How to Become an HVAC Engineer: Skills, Requirements & Salary

Discover career paths to becoming an HVAC engineer. Find out about the necessary skills, educational requirements and salary to see if this career is a good fit for you. Schools offering Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

HVAC engineers are responsible for designing heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for residential and commercial spaces like schools, apartment buildings, offices and factories. Most need at least a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering technology or mechanical engineering. The chart below offers a brief overview of the HVAC engineering field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Mechanical engineering
Key Skills Creativity, problem-solving, mechanical skills
Voluntary Licensure Professional engineering (PE)
Job Growth (2016-2026) 9% (for all mechanical engineers*
Average Salary (2019) $65,673**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Payscale.com

What Do HVAC Engineers Do?

When a new commercial or residential building goes up, extensive planning goes into the design, including running electrical, plumbing and air conditioning/heating systems. HVAC engineers are charged with figuring out how to run air conditioning, heating and ventilation systems to work within the building's plans. This means finding creative ways to maximize space and efficiency. To do this, an HVAC engineer must have extensive knowledge of load calculations, construction techniques and the city's building codes.

Once the plans are complete, HVAC engineers typically oversee the installation of the heating and cooling system, and some are available after construction to deal with any problems that might arise.

Do You Need a Degree to Become an HVAC Engineer?

Entry-level HVAC engineers need at least a bachelor's degree in engineering or mechanical engineering, which is a 4-year endeavor. There are some colleges that boast 5-year programs that allow mechanical engineering students to get both a bachelor's and a master's degree at the same time. If you're going to teach mechanical engineering, a Ph.D. is usually required.

Do You Need a License to Be an HVAC Engineer?

No license is required for mechanical engineers, at least in an entry-level position, except for those who sell their services to the public. There are a few voluntary licenses, however. One is the Professional Engineering (PE), a license that typically lets a mechanical engineer oversee other engineers and give the go-ahead for projects, in addition to qualifying those who wish to sell services to the public. To become a professional engineer, candidates must have a bachelor's degree from a program accredited by ABET and a minimum of four years experience, plus they have to pass both the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam and the Professional Engineering Exam.

How Much Can You Make as an HVAC Engineer?

Payscale.com compiled anonymous salary data from HVAC engineers and came up with some figures for median pay. For entry-level engineers, the median pay in February 2019 was about $59,000 per year. Engineers with considerable experience saw a bump of around $20,000 per year to around $80,000.

Will the HVAC Engineering Field Grow?

HVAC engineering is a narrow field, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers some numbers on the growth of mechanical engineering in general. The BLS projects a rise in employment for mechanical engineers of 9% between 2016 and 2026, which is slightly above the average for all other occupations.

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