HVAC Programs in Alaska

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It would be rough to face a winter in Alaska without using a heater. To be sure, the dark, frigid winters and the warm, mildly humid summers lead the vast majority of residents to live in housing with some type of climate control. By extension, the Land of the Midnight Sun may be the perfect place to begin a career in the field of heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC).

HVAC professionals in Alaska also enjoy support from a number of unions and professional organizations such as the United Association Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 367 of Anchorage. This union is dedicated to providing support for plumbers, steamfitters, HVAC workers, and other skilled professionals in the area. Notably, it offers a pension plan, continuing education and training, and a number of other benefits. Furthermore, this union also provides an apprenticeship program for those interested in the field of HVAC, which is detailed below.

Alaskan HVAC technicians also have the option of pursuing membership with the Laborers International Union of North America Local 341, which has locations throughout the state in Anchorage, Kodiak, the Kenai Peninsula, Mat-Su, Copper Valley, and Valdez. Members of this union enjoy access to a wellness program, legal services, a pension plan, and even scholarships to put toward educational costs.

So what do HVAC mechanics and installers in Alaska do? Ultimately, HVAC workers are often responsible for the following:

  • Completing calculations on HVAC equipment
  • Testing and calibrating equipment when necessary
  • Maintaining detailed records
  • Interpreting blueprints
  • Following laws that regulate the HVAC industry
  • Traveling to job sites
  • Educating customers on energy use and conservation
  • Maintaining all required licenses and permits

In addition to those listed above, all HVAC technicians in Alaska who handle refrigerants are required to have an active EPA Section 608 Certification.

For many, a job in this field can prove truly rewarding. This article explores the HVAC industry in Alaska, including discussions on training programs, salary expectations, and the licensure requirements.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Alaska

Anyone interested in becoming an HVAC technician can take comfort in the fact that the industry is expected to grow across both the state and the nation. In Alaska specifically, Projections Central anticipated that the number of HVAC openings would increase 4.4 percent between 2014 and 2024. This is somewhat slower than the latest national predictions; to be sure, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that positions in HVAC would likely increase 15 percent between 2016 and 2026—an addition of 49,100 jobs. Currently, there are 332,900 HVAC technicians working throughout the country.

There are varied factors behind the growth of the HVAC industry in Alaska and the rest of the country. For one, nearly all new buildings constructed in the state include some form of climate-control system, the installation of which requires the expertise of a trained professional. Furthermore, these systems must be routinely maintained by a technician, and often must be replaced every 10 to 15 years. Finally, the legislation affecting the HVAC industry is constantly in flux; as such, HVAC technicians will continuously remain in high demand as people upgrade systems in compliance with energy saving initiatives and other ordinances.

A brief online job search is one of the easiest ways to visualize this high demand in HVAC workers. For one, a search for HVAC positions in Alaska on Monster (Nov. 2017) brought up 80 results with organizations including Westward Seafoods, Inc., Diamond Heating Comfort Systems, Inc., Chugach Alaska Corporation, Bering Straits Native Corporation, and Geo Reentry Services, LLC, among many others. A similar search on Indeed (Nov. 2017) yielded 82 results with companies such as General Communication, Inc., Siemens, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Providence Health & Services, and Weidner Apartment Homes, among others.

HVAC Worker Salary in Alaska

The BLS (May 2016) reported that HVAC technicians command relatively generous wages throughout their career. Indeed, the median salary for HVAC workers was approximately $45,910 per year, or $22.07 per hour, with these percentiles:

United States (332,900 HVAC workers): $48,320 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,440
  • 25th percentile: $35,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,910
  • 75th percentile: $58,960
  • 90th percentile: $73,350

In hourly figures, these salaries amounted to:

United States: $23.23/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.67/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.04/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.07/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.35/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $35.26/hr.

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (Nov. 2017), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States: 497 HVAC workers responding

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $35,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,226
  • 75th percentile: $56,000
  • 90th percentile: $69,000

An additional 2,613 HVAC workers gave Payscale their hourly salary figures, resulting in these percentile wages:

  • 10th percentile: $13.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.33/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.00/hr.

