Montgomery, AL HVAC Schools – Training & Certification

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Summers in Montgomery, Alabama (AL) begin in May and last through September. The days are hot and muggy. Temperatures average in the upper 80s to the mid-90s in July and August. July also receives more than five inches of rain. Summer evenings average about 20 degrees cooler than daytime hours. The sweltering days cool slightly in October, before dropping into the 60s and 50s November through February. Although winter lows hover in the 30s, freezing temperatures are a rarity. February and March experience the heaviest rainfall, with March receiving close to six inches. Snowfall is light, at less than half an inch annually.

Montgomery was the first capital of the Confederate States of America and was named after a Confederate general. Today it is the state capital of Alabama and the Montgomery County seat, as well as the second-largest Alabama city. Montgomery’s early prosperity was based on agriculture due to its location in the “Black Belt” of fertile soil. Currently, it is a “region of vast economic diversity.” It’s home to Maxwell Air Force Base, Hyundai Motor Company, and an nascent technology hub. Education, healthcare, professional services, manufacturing, retail trade, and tourism all contribute significantly to the stability and growth of the economy.

The long, hot summer days and cold winters keep Montgomery residents indoors, especially when the humidity is high. They rely on heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort in their homes and workplaces. The educational, healthcare, and defense facilities often need the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R) for comfort and to keep their equipment operating correctly. The growing technology industry often requires specialized cooling systems.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) workforce data shows that 500 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed in Montgomery during the period ended May 2019. The technicians and their employers were supported by industry organizations such as the following:

  • Alabama Associated General Contractors (ALAGC)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama (ABC Alabama)
  • Associated Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Alabama (APHCC)
  • Home Builders Association of Alabama (HBAA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)
  • UA Plumbers, Steamfitters, Pipefitters, and Technicians Local 52

Industry organizations such as these coordinate with others in the industry and with government agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards for the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Montgomery, AL

New job opportunities for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians continue to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) data anticipated a 13 percent increase in employment for technicians between 2018 and 2028. That’s more than double the expected 5 percent increase for all US occupations for the same decade. HVAC technicians in Alabama have an even more favorable job outlook. Projections Central predicted a 13.5 percent increase in the demand for technicians statewide between 2016 and 2026.

The HVAC industry maintains growth for several reasons. Construction of new homes and commercial buildings is the primary factor. Renovation and remodeling of existing structures mean that aging HVAC and HVAC/R systems and equipment must be repaired, retrofitted, or replaced to meet current environmental standards. On occasion, technological advances or changing regulations require the replacement of equipment in recently-built structures. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction also contributes to industry growth.

Many modern structures are “smart” buildings that require sophisticated HVAC systems. Today’s climate control equipment requires trained technicians to install, maintain, and service the high-tech systems in old and new structures. The best job opportunities will go to technicians who are skilled troubleshooters, understand electronics and technology, and are proficient with computers. Those who specialize in new construction may occasionally experience unemployment if construction declines. The diversified industries and economic growth of Montgomery make a decline unlikely in the foreseeable future. Homeowners and businesses, especially those that rely on technology, depend on year-round climate control. Technicians who maintain, service, and repair equipment and systems can expect full-time employment.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Montgomery, AL

The BLS (May 2019) wage data shows that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730. Technicians in Montgomery received an annual median salary of $49,090. That’s more favorable than it appears because Alabama has a low cost of living when compared to most other American states.

National, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals are shown in the table below (BLS May 2019):

United States Alabama Montgomery, AL
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 6,430 500
Average annual salary $51,420 $43,170 $48,110
10th percentile $30,610 $26,490 $33,350
25th percentile $37,660 $32,820 $39,920
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $41,340 $49,090
75th percentile $62,070 $51,900 $57,590
90th percentile $77,920 $62,640 $62,490

HVAC Apprenticeships in Montgomery, AL

Traditionally, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians began their career as helpers and learned their skills through on-the-job training. That’s become more difficult in the current job market. Workers now obtain training before seeking employment. They typically participate in an apprenticeship program or attend classes. Not only does formal training or apprenticeship open up more employment opportunities, but technicians also potentially start at higher wages and earn more throughout their career.

