HVAC versus Electrician: Which Skilled Trade is Better for You?

skilled trades training careersIf you look at skilled trade forums and discussion groups online, you’ll often see debate over HVAC and electrician—and which career path is better.

It’s not than one trade is actually superior to the other. It’s more that they’re both very popular…so students often have a hard time deciding which path to pursue.

In this post, we’re breaking down the benefits of both trades. To help you make a smart decision, we’ll look at training, key skills, job outlook, and typical pros and cons of HVAC and electrician work.

In the end, it will come down to which field you’re more passionate about. But we’re hoping this information helps clarify a few things. Let’s get started.

Job Outlook: HVAC Mechanic vs Electrician

The Government of Canada Job Bank publishes information on hundreds of occupations, for every city and region across the country. They tell you the latest salary and job outlook, as well as training requirements and key skills for each job.

The latest report for HVAC Mechanic and Electrician shows HVAC has a small edge in terms of employment outlook in Ontario.

The Job Bank gives HVAC 3 stars for demand—it’s highest possible rating. Electrician gets 2 stars—still a decent rating, but not quite as strong.

Employment Outlook for HVAC Mechanics in Ontario

HVAC careers

Employment Outlook for Electricians in Ontario

electrician careers

Employment of electricians in Ontario has been steady over the past 10 years, but there’s a bit more competition for jobs right now.

On the other hand, HVAC has actually been growing over the past decade, so there are lower levels of unemployment for this trade…and more positions available.

What about money? Well, if you look at those charts again, you’ll see HVAC mechanics and electricians make about the same in Ontario. The median salary for both is between $29-30/hour.

Career Options: HVAC vs Electrician

This is a really important point to consider when you’re deciding between HVAC and electrician. The truth is, both skilled trades offer many different career paths. Here’s a quick breakdown of popular options.

Electrician Careers

  • residential
  • commercial
  • industrial
  • line worker
  • network cabling/CATV specialist
  • security and fire alarm system installer

Get more details here: What are Your Career Options as an Electrician?

You can open up even more job opportunities if you take a Combined Electrician & Network Cabling Technology course.

Get more information on the benefits here: 4 Good Reasons to Combine Electrician & Network Cabling Training

HVAC Careers

  • HVAC contractors
  • manufacturers
  • food wholesalers
  • engineering firms
  • retail and servicing establishments
  • gas fitter

HVAC training includes preparation for the G2 gas technician certification. Once you get your G2, you’ll also be qualified to work as a gas fitter.

Get more details here: Top 4 HVAC Career Paths: Compare Your Options

Training & Certification: HVAC vs Electrician

Both HVAC Mechanic and Electrician are regulated trades in Ontario. This means you’ll need to go through a specific set of steps to get licensed and legally work in these fields.

The process is very similar for HVAC and electrician. Here’s a quick comparison of requirements.

Electrician

  • 840 hours of in-school training
  • 8,160 hours of on-the-job work experience (apprenticeship)
  • pass the College of Trade’s certification exam and meet registration requirements
  • apply to become certified and registered as a journeyperson in the trade
  • 9000 hours (approximately 5 years) total

 

HVAC Mechanic

  • 720 hours of in-school training
  • 8,280 hours of on-the-job training (apprenticeship)
  • pass the College of Trade’s certification exam and meet registration requirements
  • apply to become certified and registered as a journeyperson in the trade
  • 9000 hours (approximately 5 years) total

You’ll see some difference in the number of training hours…but it all works out to the same total in the end. All told, it will take you about 5 years to finish training, complete your apprenticeship, and become a licensed journeyperson in either of these skilled trades.

The good news is, you’ll get paid to learn during your apprenticeship.

Key Skills: HVAC vs Electrician

Whether you choose HVAC or electrician, you’ll need to know your products, systems, installation methods, maintenance, and safety protocols inside and out. So, what other specific skills are often associated with success in these fields?

For electricians, safety is a huge factor. If you don’t follow the right steps, you—or someone else—could get seriously injured or die. Electricians carry a heavy burden of responsibility. You must be vigilant and very detail-oriented.

Math skills are another well-known requirement for electricians. There are certain calculations and formulas you’ll use on a regular basis to perform routine tasks.

Check out this popular post for more details on the math you’ll learn in electrician training: How Much Math Do You Need to Become an Electrician?

In terms of HVAC, communication and customer service are often highlighted as major assets. You may find yourself selling products and upgrades to clients, so being able to build rapport and trust is key.

Also, HVAC products are rapidly evolving. There are tons of new eco-friendly heating/cooling products on the market, as well as high-tech digital systems.

It helps if you’re willing to keep learning and expanding your skills—so you can stay on top of innovations and present the best HVAC options to clients.

Of course, specific, additional skills you’ll need will depend heavily on the electrical or HVAC job you choose. But these are a few important traits to keep in mind when making your decision.

Related: Want a Job in HVAC? 5 Skills You’ll Need to Get Hired

Respect for the Trade: HVAC vs Electrician

HVAC techs and electricians both work on systems that are absolutely vital for our society. Take HVAC for instance. We all rely heavily on heating, ventilation, and cooling systems.

From private homes to office buildings to supermarkets to ice rinks to food transport companies—HVAC is essential for our economy and daily lives.

And what about electricians? How long could we survive without access to electrical power? From daily conveniences to city-sustaining power grids. Electricians (“sparkies”) are among the most highly respected tradespeople.

Both groups report high levels of job satisfaction. Both trades are considered relatively “clean”. Both may require getting into tight corners and confined spaces, and working at heights. And you may find yourself working outdoors, no matter which field you choose.

Next Steps: Exploring Pre-apprenticeship Training

Think you know which skilled trade you want to pursue? More lost than ever, and don’t know how to decide?

Your next step is to dig deeper into HVAC and electrical pre-apprenticeship training. Check out the courses included in both programs. Look closer at your career options, and think about your natural strengths and professional goals.

Most importantly, talk to an experienced Admissions Advisor who can help you narrow down your best bet.

An Advisor can assess your abilities and help you understand the specific skills needed to succeed in either electrical or HVAC training. They’ll help you make a smart choice.

Use the links below to explore HVAC and Electrician programs at Ontario’s leading pre-apprenticeship trade school.

Click to compare courses, request free information, and chat live with an Advisor. We’re here to help!

Click here to visit the Construction & Maintenance Electrician page and chat live with an advisor.

Click here to visit the HVAC Program page & explore courses/careers.

Are You Career Training Ready? Find Out!
Take the "Career Exploration Kit"

This fun, online quiz takes 3-minutes to complete and you’ll get a personalized report. Identify your strengths and social style, plus the training and positions you’re best suited for. Get Your Career Readiness score now

Take the Career Exploration Kit