In Houston, the average daily temperature for July reaches 94 degrees Fahrenheit, making a career in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration a high-demand and lucrative field.
"In a 100-mile radius, there can be as many as 1,100 air conditioning operations in business," said Ben Ficklin, air conditioning technology instructor at San Jacinto College's North Campus. "Air conditioning in any capacity as well as refrigeration are fields that aren't going anywhere and, especially in the Gulf Coast, are needed year-round."
At San Jacinto College, HVAC-R is taught in three stages: occupational, technical, and commercial. Each stage results in a certification and ultimately in an Associate of Applied Science degree in air conditioning technology. Students can earn a certification only and start working in the field or complete the track for a degree.
"I have a lot of students who earn their first certificate, and we won't see them for a while," said James Fairleigh, air conditioning technology instructor at San Jacinto College's South Campus. "But most will come back and finish their degree so they can advance in the field to become supervisors."
According to HVAC Career Map, over the last five years, heating and air conditioning contractors in the U.S. have grown by 3.1% to reach $94 billion. During the same timeframe, the number of HVAC-R businesses has grown by 2.6%, and the number of employees by 4.5%.
"If you're interested in helping people keep their homes at a comfortable temperature and save money with energy efficiency, now's the time to get into the HVAC-R industry," said Ficklin.
Within the HVAC-R field there are many career tracks, starting with a helper, or Tier 1, to a certified technician and supervisor in the commercial or residential field as well as becoming a small business owner.
To become an independent HVAC-R contractor in Texas, you must have four years' experience in the field, be officially endorsed by a licensed contractor, and pass a certification exam with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
"A career in air conditioning can be very rewarding and lucrative, though it can be very hard work," said Fairleigh. "There is an abundance of opportunity available to anyone who wants it, as long as you have a passion for the work."