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No matter how the economy shifts, some jobs remain critical. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning installation and maintenance personnel, better known as HVAC workers, are essential for commercial and residential properties. An HVAC training program can provide a solid grounding in the fundamentals you'll need for a career in the field, but learning more about HVAC careers before you choose your school is important. Many HVAC schools offer HVACR training: What does this mean? The extra letter stands for refrigeration, a technology that overlaps HVAC in many areas. While some refrigeration technicians work on the appliances familiar in every home, the majority work for professional kitchens, schools, hospitals and anywhere else that refrigeration is important. What are some HVAC and HVACR career options? Like any field, HVAC has a wide variety of specializations. If you have a background or interest in engineering, you might be involved with designing systems or improving HVAC technology. Are you a natural at sales and marketing? If so, then you may work as a vendor. Installation technicians build new systems or add ventilation to existing buildings. Large office buildings and commercial properties often employ maintenance staff to keep their complex ventilation system in good shape. Other HVAC workers prefer to own their own repair company and serve a variety of small businesses and homes. Specializing can add value to what you have to offer. Trained HVACR personnel are equipped to deal with the special needs of a hospital or manufacturing plants. Supermarkets and restaurants rely on their refrigeration systems, giving refrigeration installation and maintenance specialists other industries to specialize in. Experts who specialize in retro-fitting old homes with new central heating or air conditioning systems also have highly marketable skills. What makes someone a good HVACR career candidate? Successful HVACR personnel typically work well with their hands and take satisfaction in building things. Manual dexterity is important for anyone who repairs and maintains equipment, and that includes ventilation and refrigeration systems. Many HVAC jobs also require physical strength; you'll have equipment to help you maneuver bulky items such as refrigerators, but you'll still find a strong back an asset. If you're planning to open your own HVAC repair service, you'll need talents beyond your mechanical aptitude. Excellent customer service, efficient time management and sharp troubleshooting skills are vital for self-employed HVAC workers. Someone hoping to start their own business might consider taking some business administration courses along with their specialized HVAC training. What's the earning potential for HVAC workers? As in any industry, locale, demand, specialization, and education influence earning potential for HVACR workers. Entry-level workers and general maintenance personnel typically earn toward the lower end of the scale. Designers, distributors and specialists have higher earning potential. What education do HVACR workers need? Your educational needs depend on your specialty, but an accredited HVAC school is a good place to start. HVAC schools offer a range of options from six-month courses to two-year degree programs. Military training can also lead to HVACR careers, and these roles also involve practical experience. Even after graduation and certification, you'll spend time in an apprenticeship during which your earnings will be at the lower end of the pay scale. It can take years to master your career, particularly if you specialize. What challenges can an HVAC worker expect on the job? No matter what your role in the industry, expect pressure as an HVAC worker. Your customers want speedy service whether you're restoring their air conditioning on a hot day or installing a new refrigeration unit for a hospital's blood bank. You'll probably face uncomfortable conditions, too: close quarters, uncomfortable temperatures and bad weather are common challenges for HVAC personnel. As with any work that requires physical exertion, HVAC maintenance and repair jobs can be dangerous. You'll need to practice good safety procedures for dealing with high voltage equipment, chemical coolants and heat exhaustion. What's the ceiling on HVAC careers? If you're willing to continue your education and have a strong natural aptitude for the work, you'll have plenty of advancement opportunities. Everything from owning your own business to developing ecologically sustainable cooling systems for large multinational corporations can start with HVAC training. Caitlin Murphy writes on behalf of Redstone College offering degrees in HVAC, Aviation and Wind Energy.

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