Construction, Installation, Maintenance, and Repair
Required Education, Credentials, and Licenses
- High school diploma or GED
- 3+ years of experience with HVAC/R, controls, or building management systems
Preferred Education and Credentials
- Vocational training or associate degree in a related mechanical field
- Manufacturer’s certifications
- Valid New York State driver’s license
- Interpreting mechanical diagrams
- Commissioning automated systems
- Programming HVAC/R software
- Mechanical aptitude
- Critical thinking
- Physical abilities (walk, crouch, lift up to 75 pounds, good vision)
- Maintain documentation
- Oral communication
- Customer service
Controls technicians install, maintain, and repair control units of mechanical systems and equipment. Systems are becoming increasingly automated. As a result, within the HVAC/R field, these building automation systems (BAS) may include direct digital control (DDC) systems, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems (which can be integrated with mechanical and other building systems and allow them to be monitored off-site), and energy management systems (EMS).
Controls technicians should be comfortable interpreting mechanical drawings of control and wiring systems and using digital hardware and software needed to install and manage automation systems. The installation and commissioning process can include downloading and programming software, connecting equipment (e.g., meters, thermostats), calibrating the system according to specifications, and testing it to see whether it is functioning properly. The controls on modern clean energy HVAC/R systems such as heat pumps are more complex than those used in traditional fossil fuel-based systems, so controls technicians will need training to ensure they are knowledgeable about the equipment used in electricity-based heating and cooling systems that are increasingly being installed in buildings. Attention to detail is needed to correctly follow complex instructions to control machines. Controls technicians inspect systems and provide preventive maintenance. If inefficiencies or malfunctions are identified, controls technicians troubleshoot the issue to diagnose the problem and then think critically to complete repairs and resolve the problem. They may propose new designs or adjustments to the software programming for the system and they maintain service logs, drawings, or other documentation of their work.
Controls technicians may spend extended periods of time on their feet – walking, standing, climbing ladders – and must also be able to crouch and crawl to access low spaces. They may be required to lift or move materials weighing up to 75 pounds and need manual dexterity and good vision.
Effective communication skills help controls technicians maintain positive client relationships since they often have contact with customers to train them on system operations and explain recommended or necessary services. Strong teamwork skills enable controls technicians to collaborate with managers, subcontractors, and other trades professionals. Controls technicians may train other mechanical workers (e.g., mechanical technicians) on building automation systems so leadership skills are important.
Controls technicians are typically employed at worksites on a full-time basis. They may have to work on evenings and weekends as well as be on call for emergencies.
According to the New York State Department of Labor, there are approximately 5,000 control and valve installers and repairers (excluding those who work on mechanical doors) in New York State. They project this occupation to grow by 40 jobs between 2018 and 2028, which reflects a relatively small projected growth rate and number of expected job openings compared to other occupations.
Entering the Field
Controls technicians typically need to have a high school diploma or GED. Many employers prefer to hire workers with some post-secondary training, so job candidates who have completed a trade certificate, vocational program, or associate degree program in mechanical, electrical, automation, or controls systems; mechatronics; or industrial mechanics may have an advantage. Most online job advertisements for HVAC/R controls technicians posted in New York State in 2020 sought candidates who have at least three years of experience with HVAC/R equipment, mechanical controls systems, or building management systems. Senior controls technicians may need more extensive experience and a bachelor’s degree.
Some employers may require controls technicians to obtain manufacturers’ certifications demonstrating their competence working with specific types of HVAC/R controls software or hardware, such as the equipment related to heat pumps. A valid New York State driver’s license may also be required for controls technicians who travel between customer worksites. Check with local employers to see which certifications they require or prefer their controls technicians to have. Also check with the local government to see if there are licensing requirements to work as a controls technician in the HVAC/R field.
In New York State, the median wage for controls technicians is approximately $80,700. Entry-level workers earn about $51,400 and experienced workers earn about $94,700.
Annual Wage (Q1 2021 dollars, rounded to 100s) – Statewide and by Labor Market Region
|New York State||$51,400||$80,700||$94,700|
|Central New York||$41,000||$53,600||$75,500|
|New York City||$57,000||$85,400||$100,400|
|Western New York||$45,000||$66,900||$76,700|
Source: New York State Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey, SOC Code 49-9012 (Control and Valve Installers and Repairers, Except Mechanical Door)
Common employers of controls technicians who work with HVAC/R equipment and systems include construction contractors who work on building mechanical systems, manufacturers, and large institutions such as hospitals that might have their own staff to manage upkeep of building automation systems.
Across New York State in 2020, online job advertisements for these roles were almost always listed with the title controls technician or some variation of that title, such as instrumentation and controls technician or HVAC controls technician. Use these job titles and keywords such as “HVAC,” “building automation,” or “energy management” when searching job advertisements online to help identify opportunities for employment.
Controls technicians may belong to unions, with the specific union affiliation depending on the industry of their employer. Check to see if local HVAC/R businesses, equipment manufacturers, or institutions that hire controls technicians have a union affiliation or check with a local union chapter active in the HVAC/R field to see if their members include controls technicians. Controls technicians employed by New York State or local governments might be represented by public sector unions.
Education and Training Programs
Controls technicians seeking to expand their skillset and learn about specific technologies – including clean energy appliances and mechanicals such as variable refrigerant flow systems, heat pumps, and building automation systems – can take training courses specific to those types of equipment that are offered by manufacturers or distributors. Some of these companies partner with NYSERDA through Clean Heat Connect. Check with individual manufacturers and distributors for a complete list of online or in-person offerings.
Schools in New York that offer programs with a specific focus on automation engineering, mechatronics, or industrial mechanics are listed in the table below. Other schools (not listed) offer programs related to mechanical (including HVAC/R) and electrical systems – coursework that is valuable to become a controls technician. Local colleges may also have adult continuing education or career training departments with relevant coursework. Check with local institutions for program availability or see which schools partner with ed2go, an online continuing education provider that has HVAC/R-related courses.
|Central New York|
|Cayuga Community College||Industrial Maintenance Technology (School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Monroe Community College||Industrial Automation Technology and Mechatronics||•Yes||•Yes||No||No||No|
|Fulton-Montgomery Community College||Technology Programs||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Mohawk Valley Community College||School of STEM||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|SUNY at Canton||Canino School of Engineering Technology||No||•Yes||•Yes||No||No|
|SUNY at Delhi||School of Applied Technologies||No||•Yes||•Yes||No||No|