HVAC Training Schools in Alabama – Degrees & Certification

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In the Heart of Dixie, there is an impressive array of job opportunities and professional associations in the heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) field. In fact, Alabama (AL) boasts seven accredited HVAC programs, which is more than most US states, and several organizations that assist these workers in their jobs and educational endeavors.

As proof of point, the Associated Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Alabama describes itself as the “most progressive association of its kind in the nation” and offers training seminars, legal advocacy, discounts on insurance, a quarterly newsletter (The Alabama Contractor), and online continuing education (CE). The HVAC CE programs include a two-hour course on communication and a five-hour course on the gas code, both of which can be applied to maintaining professional credentialing in the industry.

The Subcontractors Association of Alabama, also known as SubAla, provides resources such as an electronic safety library, annual conventions, workers compensation funds, golf tournaments, and other exclusive member benefits. In sum, there is no shortage of support for HVAC workers in AL.

In Alabama, HVAC professionals are licensed by the Alabama Board of Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Contractors. As in any state, the job of an HVAC technician can include a wide array of different tasks and therefore requires a broad base of knowledge around HVAC systems and how they work. For instant, HVAC professionals must understand the theories behind HVAC equipment (e.g., basic refrigeration cycle, basic heating cycle, combustion, electron theory, single- & three-phase circuits, Ohm’s Law, air treatment etc.) in addition to knowing how to install, maintain, and troubleshoot HVAC/R systems and their parts. It is also worth noting that all HVAC professionals nationwide who handle refrigerants must achieve the EPA Section 608 certification.

This guide covers the opportunities for aspiring HVAC mechanics and installers across AL, including occupational growth expectations, salary prospects, accredited HVAC schools, and licensing procedures in Alabama.

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Demand for HVAC Technicians in Alabama

HVAC is a high-growth and relatively lucrative industry, especially for an occupation requiring only one to two years of postsecondary training. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) projected a 13 percent growth rate in HVAC job openings nationwide between 2018 and 2028, more than double the average growth (5 percent) expected across all occupations during that time period.

This rate is roughly the same for Alabama HVAC opportunities, as CareerOneStop—a data organization partnered with the US Department of Labor—reported that there would be a 14 percent increase in HVAC positions across Alabama between 2016 and 2026. With the predicted addition of 650 fresh HVAC positions in AL and 42,800 openings nationwide, there is ample evidence that this is a promising profession in AL and across the country.

There are several reasons for the healthy employment outlook in HVAC. First, HVAC systems typically have a 10- to 15-year lifespan, after which they need to be replaced. Second, with the rise of manufacturer warranties and regular service contracts, these workers are generally guaranteed work throughout the year, even during the low seasons. Third, the growing interest in energy efficiency and evolving legislation contributes to a trend in retrofitting or upgrading old systems to be in compliance with new standards. Lastly, almost all new structures across the US have climate control systems, and as a result, areas of high construction generally have a high demand in this field, particularly for installation specialists.

The BLS (May 2019) notes that 64 percent of HVAC workers around the country were employed in plumbing, heating, and A/C contractors organizations. Also, while some HVAC mechanics and installers work regular business hours, others may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, or holidays during the high summer season in the Yellowhammer State, when demand for air conditioning services peaks.

It is important to point out that people in the HVAC field incur a relatively high rate of injury and illness compared to other occupations. This is due to the physical nature of the work, which often requires the lifting of heavy objects, dealing with electrical wiring, soldering parts, and handling refrigerants, all work-related activities that come with risks. The threat of muscle tears, electrical shocks, or chemical burns can generally be kept to a minimum with the use of safety equipment and rigorous training standards.

Finally, as evidence of a thriving HVAC industry in Alabama, one need not look further than common job posting websites. For example, Indeed (August 2020) had 258 HVAC job openings in AL, including opportunities at the Grandview Medical Center, Sodexo, and Samford University, among others. Monster (August 2020) had 163 jobs at organizations such as Johnson Controls, DAVIS Companies, and Lee Company.

