Contractors are found in every industry. Masons and ironworkers contract out to lay bricks and forge iron at construction sites—writers and illustrators contract to a publication or business to provide them with creative work. And contractors like HVAC technicians and mechanical contractors bring specialized engineering experience to the process of working with mechanical parts to improve existing mechanical systems.
Mechanical contractors are among the most highly trained contract workers. Once you've achieved a degree in mechanical engineering and have obtained your mechanical contractor license, you can bring those skills to work in almost any industry, in any state, and start making a comfortable living.
What Does a Mechanical Contractor Do?
There are two phases in creating mechanical systems such as air conditioning and other HVAC work, elevators and escalators, and large-scale heating and cooling systems. The first phase of the job is design and creation. Mechanical engineers handle this phase. Engineers map out the blueprint of whatever large-scale system is needed on a construction or project site, and they see the manufacturing process through to completion.
The second phase of the job is where a mechanical contractor steps in. Though they must possess the same high-level computing, math, engineering, and communication skills as engineers, contractors handle the installation, removal, maintenance, and repair of existing systems, not their design or manufacturing.
This set of skills and training can lend itself to various industries, from electrical to gas work to heating, refrigeration, and other HVAC work. Mechanical contractors create plans for and oversee teams of workers who work on installing and maintaining large-scale systems.
What Skills are Necessary to Be a Mechanical Contractor?
The best way to look at the skills needed to become a mechanical contractor is to divide them into “hard” skills and “soft” skills. Hard skills get the work done, and soft skills manage the team and process. Both are needed in great measure and must be harmoniously balanced on each job.
These are the skills you'd associate with this type of highly specialized work: advanced mathematical skills like calculus and statistics, fluency with industry-specific modeling software such as CAD, and experience with design and engineering fundamentals.
These might be the most critical tools in the contractor's tool belt. You must have the patience of a monk when dealing with so many simultaneously occurring demands. Being a mechanical contractor means the work is always hectic and unpredictable, so you must have solid communication skills, as you could be overseeing the work of up to 50 employees.
How Do You Become a Mechanical Contractor?
The road to becoming a mechanical contractor is relatively straightforward, but once you arrive, it splits off in many directions.
To become a mechanical contractor, you must obtain a Bachelor's degree or higher in some form of engineering. After that, many companies offer apprentice programs for aspiring contractors, but you'll likely need to obtain a license in accordance with the locality in which you live. Each state has a distinct set of license requirements, so make sure you know yours before you get to work.
The Role of Subcontractors
Being a mechanical contractor often means being a team manager.
If you are hired to perform maintenance and repair on an electrical system in a two-bedroom dwelling, that's one thing. But imagine that you are contracted out to oversee the construction of large-scale cooling systems in a six-story downtown office building. You're going to need to hire subcontractors and manage them accordingly.
If your experience is primarily electrical and you need heating or some other form of HVAC work done, you'll need to call on a contract licensed HVAC technician. Subcontractors bring a degree of expertise you may not possess to complete a multifaceted job. Be aware that becoming a manager of sorts brings a whole new set of duties to the table, from tracking labor to calculating wages to complying with OSHA and navigating contracts.
The Bottom Line
Mechanical contractors are in constant need in virtually every realm of engineering and construction. Our team of industry leaders provides live-streamed classes, application assistance services, self-study program guides, and more on a no-pass, no-pay guarantee basis.
We strive to see those aspiring to positions like a mechanical contractor through schooling, pre-training, apprenticing, licensing, and finally establishing your business. Find out more about all our services.