Becoming an HVAC Design Engineer: Salary & Job Description

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An HVAC design engineer's median salary is around $53,000. Is it worth the education and licensure requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming an HVAC design engineer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of an HVAC Design Engineer Career

HVAC design engineers are licensed mechanical engineers who design heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Continue reading to learn about other pros and cons so you can make an informed decision about your career.

Pros of an HVAC Design Engineering Career
Only a bachelor's degree is required*
Median salary ($53,530 in 2014)*
Often work in an office*
Opportunity to challenge yourself with problem-solving scenarios*

Cons of an HVAC Design Engineering Career
Slower job growth (five percent expected between 2012 and 2022)*
Might work more than 40 hours per week*
Must earn a license and renew it annually*
Should stay on top of technological advances*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Info

Job Description

According to various job postings, HVAC design engineers create and modify cooling and heating systems. You'll test them to make sure they're working properly and effectively. It's also likely that you'll update HVAC systems in commercial and residential buildings. In some instances, you might be responsible for managing other HVAC designers, technicians and mechanics to make sure they're correctly installing the systems and that there aren't any problems. You'll keep projects running smoothly and efficiently to complete them in a timely manner.

Job Growth and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment opportunities for mechanical engineers in general are expected to increase only about nine percent between 2012 and 2022 ( However, the Education Resources Information Center states that there's a need for individuals who have specialized knowledge in HVAC design ( reported that the average salary for HVAC design engineers ranged from $40,000-$72,000 in July 2015. However, your job experience and where you live can influence your salary. For instance, the salary for individuals with 1-4 years of field experience ranged from $38,000-$60,000, but for individuals with 5-9 years of experience, it ranged from $40,000-$72,000.

Education and Training Requirements

Becoming an HVAC design engineer requires a thorough understanding of math, science and technology as well as at least a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Through this degree program, you'll study electronics, computer-aided design, physics, calculus, network analysis, mechanical design and control engineering. Some of your classes address basic computer skills, while others go into depth regarding heat transference and air flow. With this background, you'll acquire skills in:

  • Creative design
  • Design analysis
  • Problem-solving
  • Mechanics
  • Management

You'll also need a Professional Engineering licensure if you offer services directly to the public. This requires passing your state's Fundamentals of Engineering exam, gaining professional experience and then passing the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers are typically looking for someone who can improve HVAC designs using modern standards and techniques. They're often want people with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and some experience working with HVAC systems and equipment. Employers also prefer people with skills in communication and teamwork. The following are a few HVAC design engineer job listings that can give you an idea of the experience and skills employers were looking for during April 2012:

  • A utilities engineering company in Baltimore, MD, wanted to hire someone with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering who had five or more years of experience and a PE license. The ad stated that experience in HVAC design and the ability to lead were also desirable characteristics.
  • An energy industry employer in Tennessee was interested in hiring a person who had a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, HVAC experience and energy. The ad mentioned that this employer was looking for someone with management and problem-solving skills.
  • An engineering consulting team in Manhattan, NY, advertised for an HVAC design engineer with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, five years of experience, a PE license and a LEED AP credential. According to the ad, the employee's responsibilities would include designing HVAC systems, attending meetings with clients and managing projects.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

One of the best ways to stand out in this field is to gain experience in HVAC structural design. You can do this by taking additional college courses that pertain directly to HVAC design. You could even complete a 1-year graduate certificate program in HVAC engineering or HVAC systems design. Professional organizations, such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, also offer courses that could provide you with experience in HVAC design (

If it's possible, you should complete an internship with an HVAC engineering company. This will get you the experience working in HVAC design and can make it easier to find a job in that field, later.

Other Careers to Consider

If you think that HVAC design engineering isn't quite right for you, but you're interested in similar jobs, you might consider becoming a mechanical engineering technician. They work with mechanical engineers to develop, design and test machinery, products and equipment. The employment growth for this career is sluggish at only four percent between 2010 and 2020, but you could average around $51,000 annually in 2011, according to the BLS. The job requires only an associate's degree in mechanical engineering technology.

If length of study isn't a deterrent, you might consider becoming an architect. With a median annual salary of around $73,000 in 2011, architects design restaurants, bridges, churches, homes and other structures. However, you must have at least a bachelor's degree in architecture, which takes five years to complete, and pass a licensure exam. The BLS states that employment of architects is expected to grow rapidly, at a rate of about 24% this decade, which is faster than average.

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