Alabama HVAC Worker Salaries

As mentioned above, HVAC is a relatively well-paying industry, particularly for one requiring minimal post-secondary training. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019) reported that there were 342,040 HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $51,420. It also stated that there were 6,430 HVAC mechanics and installers in Alabama with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $43,170 and the following percentiles:

United States Alabama
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 6,430
Annual mean wage $51,420 $43,170
10th percentile $30,610 $26,490
25th percentile $37,660 $32,820
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $41,340
75th percentile $62,070 $51,900
90th percentile $77,920 $62,640


Salary figures do vary slightly by source of data. Payscale—an aggregator of self-reported salaries—found the following percentiles among its HVAC respondents nationwide in August 2020:

  • 10th percentile: $30,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,779
  • 90th percentile: $74,000

The BLS figures are generally considered more reliable due to the organization’s methods of data collection and relatively high sample size. Regardless of the source, HVAC workers in Alabama had lower salaries than the national averages. That said, it is important to keep in mind that AL is also one of the cheapest states in which to live, and therefore less money goes further. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2020) found that AL was the eight most affordable state in the country.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Alabama

Prior to seeking HVAC employment in Alabama, candidates must receive the proper training. Some aspiring HVAC technicians enroll in apprenticeship programs, which last from three to five years, and generally pay on a sliding scale as a person gains more experience. Alabama apprenticeship programs typically have coursework in areas such as automated HVAC controls; motors; system maintenance; cold water air conditioners & domestic appliances; electricity basics; and industrial & commercial refrigeration systems.

Other aspiring HVAC workers choose instead to enroll in an accredited training program. There are seven of these approved institutions in AL. The main accreditation entities in the country are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), and prospective students are encouraged to check out those websites or the HVAC programs homepage to learn more about the accreditation process.

J. F. Drake State Community & Technical College

J. F. Drake State Community & Technical College offers a 12-credit-hour heating and air conditioning short certificate, a 38 credit-hour heating and air conditioning certificate, and a 66 credit-hour associate in applied science degree in heating and air conditioning. Students in these programs are trained in diagnosing malfunctions and servicing or repairing commercial, industrial, and residential systems.

The curriculum includes courses such as fundamentals of electric heating systems, HVAC/R electrical components, residential air conditioning, the principles of electricity for HVAC/R, HVAC/R electric circuits, principles of refrigeration, HVAC/R service procedures, refrigeration piping practices, heat pump systems, and troubleshooting HVAC/R systems, among others.

Graduates are prepared for employment in the HVAC field and can look up for roles such as facility maintenance supervisor, service technician, and heating & air conditioning lab technician.

  • Location: Huntsville, Alabama
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies (one to six semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: $161 per credit-hour (including fees)

Wallace State Community College

Wallace State Community College of Hanceville offers the following HVAC programs:

  • Refrigerant usage/handling specialist short-term certificate: 9 credit-hours
  • Electrical systems specialist short-term certificate: 12 credit-hours
  • HVAC certificate: 55 credit-hours
  • Associate in applied science in HVAC general technology: 65 credit-hours

These programs help HVAC/R service technicians and installers gain the skills and knowledge needed for passing certification and licensing procedures, so they can start working in the field.

The refrigerant usage/handling specialist short-term certificate includes courses such as principles of refrigeration, service procedures, and refrigerant transition & recovery.

The electrical systems specialist short-term certificate involves courses such as principles of electricity, HVAC/R electrical circuits, HVAC/R electrical components, and HVAC/R electrical motors.

The HVAC certificate includes all courses from the two short term certificates mentioned above with the addition of refrigerant piping practices, fundamentals of electric heat, heat pump systems, residential air conditioning, gas heating systems, commercial refrigeration, troubleshooting HVAC/R systems, commercial air conditioning, freshman seminar, technical math, and English composition.

Finally, the HVAC general technology AAS program includes all courses from the above-mentioned programs, and additional courses such as ethics, principles of biology, and western civilization.

On completion of the program, students can apply for jobs in the industry, and continue developing their skills. Also, they may choose to immediately receive a license to begin contracting HVAC/R services as a business owner or employee. Additionally, students may choose to further their education towards a higher degree at a four-year institution.

  • Location: Hanceville, Alabama
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Associate in applied science degree (four semesters); certificate (four semesters); short-term certificates (one semester)
  • Estimated Tuition: $133 per credit-hour

Gadsden State Community College

Gadsden State Community College offers an associate in applied science degree in air conditioning and refrigeration, an air conditioning and refrigeration certificate, and an air conditioning and refrigeration short-term certificate program. Students for admission to these programs will require a high school diploma or GED.

The short-term certificate program in air conditioning and refrigeration consists of 28 credit-hours. It includes courses such as principles of refrigeration, HVAC/R service procedures, refrigeration piping practices, fundamentals of gas heating systems, fundamentals of electric heating systems, principles of electricity for HVAC/R, HVAC/R electric circuits, HVAC/R electrical components, heat pump systems, and orientation to college.

