Career Opportunities

  • Consultants in the PL/HVAC/R industry design systems for new facilities and apply energy conservation principles in existing facilities. The consulting engineer prepares specifications and drawings, estimates costs, supervises the installation of equipment and systems, and approves the project at completion. Frequently, they face the special challenges of ensuring environmental health and safety and designing complex systems for specific industries.

    PL/HVAC/R consulting firms are, for the most part, independent companies and their employees generally hold degrees in mechanical, electrical, or chemical engineering. The consulting engineering firm requires not only graduate engineers but engineering technicians as well, who serve as designers and draftpersons.

    In their professional development, consultants must continuously keep up-to-date to be able to include the latest technologies in their designs. The ability to use the computer for cost analysis, the evaluation of alternative systems, and in the design process has become an extremely important skill as well.


    Utility companies are involved in the generating and distribution of energy that operates heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration systems. Without this energy available on a continuous and uninterrupted basis, most systems could not operate, health would be impaired, and food would spoil. This industry is responsible for using almost 1/3 of the total energy consumed in the United States.

    Although the utilities’ main function is to provide the energy required by the public, they also share with the rest of the industry the responsibility for seeing that this energy is used wisely and without waste. Engineers and technicians in utility companies provide many related services including: system design, installation, operation, and maintenance of physical plant as well as generating equipment, evaluations of existing systems and buildings, energy use surveys, and life-cycle cost studies. Advice is also provided to customers that will assist them with wiser energy use options.

    Contracting and Service

    After plans and specifications for new or renovated projects are completed, the PL/HVAC/R contractor provides the skills necessary for assembling, building, testing, and making operational the various systems. Contracting companies throughout the industry employ graduate mechanical and electrical engineers to provide the link between the actual construction and the design team. Contracting firms also require the services of draftspeople and other technicians who will assist in the preparation and assembly of shop drawings, construction drawings, construction details, estimating, and the actual supervision and monitoring of the construction process. Engineers and technicians in the contracting business must have a working knowledge of the various mechanical systems and their components.

    Servicing and maintaining plumbing, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration systems and equipment are very important functions provided by companies that often are branches of contracting companies. Engineers and technicians involved in this work guarantee that the systems will operate properly to achieve the objectives of the designer and the user. All mechanical systems are subject to failure; therefore, technicians that understand the principles of air conditioning, the laws of thermodynamics, the principles of controls, and the operation of PL/HVAC/R equipment represent a vital part of this industry.


    The manufacturing industry is an important segment of the plumbing, heating, air conditioning, ventilating, and refrigeration industry since manufacturers develop and produce the equipment and systems we use and are the source of many innovations in technology. Manufacturing companies are of all sizes. Many have extensive investments in facilities for product development, testing, and production. Manufacturers are an important source of technical know-how.

    As the manufacturing process becomes more computer based, those interested in careers in this segment of the industry will need to understand computer-controlled production, flexible manufacturing systems, and robotics. Many careers are available in PL/HVAC/R manufacturing for engineers, technicians, draftspersons, and production personnel.

    Merchandising and Sales

    An important link between the equipment manufacturers, the consulting engineer and the contractor is those in our industry who are involved in the merchandising and sale of PL/HVAC/R technology. To be successful in this aspect of the industry requires not only technical as well as engineering know-how, it requires excellent communications skills as well.

    Engineers and technicians involved in merchandising and sales provide technical support that the consulting and contracting industries need to properly apply the latest technology and systems concepts.

    Merchandising and sales are sometimes completed directly by larger companies with their own sales force. There are also many independent manufacturer representatives who offer the smaller manufacturers an opportunity to present their products to the industry.

    Teaching and Research

    Faculty at colleges and universities, vocational and technical schools develop and teach the courses, that the engineer and technician will need to gain the knowledge and skills to succeed in the PL/HVAC/R field. Many of these faculty have earned advanced degrees in related areas and have had extensive experience as practitioners, allowing them to provide students with both a theoretical as well as an applied understanding.

    Research is also an important role for PL/HVAC/R faculty. They are constantly engaged in the research necessary to develop new technologies and to test and improve existing systems. Much of the emphasis in research today involves using computers to simulate and model systems to determine optimum efficiency. Computers also assist in the PL/HVAC/R systems designing process.

    Research also, is conducted in independent laboratories as well as within large company operated research and development (R&D) departments. In order to benefit from this research, it is vital for PL/HVAC/R professionals to continue their education throughout their career.

    Technical publications, seminars, and trade-related conferences provide many opportunities for keeping your knowledge finely honed. Businesses and government provide training to their engineers and technicians. Technical and engineering colleges and universities throughout the world develop and present extensive continuing education programs for the PL/HVAC/R industry as well.

    Job Titles, Mechanical Systems

    • Manager
    • Engineer
    • Engineering Assistant
    • Draftsperson
    • Application Engineer
    • Sales and Merchandisers
    • Estimator
    • Supervisor
    • Foreman
    • Controls Technician
    • Pipefitter Technician / Mechanic
    • Plumber Technician / Mechanic
    • Manufacturing Assembler
    • Installer
    • Consultant — Commissioning
    • Attendant / Operator