As long as we continue to experience extreme temperature and climate variations in our environment, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems will be necessary. But not all HVAC systems perform as expected all the time or only when you need them. Thus, there is a great demand for HVAC engineers. This article will explain how to become an HVAC engineer and whether or not the field is a worthwhile one to pursue.

1. What is an HVAC engineer?

An HVAC mechanical engineer’s main responsibility is to design various HVAC systems, which include all of the ventilation, air conditioning, heating, and cooling systems.

The main duty of an HVAC engineer is to design them in such a way that they can improve in all or at least one of their features.

HVAC engineers plan and supervise the installation of HVAC systems in both residential and commercial structures. Although they work primarily from offices, they occasionally travel to job sites.

>> Read more: HVAC Technician

hvac engineer career path

2. Difference between HVAC technician and HVAC engineer

2.1. HVAC technician duties and responsibilities

  • Connect systems to fuel and water supply lines, air ducts and other components.
  • Install electric wiring.
  • Inspect and test units to ensure they’re working properly.
  • Troubleshoot HVAC problems.
  • Repair or replace broken or worn parts.
  • Advise people about the right size and type of HVAC unit for a home, office building or manufacturing plant.

2.2. HVAC engineer tasks

  • Coordinate project budgets and help with bidding.
  • Meet with clients to discuss the creation and installation of new HVAC systems.
  • Retrofit energy-efficient HVAC equipment to existing systems

salary of hvac engineer

3. HVAC engineer salary

The correct answer to this question varies depending upon the experience and skill set of an HVAC mechanical engineer. As an overview, an HVAC mechanical engineer makes a minimum of $54,000 while a maximum of $96,000 a year. On average they make $64,000 annually. Below is a table that mentions the average annual income of an HVAC engineer depending upon their experience.

Experience level


Average Annual Income

Entry level Less than 1 year $60,000
Early level 1 to 4 years $65,000
Mid level 5 to 9 years $81,000
High level 10 to 19 years $87,000
Expert 20+years $99,000

Source: Arlington Air Conditioning Services

4. How to become an HVAC engineer

4.1. Qualifications

Start by getting a bachelor’s degree. Even though an associate degree can be used to become an HVAC engineer, most HVAC engineers hold bachelor’s degrees. It could be in HVAC technology engineering, mechanical engineering, or even architectural engineering. A bachelor’s degree can be earned in four years, and picking the right school can improve your job prospects.

To be able to legally work as an HVAC engineer, you must obtain a license approved by your state. Professional Engineering (PE) is a license that allows engineers to supervise other engineers and make critical project decisions. To obtain your PE, you must pass the Professional Engineering Exam, which includes three mechanical engineering subcategories. Although obtaining a PE is not necessary to work in HVAC engineering if you have a degree in HVAC technology, it may increase your employment options and enable you to make a higher pay.

For better opportunities and more expertise, you can further get a professional qualification or get a specialization in some important aspects of HVAC engineering as well.

Once you have your bachelor’s degree and PE license, you can seek entry-level work experience. You can register as an HVAC apprentice in some states and work a certain number of hours under the supervision of a licensed contractor. Various organizations offer short-term training and provide professional certificates that will not only increase your skills but will help you earn more as well. Any work opportunities that allow you to apply your skills can help you enhance your resume and increase your chances of employment. 

4.2. Skills

An HVAC engineer needs to be able to address problems, much like an HVAC technician. Their duties are comparable, yet they frequently collaborate rather than compete with one another. Whereas an HVAC technician is educated to do certain jobs, an HVAC engineer develops the equipment, creates new technologies, and creates new goods. In general, an HVAC engineer must possess all of the same abilities as an HVAC technician, but with a deeper understanding of math, software, and physics. Learning and becoming an expert of some necessary computer software, mainly CAD will also help to get bigger and better HVAC engineering jobs.

A technician position often requires less education and experience than an engineering position. A solid first step toward becoming an engineer is to train as an HVAC technician.

>> Read more: HVAC technician skills

5. Career prospects for HVAC engineers

It’s a smart career choice overall to pursue HVAC engineering. The demand is increasing quickly, and the best part is that if you don’t want to commit to anything or take orders from a boss, you may work as a freelancer. Keep in mind that HVAC engineering is only a smart career choice if you appreciate and are competent at resolving mechanical or technical problems in systems.

hvac engineer

There are several advantages to working in the HVAC sector, regardless of whether you choose to be a technician or an engineer. You not only get to help people, but you also get the satisfaction of conquering obstacles and seeing projects through to completion.

An HVAC engineer has a wide range of career options because he can choose between working for an organization or launching his own firm without making a significant financial commitment.

Companies continue to hire additional engineers to keep up with the boom in HVAC systems and the growing demand.