HVAC can be option for jobless college grads

Have a college degree in art history or philosophy? Back living at your parent’s house, working part-time waiting tables?

Frank Mutz and Jake Reid would like you to consider an alternative — HVAC.

Frank Mutz

Frank Mutz

If you’re mechanically inclined and enjoy working with your hands, the field might surprise you, said Mutz, president and majority owner of Moncrief Heating & Air Conditioning in Atlanta.

Starting out, he said, a technician can earn about $35,000 a year. That can rise to $70,000 annually in about four to five years. Someone good at managing people or selling to customers can earn in the six figures over time, he said.

“There are so many college grads that can’t get started. But they are not looking at the trades,” said Mutz, who’s been in the business for 38 years. In fact, he said, when he has recruited at job fairs, some attendees turned up their noses, saying, “I went to college so I wouldn’t have to do that for a living.”

Reid isn’t one of those people. After graduating from Vanderbilt University with a degree in molecular biology, he worked for labs at Vandy and Emory in the 1990s. But he traded in his test tubes and beakers for a screwdriver when he was offered a big salary jump to head up maintenance for a local hospital. He had experience working with his hands ever since he was a teenager at Westminster, where he spent summers helping the plumbers, electricians and other trades people.

Jake Reid

Jake Reid

Now, at 43, Reid and another manager head up Moncrief’s installation department of 15 employees.

“I find this extremely fulfilling,” Reid said. “I’ve never had a boring day here. Not once.”

While he was able to learn the profession by riding along with technicians for nearly a year, Mutz now advises prospective employees to learn the basics in technical school. That can take about two years, he said. But college grads with HVAC skills will not have a problem getting a job once they know what they’re doing.

That’s partially because the “cream of the crop” at technical schools, Mutz said, often go into other fields, such as computers, medical technology and telecommunications.

Also, a college background can help because HVAC is getting more complex with the increasing use of more efficient and greener systems, both men said.

“You never have to worry about a job again,” Mutz, 61, said. “There’s a demand for people. … The overseas people can’t do service calls. … It’s great for minorities and women because there are not many in it.” Mutz said he is looking for three technicians right now.

What’s more, the ups and downs of the economy do not affect the business too much, he said, except for limiting the number of installations in new construction.

“We are [primarily] a weather-driven business,” Mutz said. Last year, he said, Moncrief had record sales, largely because of the hot summer. He said his Atlanta business, which has 70 employees, did about $10 million in revenue.

There’s one last thing. HVAC is not a 9-to-5 gig. Customers are impatient when their systems are out of commission. That can mean long hours and weekend work.


- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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11 comments Add your comment

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February 1st, 2011
8:20 am

This is good. Frankly, the jobs recovery from this recession/depression will be the result of people entering these types of careers (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, automotive service, personal care etc.). Moreover, this is the path for rebuilding the American economy. Before the corporation i.e., organized work, mass production, mass marketing and mass distribution small, local businesses were the true backbone of the American economy. This is returning. Our research indicates a consumer trend towards local products and services (and a backlash against nationally branded products and services). There is even a lot of thinking around small, local manufacturing that is aligned with the local economy. These are places to look for work and a new career.


February 1st, 2011
8:27 am

As I said before, this is a job that can’t be done by someone in India. The sad part is Mom and Pop spent over $100,000 dollars sending Jr. to school for a degree in art history or philosophy. When they could of sent him or her to a good trade school.


February 1st, 2011
9:12 am

The statement that you’ll never be without a job in HVAC is not exactly true- I was in equipment sales at a HVAC distributor and was laid off due to the economy. They’re are still way too many HVAC companies out here for the times were in. The competition out there for business is what I would say is dog-eat-dog!

New Age

February 1st, 2011
9:30 am

the hvac market is down due to the economy—little construction, little demand for related workers.


February 1st, 2011
10:35 am

This. I left college for trade school (welding/pipefitting). People laughed at me, but when I was making over $30,000 a year as a first-year apprentice, they quit laughing, especially when I had health benefits and was making more than many of my college classmates… some of whom were unemployed.

The American educational system tries to make college material out of everyone, implying that someone’s an idiot if they don’t want to go to Auburn or Harvard or wherever for 4 years or more. That’s unfortunate. In high school, if a smart kid dares to even mention trade school, he or she is laughed at — I know from experience. And I wasted years of my life in college when my heart wasn’t even in it. If I’d had it to do over again, I just would have gotten my GED and gone to trade school at age 16 or 17. Most of my scholastic aptitude was self-obtained (tons of reading and research on my own; school was a waste of time — I managed a 3.8 GPA with very little effort.)

Learning to work with my hands and put in a good hard day’s work was much more satisfying to me than working in an office or the like… I tried. It just wasn’t for me. More power to those who enjoy the white-collar world, but the blue-collar realm shouldn’t be held in derision just because you have to get your hands dirty.


February 1st, 2011
7:38 pm

Any who have the opportunity to work for a wonderful man like Frank Mutz, should JUMP at the chance! Get your hands dirty!


February 2nd, 2011
8:19 am

If everyone who calls customer service and gets a rep from overseas just refuses to deal with them and demands a US representative, then the market for outsourcing would go away. If all the calls from the US had to be re-routed back to the US for an American customer service person then jobs would come back here where they should be. They would have no choice.

Next time, ask who your talking to and where they are. If they are out of the country simply say, Im sorry but I would like a US representative to service my call and they tell them, “I CAN HOLD WHILE YOU TRANSFER ME”


February 2nd, 2011
8:33 am

I would advise anyone to check with HVAC graduates of the tech schools to see how many of them got jobs.

In our rural area, no demand for more HVAC jobs due to no construction.

gordon case

February 2nd, 2011
4:31 pm

recent grad of HVAC from WEST CENTRAL TECH, and ready to start my HVAC career . If your looking for someone who is ready to work long hours and is a dedicated person, then I am your new employee. I would love the oppurnity to have a job interview with a respectable HVAC company . Here is my email gordoncase1@yahoo.com


February 6th, 2011
10:14 am

I would just like to inform that they say the economy dosen’t affect the company, the weather does. But from an hvac technician/installer the managers will tell you everyyear you have your review that the economy still hasnt turned so we cannot give out raises. Thats how they keep the labor cheap at 30,000 all the big numbers they impose, 70,000, six figures, etc. are for family members only. No school or expeirence needed for them. Want my input….. go to school take lots of classes go to any distributer update classes get all the expeirance you can and do your own thing. These big wigs only look out for themselves. Sounds like the government. lol.