Career Comparison: HVAC Tech vs Plumber vs Electrician

An HVAC tech, a plumber, and an electrician’s responsibilities overlap at times.

As such, it can confuse someone who doesn’t know which career path to take.

In this guide, you’ll be given a comparative overview of the three to help you in the decision-making.

Based on the skills you possess, you can choose the career that will help you grow and realize your full potential.

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Similarities and Differences between an HVAC Technician, a Plumber, and an Electrician

Take a look at the table below for a comparison of the three professions.

ScopeHVAC TechnicianPlumberElectrician
Job descriptionWork on HVAC systems to control the temperature and air qualityInstall and repair water, gas, and other piping systemsInstall, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems
Common responsibilitiesInstall, clean, and maintain HVAC systems

Install electrical components and wiring

Inspect and test HVAC systems and components

Discuss system malfunctions with customers

Repair or replace worn or defective parts

Recommend maintenance to improve system performance

Keep records of work performed

Prepare cost estimates for clients

Read blueprints and follow state and local building codes

Determine the materials and equipment needed for a job

Install pipes and fixtures

Inspect and test installed pipe systems and pipelines

Troubleshoot malfunctioning systems

Maintain and repair plumbing systems

Read blueprints or technical diagrams

Install and maintain wiring, control, and lighting systems

Inspect electrical components, such as transformers and circuit breakers

Identify electrical problems using a variety of testing devices

Repair or replace wiring, equipment, or fixtures using hand tools and power tools

Follow state and local building regulations based on the National Electrical Code

Direct and train workers to install, maintain, or repair electrical wiring or equipment

Workplace locationsHomes




Office buildings





Other places with pipes and related systems




Construction sites

EducationHVAC programs offered in technical and trade schools or community collegesPlumbing courses offered in vocational-technical schoolsElectrician courses offered in technical schools
Program length6 months to 2 years2 yearsCertificate programs – less than 1 year

Associate’s degree – about 2 years

TrainingOn-the-job training as part of the program


3- to 5-year apprenticeship program

4- to 5-year apprenticeship program4- to 5-year apprenticeship program
Important personal qualitiesCustomer-service skills

Attention to detail

Math skills

Mechanical skills

Physical strength and stamina

Time management

Troubleshooting skills

Communication skills


Mechanical skills

Physical strength

Troubleshooting skills

Color vision

Critical thinking

Customer-service skills

Physical strength and stamina

Troubleshooting skills

Certification and licenseEPA certification exam

Need for a licensure exam will vary by state

Licensure exam for:

  • Journeyman plumber
  • Master plumber
Licensure exam for:

  • Journeyman electrician
  • Master electrician
  • Other types of licenses as required by the state
Average salaryHourly – $23.38

Annually – $48,630

Hourly – $28.79

Annually – $59,880

Hourly – $28.87

Annually – $60,040

Job outlook (from 2020 to 2030)5% projected growth5% projected growth9% projected growth

Information sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with all figures as of May 2021


All three professions are in demand on the market today.

So, you should rely on your mindset, skills, and expectations to make a clear and decisive career choice.

Remember: Building and environmental codes are becoming stricter.

It has now increased the demand for qualified and committed experts in all three fields.

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