WHAT AN HVAC PROJECT MANAGER DOES
The title of HVAC project manager can mean different things depending on the hiring party. In most cases, an HVAC project manager is someone with experience in the HVAC field who oversees new projects for an HVAC construction company, or as a consultant for a contractor. Oftentimes, and HVAC project manager will be responsible for assessing the site of a new HVAC installation or renovation project and putting together a bid for his or her employer. An HVAC project manager therefore must be able to create a definitive list of the parts and labor that will be necessary to complete a project to the client’s specifications. This includes a thorough evaluation of the current HVAC system and the ability to determine which parts can be kept and which must be replaced.
Unlike an HVAC technician, an HVAC project manager will not necessarily be involved in the hands-on completion of an HVAC system installation or repair. Instead, an HVAC project manager is responsible for interfacing with the client while the project is being completed. This means keeping the client updated on progress and maintaining a strict schedule for the HVAC technicians and other workers.
In some cases, a company may have an HVAC project engineer as well as an HVAC project manager or HVAC supervisor. When this is the case, the engineer will generally take charge of the site assessment and compiling a plan and bid for the project while the project manager will handle on-site duties once the project is won.
SKILLS & PERSONALITY TRAITS
While many different types of people may be able to find success as an HVAC project manager, there are a few personality traits and skills that make handling this profession come a bit more easily. First, an HVAC project manager must be organized. This does not mean just putting contracts in the right file folder, it means being meticulous about every detail. HVAC project managers are working with their clients’ money and should be able to account for every cent as well as every minute spent by their technicians working on the project.
By the same token, HVAC project managers should have strong math and reasoning skills. They will need to calculate how much time certain projects will take and how much parts will cost along with measurements and other HVAC calculations.
Project managers must also be problem solvers. As the leader of a team of HVAC technicians, there is always a question to answer or an issue that has come up. A good project manager should be able to deal with these problems, help their technicians to solve them, and be able to do all this without becoming rattled or overwhelmed. Says the Bureau of Labor Statistics “dealing well with risk and stress is imperative […] Project managers must be able to handle the frustration that may arise when risks and failures materialize to derail a project” (BLS, 2006).
Finally, an HVAC project manager should be a strong communicator with people skills. A project manager often serves as the go-between with clients and technicians, meaning he or she must be able to communicate and interact well with many types of people.
HVAC PROJECT MANAGER ROLE REQUIREMENTS
Due to the detailed nature of the HVAC project manager’s role, it is rarely a job acquired directly out of school. Rather, most entering project managers have some combination of both technical education and hands-on HVAC work.
For those positions that require a great deal of project assessment and bids, a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering is highly desirable. However, this high level of education is not always required if a sufficient amount of experience has been acquired.
Most often, successful HVAC project managers have at least five years of experience working as an HVAC technician as well as academic training before that. Project managers may have either a four-year degree in some type of engineering, or an Associate of Applied Science degree with a focus on HVAC technology.
In order to advance in the career, more experience is generally the only requirement. At larger companies, HVAC project managers may be able to work their way through the ranks, earning the right to work on bigger and bigger projects and to supervise more technicians. HVAC project managers may also choose to break off on their own and work in a freelance or consultant capacity, which can mean more flexibility and higher rates but also less stability.
There are also licensing requirements that must be considered, although these vary from state to state. Depending on the state and city laws, even if HVAC technicians must be licensed, project managers may not be subject to the same restrictions. Any project manager seeking employment as an HVAC project manager should be sure to research the rules in his or her particular state.
PATHS TO BECOMING AN HVAC PROJECT MANAGER
As we have alluded to, there are a few different paths to becoming an HVAC project manager. HVAC technicians that have been working in the field for a number of years and wish to progress may want to consider becoming an HVAC project manager. A project manager is usually able to make a higher rate than a technician, and for that pay increase will have more responsibilities and more tasks, although less technical work.
Recent college graduates with bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering may also find their way to project management, but may not be able to start in the role right away. Rather, it is helpful to work in the field for a few years in order to become familiar with how things work before attempting to manage an entire project. This might mean working as an assistant to an HVAC project manager or even clocking some hours as an HVAC technician if necessary.
Some project managers may be able to specialize after gaining some basic experience. HVAC project managers with experience in historical renovations, for instance, will be able to command a higher rate for their specialized knowledge in this area. Other project managers may choose to specialize in new construction, commercial project, or residential HVAC installations.
For HVAC related project needs in the greater Atlanta area, please contact Midsouth Mechanical for a quote!