HVAC Training Schools in Arkansas

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For Arkansas (AR), the nickname ‘Land of Opportunity’ is especially fitting given its bustling economy for professionals in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R). Licensed by the AR State Government, HVAC workers deal with the ‘design, installation, construction, maintenance, service, repair, alteration, or modification of a product or of equipment.’

According to the last published newsletter from the state’s Department of Health (2012), seventy percent of HVAC systems in the state have inadequate airflow, and improper refrigerant handling can decrease energy efficiency by 20 percent leading to higher consumer costs. Furthermore, HVAC systems use between 40 and 60 percent of all energy in the commercial sector! In short, climate control is big business in AR and beyond.

So what specifically do licensed HVAC professionals in Arkansas do? According to the AR HVAC/R Law, these workers calculate heat loads and losses; maintain detailed customer service records; make efficiency recommendations to clients; read blueprints; troubleshoot components of HVAC systems (e.g., refrigerant controls, hermetic compressors, heat pumps, split systems, ductless splits, water pumps, intake & exhaust fans, unit heaters, electrical circuitry, motors, economizers, humidifiers, etc); use various tools (e.g., manifold gauge set, temperature & pressure charts, multimeters); solder and braze parts; and maintain active licensure through the Arkansas HVAC/R Licensing Board, which must be renewed annually, in addition to any other necessary regional permitting or registration. Also, all workers who deal with the handling or disposal of refrigerants must get a national credential: the EPA Section 608 certification. Some HVAC workers to be generalists, while others may specialize in a type of equipment (e.g., commercial refrigeration systems) or technique.

Not only is there a wealth of employment opportunities and a relatively lucrative salary in this field (discussed below), but there is also a supportive working environment within AR. In fact, the Arkansas HVAC/R Association offers training opportunities, legislative advocacy, benefits such as discounted insurance plans, and other resources to help HVAC professionals in the state.

This guide covers the expected salary for HVAC workers and projected job growth in the industry, as well as accredited schools and license types in AR.

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Demand for HVAC Workers in AR

As mentioned above, there’s excellent news for people looking to enter the HVAC field: it’s high-growth and relatively lucrative. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) predicted a 14 percent explosion in HVAC openings across the country between 2014 and 2024, double the average growth projected across all occupations during that time period (7 percent). With the expected addition of 39,600 fresh openings nationwide, skilled HVAC professionals are likely to have plenty of opportunities in the coming decade and beyond. In AR, there’s evidence that the prospects are even brighter. Projections Central (Dec. 2016) reported that there would be a 16.5 percent increase in HVAC openings in AR (420 jobs) in the coming decade, slightly higher than the national figures.

There are varied forces contributing to this booming employment climate. First, a majority of structures have climate control systems, particularly in areas with seasonal temperature extremes. Second, HVAC systems generally need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. Also, with the rise of manufacturer warranties and service contracts, people in this industry may expect regular work throughout the year.

HVAC professionals sometimes work normal business hours, although others may be called upon to work weekends, holidays, or evenings according to the needs of their customers, especially during the high summer season.

Underscoring the healthy demand for HVAC services in AR is the flurry of openings across common job post websites. For example, Indeed (Dec. 2016) had 101 relevant HVAC postings in the state at places such as PepsiCo, Daikin Applied, Hardees / Saddle Peak LLC, Airmasters Inc., Wilhoit Properties Inc., Quality Air Care, Bud Anderson Heating & Cooling, Chapman Services, Haller Heating & Air Conditioning, Simmons Food Inc., Spectrum Management Co., and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Monster (Dec. 2016) had additional job posts for Atchley Air, D&L Inc. and Tradesman International Inc., among others.

While the future looks bright in this field, it’s important to note that HVAC workers suffer a higher-than-average rate of injury compared to other American occupations. Since these professionals lift heavy equipment, they are at an increased risk for muscle strains and tears; additionally, refrigerants and other chemicals can expose people to burns, and electric systems may deliver shocks. Above all, if HVAC workers don the proper safety equipment and are trained adequately in proper procedures, these issues can generally be kept to a minimum.

According to a recent piece on worker safety from the Arkansas HVAC/R Association (March 2016), the Department of Labor Deputy Secreatary Chris Lu stated, ‘Safety and security in the workplace are a shared commitment.  Workplace injuries and illnesses cause an enormous amount of physical, financial and emotional hardship for workers and their families and underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees.’

Arkansas HVAC Technician Salary Data

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015), the salary prospects are very promising in the HVAC field, particularly among occupations requiring only one to two years of postsecondary training. As proof of point, the BLS reported that the 274,680 HVAC workers nationwide earned an average annual salary of $47,380 and enjoyed the following salary percentiles:

United States (274,680 HVAC professionals): $47,380 mean salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,790
  • 25th percentile: $34,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,110
  • 75th percentile: $58,070
  • 90th percentile: $71,690

In hourly figures, these salaries became:

United States: $22.78/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.36/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.79/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.69/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.92/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $34.47/hr.

