HVAC vs. Electrician Career: Salary and Other Comparisons

If you’re at the beginning of your career and are interested in trades, you can choose from many options. That’s the good part. The bad part is that the decision isn’t always an easy one to make. Although most jobs in trade are pretty lucrative, there can be significant differences regarding income, job security, and possible career paths.

In this article, we’ll take a close look at two of very sought after trade jobs: Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning technician (or HVAC) and electricians. Read on to find out which option fits you best.

HVAC or Electricians Make More Money?

Let’s begin with the question that is on everybody’s lips: who makes more money?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 607,120 electricians in the U.S, a 0.8% increase since the last report. The vast majority of them (439,000) work in residential and commercial building and earn an annual mean wage of $55,737. The remaining percentage works in local government, employment services or non-residential building construction and earns an annual mean wage of $52,720.

The top 10% of electricians in the U.S. can make as much as $90,420 per year.

On a different note, the median annual salary for an HVAC technician in the U.S. is $42,731. It can range between $36,000 and $50,180, depending on factors like experience, skills, and certification.

Bottom line: if you are looking for a high paying job, then it would be better to consider a career as an electrician.

Differences between HVAC and Electrician and Job Descriptions

Electricians are responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining various electrical components that bring power to different sections of a residential, commercial or industrial building. Just as with any other job, they can specialize in different industries, depending on their interest and preferences. But, regardless of their specialization, their main duties include reading blueprints, inspecting and maintaining existing wiring, testing how the systems work, and ensuring that they operate safely and efficiently.

HVACs, which is short for “heating, ventilating, and air conditioning,” are professionals and trained individuals who are responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining the equipment that moves heat and cool air, and oxygen through a building. The systems are vital in both commercial and residential buildings, but especially in industrial centers that produce chemicals.

HVAC Technician and Engineer Salary

As mentioned above, an HVAC professional’s salary can vary greatly depending on their skills, experience, and geographic location. An HVAC technician in the U.S. earns a median income of $49, 340 per year. An HVAC engineer on the other hand, who has more training and a degree in mechanical engineering, can earn as much as $64,102 per year. The top 10% can make as much as $88,000 per year.

With an average annual income of $52,720, electricians earn a bit more than HVAC technicians, but their job can be extremely dangerous and life threatening. Exposure to electricity, heights, closed spaces, fires (or even explosions in some cases,) and carbon monoxide poisoning are among the top concerns for electricians. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census for Fatal Occupational Injuries, electrocution is the fifth leading cause of occupational injury death in the U.S., especially among those who routinely work with electrical sources.

HVAC Training and Differences with Electrician

You don’t need more than your high school diploma to enroll in an electrician apprenticeship program and become an electrician. The length of this program varies across the United States, but in most cases, it takes around five years to complete it.

The good news is that you will be paid an average of $14.21 per hour during your apprenticeship. You will need to complete 114 hours of training and close to 2,000 hours of paid on-site training to be able to call yourself an electrician.

The route to becoming an HVAC technician is pretty similar. Depending on your location, the apprenticeship can last no more than three years; other programs, on the other hand, can last more than five years.

Just like electrician apprenticeship, HVAC apprentices get paid during their training. Depending on their specialization, they can earn between $14.52 and $28.56 per hour as an HVAC installer and between $17.09 and $35.02 per hour as an HVAC service technician.

How to Find HVAC Jobs Near You

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVAC jobs are expected to grow by 14% by 2024. This industry is expected to see a worker shortage in the next few years as many old HVAC professionals are retiring. In fact, the BLS estimates that the U.S. will need one more HVAC professional for every technician already working.
Because of this shortage, large construction companies are hiring HVACs on a regular basis. You can find job listings on specialized websites, government’s job postings, social media, forums, or through word of mouth.


Both trades can provide a reliable income and a solid professional career. More than that, employment for both electricians and HVAC professionals is expected to grow in the next year, so your prospects are bright regardless of what you choose.

In the end, what matters is to figure out what you would like to do. Hopefully, this article can help you make an educated decision.