HVAC Training Programs in NC

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Not only are the salary prospects bright for aspiring heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (i.e., HVACR or HVAC) technicians in North Carolina (NC), but there’s also a wealth of professional associations and resources for these climate-control gurus. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) found that HVAC workers and mechanics nationwide made an annual average salary of $47,380. This figure is similar to the mean annual wage of all occupations at $48,320 (BLS May 2015), and is relatively generous compensation in a profession which doesn’t typically require a four-year postsecondary degree.

In the Old North State, there’s also an abundance of HVAC and contracting trade associations to provide mentoring, continuing education (CE) opportunities, job posting boards, and legal advocacy in this occupation. For example, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of North Carolina (PHCCA of NC) is staunchly committed to the advancement of the technologies and methodologies in HVAC and the promotion of rigorous safety standards for all workers. This chapter of the PHCCA organizes events, provides training, and serves as a voice for members of this industry. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) also has thriving NC chapters and associations. Chapters are local branches, whereas associations are groups of chapters which typically share geographic boundaries.

So what is it that HVAC mechanics and installers do? And what type of education and licensure is necessary in NC? According to the BLS (Dec. 2015), these specialists perform a variety of functions to ensure temperature and air quality control within commercial and residential structures, including installing HVAC systems; maintaining all components and client records; testing equipment to determine repairs (e.g., air ducts, electrical wiring, heating units); keeping up with evolving legislation and technologies; ensuring that systems are energy efficient; complying with annual renewal requirements of NC HVAC licensure; and educating homeowners and commercial property operators about the systems. Technicians in NC may specialize in an aspect of HVAC (e.g., solar panels, commercial refrigeration, radiant heating), and there is one mandatory certification for all HVAC professionals who work with the recovery and reuse of refrigerants: the EPA Section 608 credential. This certification ensures that an HVAC worker utilizes the proper methods in moving, replacing, or recycling materials which have been shown to adversely affect the earth’s climate.

Read on to discover the opportunities for HVAC technicians and mechanics in NC, as well as the salary prospects, educational programs, and requirements for local licensure and certification.

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North Carolina HVAC Occupational Demand

It’s no surprise that the demand and consequent growth in opportunities for qualified HVAC technicians in North Carolina and across the country are relatively high. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) projected that there will be a 14 percent in job openings for HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide between 2014 and 2024, twice the average growth estimate for all occupations (7 percent). With the expected addition of 39,600 fresh positions for HVAC professionals in the US, there are expected to be ample employment choices in this industry in years to come.

Not only is there a continued demand for new residential and commercial HVAC systems as the American population (and subsequent construction of new structures) expands, but climate-control systems generally must be replaced every 10 to 15 years (BLS May 2015). Furthermore, the maintenance and repair of existing systems coupled with improving technologies for energy efficiency necessitate the availability of qualified HVAC technicians in North Carolina and beyond.

It’s important to note that there’s a relatively high rate of injury and illness for HVAC technicians and installers due to the physical nature of the occupation. Some common injuries include burns, electrical shocks, and muscular strains or tears. It’s up to the technicians to ensure that they have the proper safety equipment and follow procedure to prevent these occurrences.

On the other hand, there are abundant opportunities for HVAC professionals in North Carolina. As proof of point, Indeed (Aug. 2016) posted job openings at places such as Alexander Heating and Air Conditioning, Outer Banks Heating & Cooling, Coastal HVAC LLC, Stone Services Inc., Page Mechanical Group Inc, Pernell, Inc., Food Lion, Romanoff Group, Pro Plumbing Services, Novant Health, South Piedmont Community College, Big Jobs Staffing & Recruiting, and R & S Mechanical.

Finally, the BLS (Dec. 2015) estimated that one in ten HVAC technicians nationwide were self-employed and can dictate their own schedules. The majority, however, work for manufacturing and contracting organizations. Some work typical business hours while others—especially in the busy winter and summer seasons—may have to work weekends, holidays, or evenings to serve client needs.

HVAC Technician Salary in NC

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015), there were 274,680 HVAC workers across the country with an average annual salary of $47,380. While the mean salary in this profession in North Carolina dropped slightly to $41,060, it’s important to note that the cost of living in NC is also substantially lower than many states. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2016) reported that NC was the nineteenth most affordable state, boasting savings in housing and transportation relative to the rest of the country. Please keep this fact in mind while considering the following data.

The BLS (May 2015) found the following percentiles among all HVAC technicians and installers around the country:

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 national figures equated to:

US: $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.

For comparison, the BLS (May 2015) found the following figures for the 10,800 HVAC technicians and installers in NC:

North Carolina (10,800 HVAC workers): $41,060 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $25,700
  • 25th percentile: $32,100
  • 50th percentile (median): $39,090
  • 75th percentile: $49,220
  • 90th percentile: $60,110

And in hourly terms:

North Carolina: $19.74/hr. avg.

