HVAC Helper & Maintenance Assistant
Construction, Installation, Maintenance, and Repair
Required Education, Credentials, and Licenses
- High school diploma or GED
- Valid New York State driver’s license (if travel required)
Preferred Education and Credentials
- HVAC/R, building trade, or maintenance experience (1-2 years)
- Physical abilities (climb, crouch, lift up to 75 pounds)
- Manual dexterity
- Use hand and power tools
- Customer service
HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants provide entry-level support to HVAC installers, service technicians, and building maintenance workers to ensure mechanical equipment and facilities are in good operating condition.
HVAC helpers work specifically on heating, cooling, and ventilation mechanicals and perform supportive tasks such as inspecting HVAC equipment and systems, installing humidifiers, preparing tools and materials and bringing them to HVAC technicians, cleaning air ducts, and keeping company vehicles clean and organized. Maintenance assistants support the general upkeep of indoor and outdoor areas of properties. They see that preventative maintenance schedules are adhered to and help with basic repairs of building systems, including HVAC/R, plumbing, and electrical. They may also fix equipment or drywall, paint, do basic carpentry, move furniture, and maintain public areas (e.g., clean floors, manage lawn care, remove snow). As clean energy heating and cooling systems become more common, HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants will need to understand the mechanics used in electricity-based HVAC/R systems such as heat pumps (which differ from those in fossil-fuel based systems).
To complete those tasks effectively, HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants must be detail-oriented and able to think critically to help resolve problems with equipment or system components. Both jobs require completing paperwork and documenting the tasks worked on.
Working as an HVAC helper or maintenance assistant is a physical job requiring the ability to stand or walk for extended periods, climb ladders, and crouch to access low or tight spaces. Physical strength is necessary (i.e., move materials weighing up to 50 pounds and lift up to 75 pounds), and so is good vision and manual dexterity. Individuals in these jobs should enjoy working with their hands on mechanical equipment and with tools. Math skills are needed (e.g., to ensure proper measurements) and being comfortable with computers is important as HVAC/R and other building systems are becoming more automated with the growth of smart HVAC/R systems.
HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants work under the supervision of experienced HVAC service technicians, general maintenance technicians, or other facilities maintenance personnel, so they must have strong communication and teamwork skills to work effectively. Customer service skills are important because HVAC helpers may engage directly with customers while on service calls and maintenance assistants may interact with residents or guests at the properties where they work.
HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants may travel between jobsites to serve customers or consistently work at the same facility (e.g., a hospital). They typically work full-time and shifts can include evenings and weekends. HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants may have to be on-call for emergencies.
According to the New York State Department of Labor, there are approximately 4,500 helpers of installation, maintenance, and repair workers in New York State and opportunities for employment are expected to be favorable through 2028 – they project this occupation to grow by 510 jobs between 2018 and 2028.
Entering the Field
HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants typically need to have a high school diploma or GED, although some don’t have any formal education. Prior experience is generally not required, and workers often receive several weeks of on-the-job training to become competent in the tasks associated with each role. HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants who do have some vocational training in a related trade, knowledge of HVAC/R operations (particularly in energy efficient technologies such as heat pumps), and/or one to two years of experience may be preferred by employers over other job candidates without such a background. Workers in these entry-level, supportive roles who want to advance their careers to become installers or technicians may choose to later apply to an apprenticeship program, receive vocational training, earn an associate degree, or take courses offered by HVAC/R industry organizations, manufacturers, or distributors that focus on equipment and parts used in clean energy systems.
Many employers require HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants to have a valid New York State driver’s license to travel between worksites and perform assigned job duties. Although other licenses and certifications are typically not necessary, check local government requirements for more information about working as an HVAC helper or maintenance assistant.
In New York State, the median wage for HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants is approximately $36,800. Entry-level workers earn about $27,800 and experienced workers earn about $46,600.
Annual Wage (Q1 2021 dollars, rounded to 100s) – Statewide and by Labor Market Region
|New York State||$27,800||$36,800||$46,600|
|Central New York||$26,000||$35,600||$42,000|
|New York City||$31,200||$41,200||$55,400|
|Western New York||$30,800||$38,700||$44,200|
Source: New York State Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey, SOC Code 49-9098 (Helpers—Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Workers)
Employment opportunities for HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants are available across different types of organizations. The most common employers of these workers include retail establishments that sell, install, and service HVAC/R systems; construction contractors that focus on building equipment and systems; hotels or healthcare providers such as hospitals, nursing facilities, or residential care facilities that hire in-house maintenance personnel; and local governments.
The top 3 employers with the most online job advertisements in each region in 2020 are listed below. (Note that construction jobs are often underrepresented in online job ads. Almost all of the postings advertised by these employers had a job title that included “maintenance assistant,” and these employers specifically referenced HVAC/R-related tasks in the job description. Check job posting boards, government websites, or with local providers of HVAC/R services for additional opportunities to work as an HVAC helper.)
- Hilton Hotel Corporation
- Living Resources
Central New York
- SUNY Upstate Medical University
- Ames Linen Service
- Highlands at Brighton
- The Village at Mill Landing
- Premier Senior Living, LLC
- Sunrise Senior Living, Inc.
- Royal Regency Hotel
- Yorktown Assisted Living Residence
- Bristal Assisted Living
- Sunrise Senior Living, Inc.
- Farmingdale State College (State University of New York)
Mohawk Valley (All ads posted in 2020 were from a single employer.)
