HVAC Training Programs in Michigan

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It’s no surprise that in Michigan—the Water Winter Wonderland—there is a wealth of opportunities and resources for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals available. In fact, ACHR News (Sept. 2016), a major HVAC media source based in Troy, Michigan (MI), covers not only news in the industry organized by region, but also the numerous forums and events which support these skilled people in their work. For example, at a recent conference at Ferris State University, there was an HVACR instructors’ workshop focused on rewarding innovation and honoring the various pathways to join this high-growth field. ACHR (Aug. 2016) also reported on local legislation in the industry such as MI’s new Energy Conservation Law, which gives local governments flexible financing for energy and rewards conservation. Time will tell how the new law affects energy efficiency and the HVAC occupation in the state.

Michigan HVAC technicians must have a mechanical contractor’s license from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) in order to perform work beyond the replacement of minor parts or in working with portable units with less than 30,000 BTU/hr. There are numerous professional trade organizations which support HVAC workers in building their skills and promoting local advocacy. The Michigan Air Conditioning Contractors Association represents mechanical contractors and reports on evolving local regulations in the profession. For example, Senate Bill No. 963 (the Skilled Trades Act) introduced in May 2016 sought to streamline the licensing, testing, and credential renewals in the HVAC profession.

So what is it that HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers in Michigan do? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015), HVAC workers monitor the performance of HVAC systems and their components (e.g., motors, electrical wiring, pipes, valves, humidifiers); repair broken equipment; counsel commercial and residential property owners on how to maximize efficiency; perform preventative maintenance on various parts (e.g., wiring fans, pumps, compressors, switches, gauges, controls); read blueprints and install systems; and maintain active credentialing by keeping up-to-date knowledge in the profession. A majority of Michigan’s HVAC employment opportunities call for knowledge of various types of systems such as geothermal, oil-burning, and electric. Additionally, certifications from national credentialing organizations such as NATE can also enhance a MI HVAC technician’s job candidacy.

Read on to learn about the promising job outlook for HVAC professionals in Michigan, including the salary prospects (statewide and regionally), accredited training, and how to pursue licensure.

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HVAC Occupational Demand in Michigan

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015), HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers can expect relatively high job growth in the years to come. In fact, the BLS (Dec. 2015) projected a 14 percent increase in openings in this field between 2014 and 2024, double the average percent growth anticipated across all occupations (7 percent). To enhance one’s ability to secure a job in this field, many MI HVAC employers call for:

  • Driver’s license
  • Proof of HVAC technical education (certificate, diploma, or degree)
  • Experience on the job (3-5 years preferred)
  • NATE certification(s)
  • Ability to pass a drug test

These professionals work in a range of environments since a majority of structures in Michigan provide some form of climate-control. They may work in homes, businesses, hospitals, schools, factories, and other environments. Since many HVAC contracting companies perform regular maintenance on equipment for customers in Michigan and systems generally need to be replaced every ten years, there is a steady stream of employment. Furthermore, there are seasonal spikes in activity for Michigan HVAC workers during summers and winters, and these professionals may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, or holidays to meet client demand.

There are HVAC opportunities available across all of the main job-hunting websites such as CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, and others. As proof of point, Indeed (Sept. 2016) posted openings for HVAC workers at A-1 Mechanical of MI, LLC, Aggressive Air Compressor Co., Parker-Arntz Plumbing & Heating, Inc., Dee Cramer Heating & Cooling, Thornton & Grooms, Inc., Iceberg’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, Emcor, Samco, and Main Heating & Cooling, Inc., to name a few.

Michigan HVAC Technician Salary Data

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015), there were 274,680 HVAC workers around the country with an average annual salary of $47,380. Interestingly, Michigan HVAC workers boasted roughly the same mean annual salary ($47,040) despite living in one of the cheapest states in the US.

First, here are the more detailed salary percentiles for HVAC professionals nationwide (BLS May 2015):

United States (274,680 HVAC workers): $47,380 annual average salary

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

In hourly terms, these country-wide figures equated to:

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.

It’s important to note that the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2016) found Michigan was the thirteenth most affordable state nationwide, boasting particular savings in housing and groceries. While the residents of the Wolverine State enjoy relatively more bang for their buck compared to the rest of the country, its HVAC workers also enjoy relatively high wages.

By illustration, the BLS (May 2015) reported that there were 7,900 HVAC mechanics and installers statewide with the aforementioned mean annual salary of $47,040. While Indeed (2016), found a $41,000 annual average salary among Michigan HVAC workers, the BLS figures may be considered more reliable due to their relatively high sample size.