Salaries for HVAC technicians in Alaska are significantly above the national average. To be sure, there are 300 such professionals working across the state, earning an average annual wage of $63,620 and the following percentiles:

Alaska (300 HVAC workers): $63,620 average

  • 10th percentile: $43,740
  • 25th percentile: $55,120
  • 50th percentile (median): $64,660
  • 75th percentile: $74,070
  • 90th percentile: $80,290

In hourly figures, these equated to:

Alaska: $30.59/hour average

  • 10th percentile: $21.03/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $26.50/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $31.09/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $35.61/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $38.60 /hr.

The BLS also provides statistics on four different geographic regions throughout the state of Alaska, which are listed in the tables below:

Anchorage (170 HVAC workers): $62,630 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $43,800
  • 25th percentile: $55,320
  • 50th percentile (median): $62,970
  • 75th percentile: $72,710
  • 90th percentile: $78,920

Balance of Alaska nonmetropolitan area (40 HVAC workers): $70,760 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $57,510
  • 25th percentile: $66,150
  • 50th percentile (median): $71,980
  • 75th percentile: $77,190
  • 90th percentile: $82,100

Fairbanks (40 HVAC workers): $69,040 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $52,070
  • 25th percentile: $58,100
  • 50th percentile (median): $68,430
  • 75th percentile: $78,350
  • 90th percentile: $91,380

Southeast Alaska Nonmetropolitan Area (50 HVAC workers): $57,020 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $36,290
  • 25th percentile: $45,710
  • 50th percentile (median): $56,770
  • 75th percentile: $68,980
  • 90th percentile: $79,000

Accredited HVAC Schools in Alaska

In order to land a job in the HVAC industry, candidates must generally first obtain some type of formal education or on-the-job training. And, in general, many aspiring HVAC technicians enroll in diploma or degree programs, or complete apprenticeships, although other options are available.

Apprenticeships often provide the most comprehensive education and training, and usually lead to a job after completion. For example, an apprenticeship program is offered by the United Association Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 367 of Anchorage, which lasts for five years and consists of 10,000 hours of on-the-job training. The apprentice must also complete classroom and shop training six weeks out of each year. Of course, the apprentice is also compensated, earning $23.16 per hour to begin for most jobs, with five percent raises given upon satisfactory completion of six months and 1,000 of work.

Aspiring HVAC technicians also have the option of pursuing an undergraduate degree, instead. For example, the University of Alaska at Anchorage offers an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) in refrigeration and heating technology, which requires 66 credit-hours and takes approximately two years to complete. Students in this program take courses on the refrigeration and air conditioning fundamentals, principles of thermodynamics, electrical circuits, technical mathematics, and many more. Tuition for this program is set at $202 per credit-hour for residents, bringing the estimated total cost to $13,332.

Finally, aspiring HVAC technicians also have the option of pursuing a certificate in refrigeration technology through the Alaska Vocational Technical Center of Seward. The program has received accreditation through the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). Typically, 50 percent of the instruction in this program is hands-on, and the other 50 percent includes classroom instruction focusing on electricity REF, basic refrigeration, and subsequently advanced refrigeration, each of which requires 217 training clock hours. Tuition for the program is $2,540, although this does not include costs for books or other fees.

Here, it is important to mention that many aspiring students choose to enroll in accredited programs, which generally take between six months and two years to complete. As of this writing, two main organizations provide accreditation for HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and PAHRA, as mentioned above.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Alaska

As mentioned above, anyone who handles refrigerants in Alaska is required to maintain active EPA Section 608 Certification. The credential is offered in four subcategories varying by type of equipment serviced: type 1 (small appliances), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal).

In addition, an array of other skill-specific certificates are available for HVAC technicians. These are offered through various organizations, including the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator); North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams or ICE); HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus); and others. Check out the HVAC credentialing page for detailed information.

As a final note, HVAC technicians must recognize that their profession is regulated by the Alaska Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing. All HVAC technicians must obtain the necessary licensure prior to performing any work in this industry. In order to receive licensure, HVAC technicians must submit a notarized application to this division, along with the following:

  • $50 nonrefundable application fee
  • $250 license fee
  • Resume, which includes education and experience history for the relevant industry
  • “Certificate in Support of Applicant’s Experience and Qualifications” from three qualified individuals who work in the HVAC industry
  • Official transcripts from a completed HVAC program

Once the application is approved, the applicant may then schedule an examination through PSI Exams to test their knowledge on the subject. If the applicant successfully passes the exam, they must submit their scores to the division in order to receive a license.