Apprenticeships include specified hours of on-the-job training (e.g., 2,000 hours) and classroom work (e.g., 144 hours) annually for three to five years. Information for job seekers on how to become a registered apprentice is available through the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship. Established in 2019 to expand the use of registered apprenticeships, the website includes links on where to find training and potential employers.

Additionally, workers and employers can find information and resources from the State of Alabama Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act website. As of May 2020, apprenticeship listings include a plumber and pipefitter program in Duncanville and a plumbers and steamfitters program available in Montgomery. Both programs include training in heating and cooling systems and offer a certificate of completion.

UA Plumbers, Steamfitters, Pipefitters, and Technicians Local 52 offers five-year apprenticeships in Montgomery. The Construction Education Foundation of Alabama offers four levels of pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship in the trades, including HVAC, in Birmingham. Each level requires 144 hours of training and may be completed with part-time or full-time attendance.

Additional HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs are available through industry associations that include:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Availability of programs, schedules, and fees are on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Montgomery, AL

Accreditation is a process by which the curriculum and instructors of an institution are evaluated for quality by an independent agency. When choosing a school, students should ensure that they select an institution that is accredited. Two industry organizations accredit HVAC programs.

HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to the following schools:

  • Calhoun State Community College – Tanner, AL
  • J. F. Drake State Community and Technical College – Huntsville, AL
  • Lawson State Community College – Bessemer, AL
  • Wallace State Community College – Hanceville, AL

The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has accredited the following:

  • Alabama Power Company (Utility Training Facility) – Jasper, AL
  • Bevill State Community College – Sumiton, AL
  • Gadsden State Community College – Anniston, AL

Bevill State Community College and Lawson State Community College are included in the profiles below due to their accreditation, although attending either involves a commute of more than an hour for Montgomery students.

Note: The information in this article was compiled in May 2020 during the “shelter-in-place” and “stay-home” restrictions. The schools have temporarily suspended classes or are transitioning to online options to comply with the restrictions. It is unknown at this time when classes will resume or which, if any, will be available on-campus. The profiles below indicate on-campus as per normal operations. Any questions as to timing and format should be directed to the school administration.

Bevill State Community College

Bevill offers a certificate and a degree HVAC/R technology program. The programs are currently (as of May 2020) available at two of the four campuses. Students should consult with their advisor regarding when/if courses are available at other campuses or online. The degree program is approved by the Alabama Board of Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration for the Alabama Contractor’s License Exam.

Students in the certificate program complete the following coursework: the principles of refrigeration, HVAC/R service, refrigeration piping, gas heating systems, electricity and electrical circuits, electrical components, heat load calculations, residential air conditioning, refrigerants, and heat pumps. They also select three technical electives from the following: electric heating systems, commercial heating systems, electric motors, domestic refrigeration, ice machines, drawings and blueprints, internship, contractors exam review, commercial air conditioning systems, troubleshooting, and NCCER core. Their general education coursework includes English composition and math, for a total of 49 credit-hours to earn their certificate.

Students in the degree program complete the above coursework with the addition of a fourth technical elective. Their general education requirements also include natural science, history, behavioral science, humanities, and fine arts. They earn their degree at the completion of 67 to 68 credit-hours.

  • Location: Hamilton, AL; Sumiton, AL
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $161 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Certificate one year; degree two years

J. F. Ingram State Technical College

Ingraham “serves incarcerated students exclusively.” It offers students the following short-term certificate programs:

  • Basic circuit boards
  • Basic HVAC
  • Basic repair service
  • Repair service

The college also offers a long-term HVAC program and an HVAC degree program. All programs include classroom theory and hands-on practice in the laboratory. The short-term certificates involve 12 credit-hours of coursework relevant to the certificate sought. These are “stackable” certificates.

