HVAC&R career pathways

Careers in HVAC&R – or the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industry – encompass more areas of engineering and trades than you might imagine.

This page focuses on two major career pathways in the industry:

  1. Mechanical engineer – HVAC&R building services
  2. Tradesperson

Mechanical engineer – HVAC&R building services

Mechanical engineers – HVAC&R building services are engineering professionals who plan, design, install, commission, operate, tune, and maintain mechanical machines and systems in the built environment. This includes air conditioning plants, ventilation systems, chillers, cooling towers, refrigeration systems for food production and preservation applications, transport cooling systems, fire and smoke systems, medical facilities, and control systems.

Engineers typically hold a mechanical engineering degree from a university and receive on-the-job training. They are also responsible for continuing professional development (CPD). AIRAH recommends its members undertake 50 hours of CPD each year.

 

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4
Receive an engineering degree Get on-the-job experience Apply for the appropriate licensing for your state/territory Engage in ongoing career progression and professional development 

 

Following graduation, the typical career pathway for a mechanical engineer – HVAC&R building services progresses through four stages:

Graduate mechanical engineer

Graduate engineer (for recent university graduates) or engineering officer (for those with a trade background or those currently studying toward an engineering degree)

Role: Undertake concept design, schematic design, design development, tender documentation, construction supervision, and practical completion duties under the direct supervision of a more senior engineer.

Mechanical engineer

Mechanical engineer / building services engineer

Undertake concept design, schematic design, design development, tender documentation, construction supervision, and practical completion duties under the limited supervision of a more senior engineer, or independently.

Senior mechanical engineer

Senior mechanical engineer / senior building services engineer

Role: Undertake feasibility assessment, master planning, design development, tender, and construction supervision duties with broad conceptual guidance from a more senior engineer.

Principal engineer

Principal engineer

Role: Translate clients brief into a system that achieves the engineering functions required of a building. Direct resources, personnel, and new business towards fulfilment of overall organisational objectives. Lead business development, service provision, and technical quality and innovation.

 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recognises “building services engineer” as an official occupation under the specialisation 233512 Mechanical Engineer since the release of ANZSCO Version 1.2, May 14, 2013. Please note that ANZSCO is currently under review and selected occupations associated with engineering and construction and health will be reviewed using the new approach during 2021–22.

In Australia, the registration of engineers is determined by the states/territories. As a professional engineer, you may be required to register individually to these state- and territory-based schemes in order to provide engineering services. This may involve demonstration of a minimum qualification and a competency assessment. For more information on professional registration, please click here.

AIRAH has introduced the AIRAH Professional Engineer Register (APER) accreditation program for mechanical engineer – HVAC&R building services professionals. A successful application to become listed on the APER will display to the industry – and to the public at large – your qualifications and commitment to the discipline.

AIRAH Professional Engineer Register

 

If you are a mechanical engineer – HVAC&R building services we encourage you to explore Ecolibrium, AIRAH’s official journal.

Tradesperson

HVAC&R building services tradespeople work on the tools. The role may involve installation, maintenance, and repair in commercial or residential settings.

 

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4
Undergo Certificate III training at an RTO Participate in an apprenticeship Apply for the appropriate licensing for your state/territory Engage in ongoing career progression and professional development 

AIRAH HVAC&R tradesperson career pathways


Many HVAC&R technicians are employed by construction contractors, though some also own and operate their own businesses.

Professionals with a trades background can carry out many different levels of work, from performing installation and maintenance, right through to supervising tasks and undertaking design work based on prescriptive standards.

 

 

If you work in the trade, you can stay up-to-date with the latest industry news by reading HVAC&R Nation – AIRAH’s free magazine for tradespeople and end users.