Interestingly, these figures varied slightly by source of data. Payscale (Dec. 2016)—a site which relies on self-reported salaries and has a  notably smaller sample size—found the following salary percentiles among its 451 HVAC workers around the country:

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $35,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,886
  • 75th percentile: $53,000
  • 90th percentile: $67,000

Another 2,486 HVAC workers chose to give Payscale (Dec. 2016) their salaries in hourly terms, and had the following percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $13.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.00/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.00/hr.

Indeed (Dec. 2016)—another source of online salary data—found that HVAC workers in AR made an average salary of $41,000. Again, these figures are considered somewhat less reliable than the BLS report due to the smaller sample size and methods of data collection.

The BLS (May 2015) stated that there were 2,510 HVAC workers in Arkansas with an annual average salary of $36,650. While this is somewhat lower than the national mean, the cost of living in AR is also substantially lower. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2016) reported that AR was the second most affordable state in the country, boasting savings in housing, transportation, and healthcare relative to other states. Please keep this in mind while evaluating the detailed AR salary prospects in the HVAC industry.

The BLS (May 2015) found the following figures for AR-based HVAC workers:

Arkansas (2,510 HVAC workers): $36,650 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $21,240
  • 25th percentile: $27,050
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,380
  • 75th percentile: $45,260
  • 90th percentile: $55,750

Translated into hourly wages, these percentiles became:

Arkansas: $17.62/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $10.21/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $13.01/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $17.01/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $21.76/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $26.80/hr.

Not surprisingly, these salaries also varied by region within AR as well, with the highest salaries paid in the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers region ($41,280 average). Here were the numbers of HVAC workers employed, the average salaries, and the wage percentiles among the nine BLS-designated regions in AR (BLS May 2015):

East Arkansas Nonmetropolitan Area (220 HVAC workers): $29,020 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $20,970
  • 25th percentile: $22,890
  • 50th percentile (median): $26,780
  • 75th percentile: $32,310
  • 90th percentile: $39,550

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO (560 employed): $41,280 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,530
  • 25th percentile: $32,040
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,070
  • 75th percentile: $49,480
  • 90th percentile: $59,540

Fort Smith, AR-OK (120 employed): $37,070 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,090
  • 25th percentile: $28,310
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,930
  • 75th percentile: $42,950
  • 90th percentile: $57,890

Hot Springs, AR (unknown number of HVAC workers employed): $35,910 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,270
  • 25th percentile: $29,520
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,520
  • 75th percentile: $39,430
  • 90th percentile: $47,140

Jonesboro, AR (100 employed): $33,930 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,300
  • 25th percentile: $27,550
  • 50th percentile (median): $31,330
  • 75th percentile: $39,450
  • 90th percentile: $46,710

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR (1,000 employed): $37,360 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $19,210
  • 25th percentile: $28,470
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,770
  • 75th percentile: $46,660
  • 90th percentile: $56,970

North Arkansas Nonmetropolitan Area (300 employed): $31,590 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $19,750
  • 25th percentile: $21,940
  • 50th percentile (median): $26,290
  • 75th percentile: $40,690
  • 90th percentile: $48,370

South Arkansas Nonmetropolitan Area (70 employed): $40,750 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,380
  • 25th percentile: $30,680
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,160
  • 75th percentile: $51,780
  • 90th percentile: $60,210

West Arkansas Nonmetropolitan Area (40 employed): $36,460 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,780
  • 25th percentile: $30,600
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,800
  • 75th percentile: $39,040
  • 90th percentile: $47,950

Lastly, put into hourly wage figures, the BLS (May 2015) found the following among the nine designated regions of AR:

East Arkansas Nonmetropolitan Area (220 HVAC workers): $13.95/hour average

  • 10th percentile: $10.08/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $11.01/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $12.88/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $15.53/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $19.02/hr.

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO (560 employed): $19.84/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $12.76/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.41/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.26/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $23.79/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $28.63/hr.

Fort Smith, AR-OK (120 employed): $17.82/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $11.10/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $13.61/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $16.80/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $20.65/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $27.83/hr.

Hot Springs, AR (unknown number of HVAC workers employed): $17.26/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $12.63/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $14.19/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $16.60/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $18.95/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $22.66/hr.

Jonesboro, AR (100 employed): $16.31/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $12.16/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $13.25/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $15.06/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $18.97/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $22.46/hr.

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR (1,000 employed): $17.96/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $9.26/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $13.69/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $17.68/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $22.43/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $27.39/hr.