- Square One Coating Systems, LLC
New York City
- State of New York (Office of Mental Health)
- Sunrise Senior Living, Inc.
- SUNY Downstate Medical Center
North Country (All ads posted in 2020 were from a single employer.)
- United Methodist Homes
- State of New York (Department of Environmental Conservation)
Western New York
- Buffalo Lodging Associates
- Humboldt House Rehabilitation and Nursing Center
Source: Burning Glass Technologies: Labor Insight™. 2021.
Labor unions that count HVAC/R service workers among their members include local chapters of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART); International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE); and United Association (UA). (Chapters that describe their membership as including installation, maintenance, and service workers are listed below. Other local chapters affiliated with these unions that are not listed may have members who perform HVAC/R-related work in different roles.) Building service, operations, and maintenance workers in the private and public sectors may be represented by 32BJ (an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union [SEIU]), the United Service Workers Union (USWU), or United Public Service Employees Union (UPSEU) (USWU and UPSEU are affiliated with the International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades).
Contact these unions or visit their websites to verify their jurisdictions and see if they represent workers in junior supportive roles such as HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants, and to learn more about the training opportunities they offer (some of which include apprenticeship programs). Also check with local companies or government agencies that employ HVAC helpers and maintenance assistants to see if they are affiliated with these unions or others.
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Chapters
International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Chapters
United Association (UA) Chapters
- UA Local 1
New York City
- UA Local 7
Capital Region, Mohawk Valley
- UA Local 13
Finger Lakes, Western New York
- UA Local 21
- UA Local 22
Finger Lakes, Western New York
- UA Local 81
Central New York, Finger Lakes, North Country, Southern Tier
- UA Local 112
Central New York, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier
- UA Local 200
- UA Local 373
- UA Local 638
Long Island, New York City
- UA Local 773
Capital Region, North Country
Education and Training Programs
A post-secondary education is generally not necessary to work as an HVAC helper or maintenance assistant.
Workers who want to advance their careers beyond those entry-level positions or learn about environmentally friendly HVAC/R systems may want to participate in training programs offered by manufacturers or distributors of heat pumps and other clean energy equipment, such as those offered by Fujitsu or Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US. Additional training may be offered through other manufacturers and distributors in the industry, some of which partner with NYSERDA through Clean Heat Connect. Check with companies for a complete list of online or in-person offerings.
HVAC/R industry organizations also offer training or certificates for workers looking to expand their knowledge of heating and cooling systems, including coursework that focuses on emerging clean energy technologies. Some courses may have prerequisites so check with the organizations to see which trainings are best for workers with limited experience.
NATE offers entry level “Ready-to-Work” and “HVAC Support Technician” certificates as well as certification exams for more experienced workers or those looking to expand their skills in a specialized area. Workers can prepare using NATE’s study guides or online Training Academy and take exams to become a NATE-Certified HVAC Professional or demonstrate knowledge of sustainable HVAC/R systems by passing exams on ground source heat pump installation, air to air heat pump installation or service, air distribution installation or service, and low GWP refrigerants.
Steven Winter Associates, Inc.’s Building Electrification Training Series has seven courses that include topics such as heat pumps and managing refrigerants in commercial and residential buildings.
ITEC Training & Education Center offers a variety of HVAC courses, including some specific to heat pumps.
The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) has online courses related to ground source heat pumps.
ACCA has in-person and online training options for residential and light commercial HVAC (some of which include heat pumps) as well as refrigerants and a course on improving communication with clients.
RETA offers an apprenticeship program, online training, and certifications specific to refrigeration, including the Certified Refrigeration Energy Specialist (CRES) certification.
ESCO Group training and certification topics include Low GWP Refrigerant Safety and Heat Pumps, among a variety of HVAC/R offerings.
BPI offers certification as an Air Conditioning & Heat Pump Professional (among other HVAC/R-related certifications). While they do not have an affiliation with training centers, check to see if a local BPI Test Center offers training.
HVAC helpers or maintenance assistants may find it useful to enroll in a certificate or associate program on HVAC/R or facilities maintenance, such as those listed below at colleges and vocational schools. Also check with local colleges’ adult continuing education or career training departments to see if they offer HVAC/R technician or building maintenance training, or see which ones partner with the online continuing education provider ed2go.
|Hudson Valley Community College||Applied Technologies||No||•Yes||No||No||No|
|Central New York|
|Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES||HVAC/R Technician||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES||Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES||Services & Trades||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Monroe Community College||Applied Technologies Center||•Yes||•Yes||No||No||No|
|Dutchess Community College||Business, Aviation, and Construction Professions||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Electrical Training Center||HVAC/R Program||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Suffolk County Community College||Heating, Ventilation, AC and Refrigeration Technology||•Yes||•Yes||No||No||No|
|Fulton-Montgomery Community College||Technology Programs||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Mohawk Valley Community College||School of STEM||•Yes||•Yes||No||No||No|
|New York City|
|Apex Technical School||HVAC & Refrigeration||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|New York City College of Technology (CUNY)||Environmental Control Technology||No||•Yes||No||No||No|
|SUNY at Canton||Canino School of Engineering Technology||No||•Yes||No||No||No|
|SUNY at Delhi||School of Applied Technologies||No||•Yes||No||No||No|
|Western New York|
|Erie 1 BOCES||HVAC||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Erie Community College||Manufacturing, Construction, and Trades Programs||•Yes||•Yes||No||No||No|
|SUNY at Alfred||Building Trades||No||•Yes||No||No||No|