  • 10th percentile: $12.36/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.43/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.79/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $23.66/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $28.90/hr.

Not surprisingly, these figures tended to vary based on region within the state. Among the 19 BLS-designated regions within NC, the Durham-Chapel Hill area had the highest salaries in this profession with an average of $50,200. Listed in alphabetic order with the number of workers employed, the average annual salary, and the salary percentiles, here’s a detailed overview of the HVAC salary prospects in various regions of NC (BLS May 2015):

Asheville, NC (540 HVAC workers): $39,060 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $29,870
  • 25th percentile: $33,660
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,170
  • 75th percentile: $44,940
  • 90th percentile: $49,590

Burlington, NC (unknown number of workers): $40,850 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,400
  • 25th percentile: $33,530
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,000
  • 75th percentile: $47,670
  • 90th percentile: $55,500

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC (2,410 workers): $40,920 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,680
  • 25th percentile: $32,210
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,330
  • 75th percentile: $49,420
  • 90th percentile: $60,000

Durham-Chapel Hill, NC (540 workers): $50,200 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,490
  • 25th percentile: $37,320
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,270
  • 75th percentile: $63,990
  • 90th percentile: $73,710

Fayetteville, NC (350 workers): $43,710 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,730
  • 25th percentile: $35,420
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,710
  • 75th percentile: $48,450
  • 90th percentile: $55,500

Goldsboro, NC (110 workers): $37,730 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,010
  • 25th percentile: $24,510
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,020
  • 75th percentile: $43,990
  • 90th percentile: $57,010

Greensboro-High Point, NC (1,330 workers): $42,450 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,030
  • 25th percentile: $32,900
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,920
  • 75th percentile: $51,810
  • 90th percentile: $61,630

Greenville, NC (190 workers): $42,910 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,670
  • 25th percentile: $32,540
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,500
  • 75th percentile: $53,340
  • 90th percentile: $60,250

Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC (280 workers): $37,780 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,990
  • 25th percentile: $30,810
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,860
  • 75th percentile: $43,630
  • 90th percentile: $54,620

Jacksonville, NC (100 workers): $39,800 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,400
  • 25th percentile: $30,120
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,190
  • 75th percentile: $48,620
  • 90th percentile: $60,720

New Bern, NC (140 workers): $38,080 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,290
  • 25th percentile: $29,820
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,670
  • 75th percentile: $46,020
  • 90th percentile: $54,240

Raleigh, NC (2,010 workers): $42,210 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,260
  • 25th percentile: $32,790
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,810
  • 75th percentile: $51,350
  • 90th percentile: $60,940

Rocky Mount, NC (100 workers): $38,920 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $18,430
  • 25th percentile: $32,760
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,750
  • 75th percentile: $47400
  • 90th percentile: $53,520

Wilmington, NC (400 workers): $41,380 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,440
  • 25th percentile: $33,730
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,120
  • 75th percentile: $47,840
  • 90th percentile: $57,600

Winston-Salem, NC (510 workers): $40,450 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,080
  • 25th percentile: $33,100
  • 50th percentile (median): $39,450
  • 75th percentile: $46,990
  • 90th percentile: $55,180

Southeast Coastal North Carolina Nonmetropolitan Area (530 workers): $35,230 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,560
  • 25th percentile: $27,640
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,150
  • 75th percentile: $40,250
  • 90th percentile: $50,240

Northeast Coastal North Carolina Nonmetropolitan Area (290 workers): $34,200 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $21,140
  • 25th percentile: $22,960
  • 50th percentile (median): $28,800
  • 75th percentile: $40,920
  • 90th percentile: $58,660

Piedmont North Carolina Nonmetropolitan Area (540 workers): $39,580 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,230
  • 25th percentile: $31,450
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,710
  • 75th percentile: $46,220
  • 90th percentile: $55,940

Mountain North Carolina Nonmetropolitan Area (300 workers): $40,250 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,180
  • 25th percentile: $32,490
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,860
  • 75th percentile: $49,740
  • 90th percentile: $57,600

Finally, the expected salaries of HVAC workers also tended to vary by source of data. In fact, Indeed (Aug. 2016) reported that HVAC employees in North Carolina had an annual average salary of $39,000, somewhat below the BLS projections. Also, although Payscale (June 2016)—a site with self-reported salaries—does not break down wages by state, it found the following national percentiles among its 486 responding HVAC techs:

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $35,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,266
  • 75th percentile: $53,000
  • 90th percentile: $67,000

More HVAC technicians in the US reported their salaries in hourly terms. Among Payscale’s (2016) 2,566 responding HVAC workers, here were the hourly wage percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $12.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.00/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $23.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $28.00/hr.

Accredited HVAC Schools in NC

In order to become an HVAC technician, mechanic, or installer in North Carolina, a person must have the proper training and certification. Historically, taking on an apprenticeship was one way to prepare for this career. HVAC apprenticeships typically last from three to five years and involve advanced, hands-on training under the guidance of a qualified professional. They generally include at least 144 hours of technical education and 2,000 hours of practice hours repairing, maintaining, and testing HVAC equipment.

