Updated December 2023
If 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 that 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 that both of these trades have positive employment outlooks in Ontario. The Job Bank gives each of them three out of five stars, which means demand should remain steady.
What about money? Well, if you look at those charts again, you'll see that electricians make more than HVAC mechanics in Ontario. The median salary for HVAC mechanics is about $65,000, while the median salary for electricians is roughly $71,000.
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.
You can get into line work, network cabling, or security or fire alarm installation. You can also specialize in residential, commercial, or industrial work.
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 course. Get more information on the benefits here: 4 Good Reasons to Combine Electrician & Network Cabling Training
As an HVAC specialist, you can pursue opportunities with:
- HVAC contractors
- Food wholesalers
- Engineering firms
- Retail and servicing establishments
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: Career Paths After HVAC + Gas Tech Training: What Are 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 mechanics and electricians. Here's a quick comparison of requirements.
- 840 hours of in-school training
- 8,160 hours of on-the-job work experience (apprenticeship)
- 9,000 hours (approximately five years) total
- 720 hours of in-school training
- 8,280 hours of on-the-job training (apprenticeship)
- 9,000 hours (approximately five 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 five 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?
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?
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.
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 or 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 speak with admissions. An admissions advisor will guide you through both programs and help you decide which career path fits your needs.
Chat live with an advisor right now. Or click below to explore either program in more detail. We're here to help!