For the certificate in air conditioning and refrigeration, students must complete a minimum of 46 credit-hours (40 hours in technical and six hours in general education courses). Courses in this program involve all courses from the above-mentioned certificate with additional coursework in basic sheet metal processes, duct design and fabrication, special topics in ACR I and II, system sizing and air distribution, and heat load calculations, among others.

The AAS degree in air conditioning and refrigeration is made up of 76 credit-hours (61 hours in technical courses and a minimum of 15 in general education courses). Some of the courses in this program include troubleshooting HVAC/R systems, commercial air conditioning systems, system sizing and air distribution, commercial refrigeration, heat pump systems, and HVAC/R electric motors, among others.

  • Location: Anniston, Alabama
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (five semesters); certificate (two years); short-term certificate (one year)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($164 per credit-hour); out-of-state ($297 per credit-hour)

Bevill State Community College

The air conditioning and refrigeration program at Bevill State Community College (BSCC) has been designed for teaching students about the basic theories and providing them with a working knowledge of heating and air conditioning for both comfort and environmental considerations. Students graduating from this program will be well equipped to plan, install, operate, and maintain all types of HVAC/R equipment.

The Alabama Board of Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration has approved the program for the Alabama Contractor’s License Exam. BSCC offers an associate in applied science degree as well as a long-term certificate in air conditioning & refrigeration technology (ACR).

The associate in applied science degree is made up of 67 to 68 credit-hours, while the long-term certificate consists of 49 credit-hours. Courses include the principles of refrigeration, HVAC/R service procedures, refrigeration piping practices, fundamentals of gas heating systems, principles of electricity for HVAC/R, HVAC/R electrical circuits, HVAC/R electrical components, heat load calculations, residential air conditioning, refrigeration transition & recovery theory, heat pumps systems I, and commercial refrigeration.

Graduates of the program learn to install, maintain, and repair all types of HVAC/R systems and are well prepared to take up positions such as appliance technician, HVAC service technician, commercial refrigeration technician or service writer, HVAC installer, duct installer, HVAC dealer, HVAC parts dealer, and restaurant refrigeration technician.

  • Location: Hamilton and Sumiton, Alabama
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies (two to three years)
  • Estimated Tuition: $133 per credit-hour

Additional accredited HVAC programs in AL are available at Calhoun State Community College (Huntsville), Alabama Power Company (Verbena), and Lawson State Community College (Birmingham).

Finally, for residents of more rural regions of AL or those with non-flexible time commitments, attending an on-campus program may prove challenging. Fortunately, there are also quality e-programs in HVAC available. To learn about the distance-based schools in this field, check out the online HVAC programs page.

Alabama HVAC Licensing & Certification

In addition to attending an HVAC school in Alabama, aspiring workers in this high-growth career are expected to seek all necessary credentials prior to beginning work.

First, there are several national certifications available. As mentioned in the introduction, all HVAC professionals nationwide who handle environmentally sensitive refrigerants must get the EPA Section 608 certification of which there are four subtypes: type 1 (small appliance), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal). Most HVAC/R programs include EPA 608 exam preparation as part of their program.

Other national credentialing authorities and sample certifications include:

  • HVAC Excellence (e.g., Green Awareness, Residential Heat Load Analysis, Heat Pump Service)
  • North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Air Conditioning Installation, Air Distribution, Oil Heating, Hydronics Gas)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (e.g., EPA Section 608, Commercial Air Conditioning, Domestic Service, Dynamic Compression, HVAC/R electrical)

To discover how to achieve these and other HVAC credentials, please visit the HVAC certifications page.

Second, Alabama HVAC workers must ensure that they have all necessary regional licenses as well. According to the State of Alabama Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors Act (Section 34-31-24), only certified contractors can advertise HVAC services in the state. The main credentialing authority is the Alabama Board of Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Contractors, which notably also issues registrations to all apprentices in this field. AL offers two types of contractor licenses:

  • Heating & Air Conditioning
  • Refrigeration

In addition to submitting a completed application, candidates are expected to:

  • Pass a comprehensive examination
  • Submit either proof of two years of apprenticeship or completion of a qualifying training program
  • Send in proof of at least 3,000 hours (18 months) of work experience under a licensed HVAC/R worker
  • Performance Bond of at least $15,000
  • Pay an exam fee ($150)

Please note that Alabama has HVAC license reciprocity with three states: Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

To maintain these one-year licenses, contractors must complete a renewal application and submit proof of four hours of continuing education (CE) annually. Above all, HVAC professionals in AL are encouraged to reach out to municipal authorities to ensure that they have all necessary credentialing prior to beginning work.

Farheen Gani

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).