The long-term certificate coursework includes principles of refrigeration, HVAC/R service, piping, electricity, electrical circuits, gas and electric heating systems, residential air conditioning, customer relations, refrigerants, heat pumps, troubleshooting, and special topics. Students must also complete general education coursework in computer skills, vocational/technical English, mathematics, and oral communication skills. They complete 60 credit-hours to earn their certificate.

Those seeking a degree complete all of the technical courses required for the certificate. They may also choose a heat load elective. They must also complete additional general education courses in writing, business and industrial psychology, and finance. They complete 69 credit-hours to earn their degree.

Graduates of the programs are prepared for entry-level employment. They are also qualified to sit for industry certification exams, such as EPA Section 608, National Career Readiness, NCCER core, and OSHA 10-hour safety.

  • Location: Deatsville, AL
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Tuition: $167 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Certificates vary; degree two years

Fortis College

Fortis has six campuses in Alabama that offer an HVAC/R program, including one in Montgomery. Coursework is presented in classroom lectures followed by hands-on practice in a fully equipped lab. The curriculum includes an introduction to craft skills, trade math, electricity, thermodynamics, controls and motors, residential and commercial air conditioning, commercial and industrial refrigeration, refrigerants, heat pumps, HVAC system performance, troubleshooting, service calls, and preparation for certification exams.

Graduates are qualified to sit for the EPA Section 608 universal exam and to seek entry-level employment as residential and commercial HVAC and HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Montgomery, AL
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools
  • Tuition: $17,460
  • Program Length: 48 weeks

Lawson State Community College

Lawson offers two short HVAC/R certificate programs, one long certificate program, and an HVAC/R degree program. All programs include classroom lectures combined with hands-on practice on industry-standard equipment.

Technical requirements for one short certificate include the principles of HVAC/R and electricity. Students then select at least six technical electives from the following: HVAC/R service, refrigeration piping, gas heating systems, electric circuits and components, troubleshooting, residential air conditioning, ice machines, mechanical/gas/safety codes, drawing and blueprints, refrigerants, heat pumps, internship, contractors license exam review, commercial refrigeration, system sizing and air distribution, and special topics. They complete 25 credit-hours to earn their certificate.

The other short certificate course is a specialty certificate for major appliance repair. The coursework includes customer relations, principles of electricity, ranges, cooktops, and ovens, clothes washers and dishwashers, electric and gas dryers, refrigerants, refrigerators and freezers, and special topics. The program does not include electives and requires 25 credit-hours to complete.

All of the technical coursework for the short programs is included in the long HVAC/R certificate program. Students also complete general education coursework that includes technical English and English composition, public speaking, technical math, algebra, computers, and information systems. They earn their certificate at the completion of 49 credit-hours.

Degree-seeking students complete all the technical and non-technical coursework required for the certificate programs. They also select an additional 12 credit-hours from electives that include engineering technology, commercial and industrial wiring, residential wiring, AC and DC fundamentals, motor controls, industrial mechanics, industrial hydraulics and pneumatics, PLCs, AC and DC machines, and blueprint reading for manufacturing. Their degree is awarded at the completion of 73 credit-hours.

  • Location: Bessemer, AL
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $132 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Certificates vary; degree two years

Southern Union State Community College

The SUSCC offers short-term certificate programs, a long-term HVAC certificate program, and an HVAC degree program. The 12-credit-hour stackable short certificate includes the following coursework: HVAC/R service principles, commercial refrigeration, troubleshooting, and ice machines. The 18-credit-hour stackable short certificate includes the principles of refrigeration, electricity, electrical circuits and components, piping, and refrigerants.

The long-term HVAC certificate program encompasses the curriculum included in the short programs, with the addition of coursework in gas and electric heating systems, heat pumps, and load calculations. Students are also required to take mathematics, English composition or applied writing, microcomputer applications, humanities or fine arts, and oral communication or public speaking. They complete 48 credit-hours to earn their certificate.