The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of North Carolina (PHCCA of NC) provides a four-year apprenticeship program featuring 146 hours of didactic instruction and 2,000 on-the-job hours assisting experienced professionals. Notably, this training program is approved by the NC Department of Labor and certified by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Apprenticeship Training. Other organizations which provide apprenticeship opportunities include the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Inc. and the Associated Builders and Contractors.

In recent decades, it’s become increasingly common for HVAC technicians and installers in North Carolina to attend a six-month to two-year training program at a community college, technical school, or trade school. Students are advised to seek out certificate, diploma, or associate degree programs which are accredited. In HVAC technology, the two common accreditation entities are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). Please visit the websites to learn more about the process of accreditation, or check out the HVAC classes homepage.

Guilford Technical Community College offers the only program in NC accredited by HVAC Excellence. This associate of applied science (AAS) program takes five semesters to complete (including summers) and involves 66 credits of coursework in topics such as HVACR electricity; heating technology; HVACR building code; comfort cooling; refrigerant certification (i.e., EPA Section 608); residential system design; heat pump technology; advanced comfort systems; hydronic heating; and indoor air quality. This program is also available as a 46-credit diploma program.

Pitt Community College of Greenville provides the sole PAHRA-accredited program in NC. This 72-72 credit AAS in air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration technology features classes such as construction safety; mathematical measurement; heating technology; commercial HVAC controls; refrigeration systems; residential system design; weather systems; and general education work.

Wake Tech Community College of Raleigh offers several degree and certificate programs in HVAC technology. In its two-year AAS program, students learn the fundamentals of the trade with classes including mechanical refrigeration; installation of residential & light commercial systems; cooling theory; HVAC duct systems; residential system design; customer relations; building automation systems; and system diagnostics. Wake Tech has options for an AAS degree, a diploma, and certificates in various subfields of HVAC technology (e.g., basic HVAC knowledge, design, building automation, or commercial refrigeration).

Finally, Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) of Charlotte has both associate degrees and diplomas in HVAC technology involving coursework in all-weather systems; energy management; electricity; and print reading construction. Notably, CPCC offers several targeted certificates in various aspects of HVAC technology such as heating service, air conditioning service, all weather systems service, commercial system design & maintenance, refrigeration service, HVAC contracting, and apartment & rental maintenance, to name a few.

Please note that there are various distance-based education options for aspiring HVAC technicians in NC as well. These typically involve the completion of online coursework in addition to hands-on trainings under the guidance of approved HVAC professionals who are located in a student’s area. Online programs may be ideal for people who live in more rural regions of NC or those with heavy professional or familial time commitments. To learn more about the web-based courses and degree programs, please check out the online HVAC programs page.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in North Carolina

In North Carolina, HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers must pursue state licensure prior to securing employment for most types of work. At the very least, all professionals nationally who work with refrigerants must have the EPA Section 608 certification. There are four types: type I (small appliances), II (high-pressure refrigerants); III (low-pressure refrigerants), and IV (universal). As part of all NC degree programs listed above, students get preparation for the EPA certification exam.

There are also various national certifications and knowledge certificates provided by a range of organizations including North American Technician Excellence (NATE), HVAC Excellence, the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute, the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association, and the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES). Please check out the main HVAC certification page to learn in depth about the credential offerings from each of these organizations.

The predominant body which regulates HVAC mechanics and installers in NC is the North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinkler Contractors. This entity issues several types of licenses to HVAC professionals:

  • Heating Group 1 (water-based climate control systems)
  • Heating Group 2 (forced air heating & cooling system with capacity in excess of 15 tons)
  • Heating Group 3 (forced air heating & cooling system with capacity less than 15 tons)

To qualify for a contractor-level licensure, applicants must have two years (4,000 hours) of full-time experience in category of license sought. Up to 2,000 of these hours can come from technical or academic training. To qualify for a technician-level licensure, applicants must have 18 months (3,000 hours) of full-time experience in category of license sought. Up to 1,500 of these hours can come from technical or academic training. Please note that military experience may also qualify a person for NC HVAC licensure.

All licenses expire annually on the last day of December. Although HVAC contractors and technicians in NC must renew their licenses, there is no continuing education (CE) required.

Finally, there are two other regional authorities which issue specific licenses for HVAC workers. For anyone contracting to provide construction services (including complex HVAC installation) in excess of $30,000, they must seek licensure from the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors. Additionally, the North Carolina State Board of Refrigeration Examiners regulates all people and firms in the NC refrigeration trade. To secure a refrigeration contractor license, a person must have at least 4,000 hours of commercial refrigeration experience and pass an examination. This license must be renewed annually.

To learn more about the various NC regulations and licenses available, please contact the appropriate credentialing agencies.