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Is it worth it to go get HVAC/R training after graduating engineering college?

  1. Sep 9, 2011 #1
    I am a recent graduate from a not particularly prestigious engineering school with a mechanical and energy engineering degree and mathematics minor. I ended up with a 2.8 GPA. I plan on passing the FE/EIT exam at the end of October. No internships.. Seems like I'm stuck in the 'need experience to get experience' catch 22 and I ain't not be smart enough. I am not getting many call backs from the jobs I applied to. I was wondering if getting my HVAC/R technicians license(and maybe later a contractors license) would be worth it. Would I only get low paying technical jobs which make graduating college useless? Would engineering employers be impressed?

    Is there a faster way to get my license since I have an engineering degree?

    thanks for reading!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2011 #2
    HVAC is a very hands on field so these licenses would get attention. A contractors license would be good for you in my opinion.
  4. Sep 12, 2011 #3
    You may want to look into possibly working for a controls contractor, perhaps as a controls engineer. This is not an 'official' engineering position for which you need to be licensed, you design the control system for a building based on the design engineer's specifications, using your company's products. You may be required to go into the field as a technician first, to learn the field, but this varies from company to company; you can get hired directly as an engineer or designer. The plus to this is you will make plenty of contacts with engineering firms in your area, since you will be working directly with them; typically, the mechanical design engineers are not as knowlegable as you will be on how equipment should operate in practice, and will rely on you for advice in that regard.

    It's always tough to get your foot in the door, but its also hard to find smart people for these types of positions, educated people who learn quickly, and positions are available.

    Major national players are Johnson, Honeywell, Siemens, and there are lots of smaller contractors who are regional reps for these and other national manufacturers.

    The only other option I could think of, if you want to work for a mechanical engineer or the like, is to go in as a drafter while you get your 4 years for the PE (or whatever the requirement is). You'll need AutoCAD skills if you didn't have this in college.

    Hope this helps!
  5. Sep 13, 2011 #4
    hmm thanks for the advice. Well I already enrolled in this class:

    http://cms.nctc.edu/NCTCDev/LifelongLearning/jobskills/hvaconeandtwo.aspx [Broken]

    I don't know for certain but i think i'm the only person with an engineering degree in there.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  6. Sep 13, 2011 #5
    Hi cdf0080,

    let me try to answer this in a broader sense - please ignore if this is too vague.

    I strongly believe it is always a good thing to acquire some hands-on skills even if you might feel / think you are "overqualified" in terms of academic degrees (or other people with advanced degrees might tell you that).
    I have a PhD in experimental physics which qualifies me to work as a consulting engineer in my coutry. Nevertheless I am going for another MSc in energy engineering and I actually did seriously consider to attend courses that were designed mainly for technicians without any academic degree (actually in HVAC BTW).

    This is a wild guess as I am from Europe and it may depend on corporate culture:

    But I always felt that in an environment dominated by engineers you can stand-out from the crowd of people with a degree if you have demonstrated to "make your hands dirty" and by your willingness to really learn the details bottom up. There are too many graduates already that are just eager to switch from technical work to "management" as soon as possible (and who would rather attend project management courses than an additional hands-on training).

    This is especially true for companies that value long-term experience more than academic degrees. In some companies I have seen management positions being staffed rather with people with 20 years experience in that specific industry sector and with vocational training / highschool "only".
    In such an environment you need to have quite some social skills as a young graduate so that the battle-scarred veterans do not consider you an arrogant newbie that knows nothing about how stuff *really* works. Any hands-on experience and training can only help.
  7. Sep 13, 2011 #6
    That's encouraging. I actually had a great time at the first day of class. Got to solder with a torch which is something I've never done in school or in jobs. I actually want to get my hands dirty and do more physical stuff. I think I'd be content with a tech job if I didn't know the fat cats in the office make so much more money. I think I'm too green to know what I 'really' want though.
  8. Sep 13, 2011 #7
    I started off 25 years ago as an instrumentation technician at a water company. I did that to support my habit of attending engineering school at night. When I graduated, there weren't many job offers because the cold war was over and people were scrambling to find work. I had an offer for a promotion if I stuck around. I did, and I haven't regretted that one bit.

    It is easy for engineers who have never been there to miss critical details on how the field work is done. There is no substitute for having seen what is really on site, not just what the "As Built" drawings from the previous construction say there is. There is no substitute for KNOWING exactly how well the previous technology worked. Some of it does far better than anyone ever expected, and some of it was just a damned pipe dream that should never be perpetrated again.

    If you choose to the practical, hands-on route and you pursue the PE, you will ensure a steady stream of work at all levels, from rehab projects to bleeding edge cool stuff.

    Knowing real tradesmen is also a good thing. You then learn what you can realistically ask for and get.

    I say this because I was once an instrumentation technician. Now I am a senior control systems engineer. I have credibility from the bottom to the top because I've been there. I know other career engineers who are in dead end jobs because they never learned the dirty side of the business.

    It's good to have experience and friends in all places...
  9. Sep 14, 2011 #8
    Yery well said, Jake - I wholeheartedly agree!

    cdf0080, I would not worry too much about the suits in the office who earn so much money. Personally I know many of these managers who had been technical specialists before but who climbed up the corporate ladder quickly - because this seems to be the standard thing to do. Many of them are not happy and consider their salaries partly a compensation for suffering from office politics. Talking to such people 1 on 1 they sometimes admit they would be happier as a technician than as a manager.

    However be prepared to be met with a lack of understanding by collegues if you stick to your down-to-earth approach - I speak from experience. I had turned down management glory in favor a technical role - but really I never regretted it.
  10. Jul 8, 2013 #9
    My father is a self-employed HVAC/R technician and I have to admit, that man has made considerable financial progress if we measured in terms of investment properties.
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