North Arkansas Nonmetropolitan Area (300 employed): $15.19/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $9.50/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $10.55/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $12.64/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $19.56/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $23.25/hr.

South Arkansas Nonmetropolitan Area (70 employed): $19.55/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $12.68/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $14.75/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.35/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.89/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $28.98/hr.

West Arkansas Nonmetropolitan Area (40 employed): $17.53/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $12.88/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $14.71/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $16.73/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $18.77/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $23.05/hr.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Arkansas

For aspiring HVAC professionals in Arkansas, there are a couple of accredited training schools available. The two main accreditation agencies nationally are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). This program-approval process is important in order to establish a baseline standard of preparation and training for this career. To learn about how programs are evaluated, please visit either of the above websites or the HVAC programs page.

As of December 2016, there were two HVAC Excellence-accredited programs in AR. For example, Arkansas State University—Searcy provides several programs and certificates for HVAC workers, including a 34-hour technical certificate in air conditioning technology. This program features instruction in electrical motors & components; air distribution; materials; gas heating systems; technical mathematics; air conditioning & refrigeration systems; and career communications. It costs approximately $5,200 total, covering tuition, books, fees, and supplies.

Also, Arkansas Tech University—Ozark offers several certificate and degree programs such as a 36-hour technical certificate in air conditioning & refrigeration and a 60-hour associate of applied science (AAS) degree in general technology with an HVAC option. The four-semester AAS program has classes such as tubing & piping; industrial safety in air conditioning & refrigeration; basic compression & refrigeration; electronic components; schematics; technical mathematics; residential systems; heat gain & loss; industrial controls; sheet metal; and an internship. This school also has a technical certificate and a certificate of proficiency in facilities maintenance. For residents, the program costs $113 per credit hour, and for non-residents, $215.

While there are no PAHRA-accredited programs in AR, there are other options available at institutions such as Arkansas Northeastern College of Blytheville, which provides an AAS in general technology with an air conditioning & refrigeration option. Courses include tubing, piping & welding; electrical components & motors; schematics; fundamentals of gas & electric heat; and residential systems. For in-county tuition, students pay only $67 per credit hour, although tuition differs for out-of-county ($77) and out-of-state students ($127).

Finally, Pulaski Technical College of North Little Rock also has an AAS program with instruction in HVAC/R principles; computer concepts; fundamentals of electricity; heating systems; unitary refrigeration; systems design; and EPA Section 608 certification preparation. This school also provides a technical certificate, and reported that its tuition for the spring 2017 semester was $130 per credit hour (in-state) or $168 (out-of-state).

For residents of more rural regions of AR or those with commitments preventing them from attending a traditional, on-campus HVAC program, there are also distance-based programs available. To learn about these schools, please visit the online HVAC programs page.

Arkansas HVAC Licensing

Prior to securing work as an HVAC installer or mechanic, workers in Arkansas are strongly advised to check that they have all necessary credentialing. As mentioned previously, there is one mandatory credential for all people nationally who handle refrigerants: the EPA Section 608 certification. There are four types:

  • Type 1 (small appliance)
  • Type 2 (high-pressure appliances)
  • Type 3 (low-pressure appliances)
  • Type 4 (universal)

Please note that a majority of HVAC certificate and degree programs in AR provide preparation for this mandatory certification.

There are other national certifications available from varied institutions such as North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams); HVAC Excellence; and the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association. To discover how to pursue any of these competency-based credentials, please visit the HVAC certifications page.

Lastly, all AR HVAC professionals must have a license from the Arkansas HVAC/R Licensing Board which is affiliated with the Department of Health. For entry-level HVAC professionals in AR, they must register ($25) and gain at least two years of experience before applying for one of the many contractor licenses available. Here is a summary of the types of licenses available in AR and how much they cost:

  • Class A – unrestricted ($200)
  • Class B – restricted to less than 15 tons of cooling capacity or one million BTUs (heating), and less than 15 horsepower ($150)
  • Class C – restricted to repair and servicing only (not installation); systems with less than 15 tons of cooling capacity or one million BTUs (heating), and less than 15 horsepower ($100)
  • Class D – allows licensee to perform sheet metal work on HVAC/R ducts ($150)
  • Class E – unrestricted refrigeration-specific license ($150)
  • Class L – unrestricted license for those 65 and older (free)

These licenses are valid for one year, and while they currently don’t require any continuing education (CE) hours to renew, this may change in coming years as the AR HVACR Association has advocated for the adoption of ongoing training requirements for license renewal.

Finally, HVAC professionals in AR may require additional credentials based on the city or county in which they’re performing work, and they are encouraged to verify all necessary credentialing with local administrative authorities prior to beginning any work.