In more detailed terms, the BLS found the following percentiles among HVAC professionals in Michigan (BLS May 2015):

Michigan (7,900 HVAC workers): $47,040 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,220
  • 25th percentile: $35,830
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,510
  • 75th percentile: $57,070
  • 90th percentile: $68,130

In hourly figures, these salaries equated to:

Michigan: $22.62/hr. avg.

  • 10th percentile: $13.57/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.23/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.88/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.44/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $32.75/hr.

Not surprisingly, these figures also varied by region of employment. Saginaw and Ann Arbor enjoyed the highest salaries in the state. Here’s a breakdown of the number of HVAC workers employed, average salaries, and percentile figures among the 19 BLS-designated regions of Michigan (BLS May 2015):

Ann Arbor, MI (280 HVAC workers employed): $57,160 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,830
  • 25th percentile: $43,620
  • 50th percentile (median): $57,570
  • 75th percentile: $72,780
  • 90th percentile: $82,030

Battle Creek, MI (70 employed): $45,770 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $40,260
  • 25th percentile: $42,210
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,450
  • 75th percentile: $48,700
  • 90th percentile: $52,270

Bay City, MI (60 employed): $40,400 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,660
  • 25th percentile: $32,720
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,990
  • 75th percentile: $50,680
  • 90th percentile: $58,940

Detroit-Dearborn-Livonia, MI Metropolitan Division (1,480 employed): $46,790 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,310
  • 25th percentile: $36,310
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,700
  • 75th percentile: $57,700
  • 90th percentile: $65,630

Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI (3,920 employed): $49,000 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,190
  • 25th percentile: $38,450
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,030
  • 75th percentile: $58,400
  • 90th percentile: $70,030

Flint, MI (240 employed): $52,210 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $29,910
  • 25th percentile: $41,850
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,010
  • 75th percentile: $65,920
  • 90th percentile: $76,100

Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI (1,110 employed): $45,700 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,940
  • 25th percentile: $35,210
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,370
  • 75th percentile: $56,510
  • 90th percentile: $63,320

Jackson, MI (100 employed): $41,790 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,920
  • 25th percentile: $34,330
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,680
  • 75th percentile: $48,310
  • 90th percentile: $58,130

Kalamazoo-Portage, MI (260 employed): $45,920 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $29,350
  • 25th percentile: $36,110
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,000
  • 75th percentile: $56,340
  • 90th percentile: $64,290

Lansing-East Lansing, MI (400 employed): $40,400 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,820
  • 25th percentile: $29,970
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,630
  • 75th percentile: $49,700
  • 90th percentile: $61,010

Monroe, MI (60 employed): $45,340 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,410
  • 25th percentile: $34,860
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,310
  • 75th percentile: $55,290
  • 90th percentile: $68,210

Muskegon, MI (170 employed): $46,270 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,390
  • 25th percentile: $31,990
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,940
  • 75th percentile: $58,420
  • 90th percentile: $67,760

Niles-Benton Harbor, MI (unknown number employed): $42,760 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,130
  • 25th percentile: $36,380
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,940
  • 75th percentile: $48,670
  • 90th percentile: $56,350

Saginaw, MI (unknown number employed): $63,630 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $52,760
  • 25th percentile: $56,830
  • 50th percentile (median): $63,250
  • 75th percentile: $71,590
  • 90th percentile: $77,530

Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI Metropolitan Division (2,440 employed): $50,330 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,470
  • 25th percentile: $39,500
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,200
  • 75th percentile: $58,930
  • 90th percentile: $72,450

Upper Peninsula of Michigan Nonmetropolitan Area (130 employed): $45,460 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $18,300
  • 25th percentile: $20,020
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,030
  • 75th percentile: $59,090
  • 90th percentile: $89,390

Northeast Lower Peninsula of Michigan Nonmetropolitan Area (90 employed): $45,620 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,820
  • 25th percentile: $39,450
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,550
  • 75th percentile: $54,730
  • 90th percentile: $67,260

Northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan Nonmetropolitan Area (290 employed): $39,860 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,090
  • 25th percentile: $32,840
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,430
  • 75th percentile: $45,980
  • 90th percentile: $56,220

Balance of Lower Peninsula of Michigan Nonmetropolitan Area (450 employed): $38,540 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,630
  • 25th percentile: $30,370
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,910
  • 75th percentile: $47,440
  • 90th percentile: $57,400

Accredited HVAC Schools in Michigan

In order to become an HVAC mechanic, installer, or repairer in Michigan, it’s important to receive the proper training in the profession. Not only is this important to ensure the proper functioning of machines, but HVAC work incurs a higher average rate of injury than other professions. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Dec. 2015) points out that relatively common problems include burns, electric shocks, and muscle strains. Handling refrigerants can be especially hazardous since contact with the skin can produce frostbite or even blindness. Therefore it is imperative to learn about the best practices and procedures in handling equipment safely.

