using computer aided design programs and hand sketches

• Consulting with engineering drafters

• Performing calculations pertaining to HVAC systems and their installation

• Seeking design approval from management

• Preparing project cost and client cost estimates 

• Overseeing the work of technicians, and junior-level engineers

• Ensure compliance with relevant local, regional and national building codes

• Keeping abreast of developments in the field, and ensuring licensing is up to date

• Conferring with purchasing and production departments to determine the feasibility of the design



Will I Need to Be Licensed as a Professional Engineer?

You will need to be licensed as a Professional Engineer (“PE” - United States; “P.Eng.” - Canada) in order to exercise direct control of a public project and to supervise other engineers and engineering technicians.


You will also need to have the PE/P.Eng. designation in order to sell your own engineering services publicly. You won’t however, need to have the Professional Engineer designation to be hired on as an engineer-in-training, which involves working under the supervision of a licensed engineer.



How to Become Licensed

Licensing requirements typically involve completion of an engineering degree, completion of a set number of supervised working hours, and passing an exam. However, these requirements can vary, so please contact your provincial/territorial/state engineering association for full details on becoming licensed.



Is There Additional Certification Available?

Special certification may also be available in your region that will help demonstrate your expertise in specialized areas, such as high-performance building design. This certification can vary from region to region, so be sure to contact your provincial/state engineering licensing body for information on certification programs available in your area.


Please Note: Continuing education will likely be required throughout your career in order to stay abreast of changing technology, and maintain your certification/licensing.



How Can I Get Started as a High School Student?

Becoming an HVAC engineer requires a thorough understanding of math, science and technological savvy. Be sure to excel in these areas as a high school student; doing so will not only get your mind primed for this work at an early age, it will help qualify you for mechanical engineering degree programs.





What Traits Do I Need to Be Successful? 

If you have the following personal traits you'll not only be well suited for work as an HVAC engineer, you’ll be a standout:


• You have a keen interest in math, physics, engineering, creative design, design analysis and mechanics

• You enjoy seeing projects through from inception to completion

• You can visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings

• You enjoy performing work that require precision and attention to detail

• You have a customer service-oriented approach to projects

• You’re interested in how the total costs to produce products and perform services affect company decisions

• You’re willing to learn to live by your employers’ values and codes of conduct

• You have the analytical and listening skills to find solutions to understand and meet the needs of customers

• You’re willing to stay ahead of the curve and seek out new opportunities to learn new technologies



What is the Salary Level in This Field?

As part of the Mechanical Engineers occupational group, HVAC engineers earn a median salary of $87,370 per year in the United States. Their salary can vary based on factors such as their level of experience, the amount of responsibility inherent in their job, the size and type of their employer, the region in which they work, and other factors. 



More About Salary Levels

As mentioned above, the salary level you could earn as an HVAC engineer can vary, based on the following factors:


• Your level of education, experience and certification

• The level of responsibility involved in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• Many other factors


HVAC Engineer Salary - Canada: According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the overall average salary of Albertans working in the “Mechanical Engineers” occupational group (which includes ‘HVAC Engineers’) is $107,815 per year. According to WorkBC (Province of British Columbia), those working the same occupational group earn an annual provincial median salary of $88,005. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (September 14, 2019).


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median salary level of Americans working in the “Mechanical Engineers” occupational group is $87,370 per year. The lowest 10% of salaries for this occupational group are below $56,270 and the highest 10% of salaries are above $136,550 (Please Note: This might or might not include ‘HVAC Engineers’).



What Kinds of Employers Hire HVAC Engineers?

HVAC engineers are often employed by the following types of organizations: 


• Engineering consulting or design firms

• Government agencies (all levels of government)

• Facilities offices

• Research institutions

• Colleges and universities

• HVAC equipment manufacturers

• HVAC equipment sales offices

• Self-employment

• Building construction contractors



HVAC Engineer Jobs - Current Opportunities

Our job board below has "HVAC Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. 




What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

If you demonstrate a strong work ethic, dedication and competence, you will have plenty of opportunities to advance into roles of greater responsibility and pay as you gain experience.


For example, you could eventually move into a supervisory or management role, such as project engineer or project manager. You could also become a self-employed consultant in the field of HVAC engineering, building services engineering, or a similar field.


You could also move into a complimentary field, such as marketing or technical sales. With a graduate degree you could move into a teaching and/or research position. 



What are Careers Similar to This One?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “HVAC Engineer”:


Energy Auditor

• Energy Efficiency Engineer

• Facilities Engineer

• Industrial Engineer

• Maintenance Engineer

• Mechanical Engineer

• Technical Sales Engineer



What Relevant Scholarships Are There? 

Scholarships in our system are organized by field of study. The fields that are relevant to this profession are listed below on our "Relevant Areas of Study" section below. Any scholarships found within those fields will be suitable, all of which can be found on our Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about this profession:


• Occupational Profile: “Mechanical Engineer.” (March 31, 2018). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved September 14, 2019.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Mechanical Engineers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved September 14, 2019.

• Job Profiles: “Heating and Ventilation Engineer.” (n.d.). National Careers Service. Retrieved February 28, 2017.

• Engineering Jobs: “Becoming an HVAC Design Engineer.” Shujaathussian Soudagar (March 23, 2015). Linked In. Retrieved February 28, 2017.

• Explore Careers: “Mechanical Engineers.” (January 24, 2018). WorkBC - Province of British Columbia. Retrieved September 14, 2019.


Please Note: Some of the information used for this career guide was obtained from actual job postings, which due to their brief online presence are not listed here as references. 



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming an HVAC engineer. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Engineer