Students in the degree program may choose a minor in business management and supervision or industrial electricity/electronics technology. Their basic technical and general education coursework includes all of the certificate classes. Depending on their minor, they then choose from coursework from the following: an introduction to business, business communication, legal and social environment of business, principles of marketing, and small business management; or AC and DC fundamentals, construction wiring, and AC/DC machinery and controls. Both tracks add social/behavioral science to the general education requirement. Students are awarded their degree at the completion of 69 credit-hours.

Students are required to sit for credentialing exams such as EPA Section 608, R4100a refrigerant safety, and Industry Competency (ICE) before graduating.

  • Location: Opelika, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $160 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Certificates vary; degree two years

Trenholm State Community College

Trenholm offers a short-term HVAC/R certificate program, a long-term certificate program, and an HVAC/R degree program with two options. Students in all programs receive classroom instruction and hands-on experience in servicing, maintaining, and troubleshooting HVAC systems. They are qualified to sit for industry certification exams and seek entry-level employment.

The short certificate program encompasses a concentration in advanced HVAC/R. The curriculum includes technical coursework in heat load calculations, heat pumps, system sizing and air distribution, commercial air conditioning systems, and troubleshooting. Students may select two electives from the following: gas and electrical heating systems, motors, mechanical/gas safety codes, environmental systems, and microcomputer applications for a total of 38 credit-hours.

Students in the long certificate program complete the same coursework with the addition of principles of refrigeration, HVAC/R service, piping, electricity, electrical circuits and components, residential air conditioning, domestic refrigeration, ice machines, and a co-op elective. They must also complete six credit-hours of general education electives from the following areas: written composition, humanities and fine arts, literature, natural sciences and mathematics, and social and behavioral science. They complete a total of 47 credit-hours to earn their degree.

The HVAC/R degree program has a refrigeration concentration option. Students in that program complete the long certificate technical coursework and choose nine credit hours from the technical electives. They complete ten additional credit hours of general education coursework. Their degree is awarded at the completion of a total of 60 credit-hours.

The HVAC/R technology degree program excludes coursework in domestic refrigeration and ice machines, and adds the curriculum from the short certificate program. The technical electives are unchanged. Students also complete 16 credit-hours of general education electives, for a total of 69 credit-hours to receive their degree.

  • Location: Montgomery, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $131 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Certificates vary; degree two years

Montgomery technicians who are unable to attend on-campus schools may find that online institutions can better meet their needs. More information on accredited programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Montgomery, AL

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. There are four types of certifications according to the systems on which technicians work as follows:

  • Type I – for servicing small appliances
  • Type II – for servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning
  • Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances
  • Universal – for servicing all types of equipment

Additional information is available on the EPA website.

Section 608 testing and other training and certifications that increase a technician’s employability are available from industry organizations such as the following:

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
  • HVAC Excellence

Further information and details are available on the HVAC certifications page.

The State of Alabama Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Contractors Act mandates technician licensing. Technicians who have completed an apprenticeship or an educational program must submit proof of completion. Technicians who have not obtained formal training must submit proof of a minimum of 3,000 hours of experience under the supervision of an HVAC/R licensee. All applicants are required to take a licensing exam and pay the $150 exam fee.

Contractors are required to obtain licensing, after which they must complete additional forms, submit proof of a $15,000 performance bond, and pay a certification fee. Contractors holding valid licenses from Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, or West Virginia may apply for an Alabama licensing by reciprocity. Contractor licenses must be renewed annually with proof of at least four hours of continuing education and payment of the renewal fee.

The City of Montgomery does not require HVAC technicians to obtain additional licensing, although some projects may require permitting.

As licensing guidelines are subject to change, HVAC professionals are encouraged to ensure that they have all necessary state and local licenses before beginning any projects.

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith was introduced to the HVAC industry when she worked as a bookkeeper and secretary for a small air-conditioning contractor. She eventually became a CPA and started her own practice specializing in small business taxes and accounting. After retiring from business, she began writing articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. She also authored four books. Sandra makes her home in the mountains with a rescue dog that naps on her lap as she writes.