Aspiring HVAC workers are encouraged to seek out accredited training programs. The process of accreditation takes into consideration various aspects of a training program or school, including the quality of facilities, the comprehensiveness of curricula, and various student outcome measures (e.g., average student debt, post-program employment rates). There are two esteemed program-approval entities in HVAC: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

There is currently one PAHRA-accredited HVAC training school: Grand Rapids Community College. GRCC boasts affordable tuition, flexible class scheduling (day or evening), quality job placement assistance, and a focus on the practical applications of all knowledge imparted. There are several HVAC programs available, including a certificate and a two-year associate of applied arts and sciences (AAS) degree in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technology. The AAS program features hands-on coursework in heating & cooling controls; HVACR electronic controls; commercial refrigeration; metallic & non-metallic joining; duct construction & design; mechanical codes; and basic boiler operation. Notably, this program costs $110 per credit hour for residents, $238 for non-GR residents, and $353 for those living out of state.

There is one training school accredited by HVAC Excellence at Washtenaw Community College of Ann Arbor. Similarly, Washtenaw boasts both a certificate program (“accelerated training in HVACR”) and an associate of applied science (AAS) in sustainable HVACR technologies. Notably, parts of the AAS coursework are available online, allowing for an optimally flexible schedule. Both programs feature courses such as HVAC sheet metal fabrication; residential & light commercial heating systems; and soldering & brazing. The distance-based AAS program—ideal for journey-level technicians ready to complete a degree—prepares students to take the Green Energy Awareness certification test offered by the Green Mechanical Council, providing additional instruction in advanced electrical & direct digital controls; air system layout & design; residential HVAC competency exams & codes; hydronic systems; energy audits; and commercial industry standards with competency exams. This online HVAC program costs $94 per credit for those living in the district, $155 for out-of-district, and $208 for people living out of state.

Baker College of Flint also provides an online HVAC technology certificate program which focuses on the fundamentals of installing HVAC systems and troubleshooting issues. Courses include introduction to mechanical systems; EPA recovery & certification; professional career strategies; blueprint reading for architecture; and air conditioning & heat pumps.

Finally, the Dorsey Schools campus at Wayne-Westland also offers an HVAC systems technician diploma, providing hands-on instruction in HVAC systems (residential and commercial), electricity, and refrigeration. This program includes preparation for the mandatory EPA 608 Certification (type II) for those who work with refrigerants. Classes in this skilled trades program include controls; blueprinting, weatherization & sustainability; and industry safety standards.

For those who live in more rural regions of Michigan or have other time commitments preventing them from attending an on-campus program, there are other distance-based HVAC training programs available in addition to the aforementioned AAS (Washtenaw Community College) and certificate (Baker College). To learn about the range of web-based learning available in this field, check out the online HVAC programs page.

Michigan HVAC Certification & Licensing

In order to work as an HVAC technician, mechanic, or installer in Michigan, it’s essential to get the proper credentialing. There is one mandatory national certification for anyone who works with refrigerants: the EPA Section 608 Certification. There are four subtypes which vary by equipment: type I (small appliances), type II (high-pressure refrigerants), type III (low-pressure refrigerants), and type IV (universal).

Additionally, many job postings for HVAC techs in MI call for three-to-five years of experience in the field, as well as a competency-based certification. These credentials are available through various organizations such as the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence. To learn in-depth about each of these credentialing entities, check out the HVAC certification page.

Finally, there is requisite state credentialing in this profession as well. In the state of Michigan, HVAC technicians must have mechanical contractor’s license from the MI Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). Permits and licensure are not required to “install” portable equipment, self-contained refrigeration systems, or window-mounted air conditioners. To qualify for the MI mechanical contractor’s license, candidates must have:

  • At least three years of experience (6,000 hours) in each of the work classifications for which he or she is applying (e.g., hydronic heating & cooling; HVAC equipment; refrigeration; ductwork, etc.), one year of which can be from an educational program
  • Detailed application with all qualifying work performed
  • Application fee ($75) and exam fee ($100)
  • Passing score (at least 70 percent) on an exam

The MI mechanical contractor’s license exam comprises written tests for each work classification sought, as well as 20 questions on general laws & rules, the construction code, and basic safety rules. The exam is offered four times annually, and the licenses are valid for one year, expiring annually on December 31st.

Finally, there are six types of “specialty” licenses available for those in MI with more advanced experience in the following areas: solar, solid fuel, LP tank & pipe, underground tank & pipe, gas piping, and gas piping & venting. To learn in depth about the laws regulating HVAC workers in Michigan, please visit the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) page.