HVAC Schools in Alaska – Degree Programs & Certifications

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

HVAC professionals in Alaska enjoy support from several 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. UA Local 367 offers a pension plan, continuing education and training, and several other benefits. Furthermore, the 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 to pursue membership in the Laborers International Union of North America Local 341, which has locations throughout the state. Members of this union enjoy access to a wellness program, legal services, a pension plan, and scholarships to put toward educational costs.

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

  • Completing calculations on HVAC equipment
  • Testing and calibrating equipment when necessary
  • Maintaining detailed records
  • Interpreting blueprints
  • Following all laws that regulate the HVAC industry
  • Traveling to job sites
  • Educating customers on energy use and conservation
  • Maintaining 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 page explores the HVAC industry in Alaska, including discussions on training programs, salary expectations, and licensure requirements in the state.

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 8.8 percent between 2018 and 2028.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021), on the other hand, reported that national positions in HVAC would likely increase 4 percent between 2019 and 2029, representing an additional 15,100 jobs. Currently, 344,020 HVAC technicians are 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 have routine maintenance from a technician and typically 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 to remain 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 for HVAC workers. For one, a search for HVAC positions in Alaska on Monster (2021) brought up results with organizations including SeaTemp LLC, Tempe Mechanical, Reddy Ice, Brighton Installation, and Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. A similar search on Indeed (2021) yielded results with companies such as Facility Services Management Inc., Johnson Controls, and Bering Straits Native Corporation.

HVAC Worker Salary in Alaska – How Much Do HVAC Technicians Make?

The BLS (May 2020) reported that nationally HVAC/R mechanics and installers receive an annual mean wage of $53,410. Salaries for HVAC technicians in Alaska are significantly above the national average. There were 300 HVAC professionals are working across the state, earning an average annual wage of $79,630.

As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) found that Alaska was the seventh most expensive state, coming in behind only Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, California, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii. For HVAC technicians, this means relatively high salaries may still not go as far as lower salaries in other states, so that is something to keep in mind.

In more detail, here were the annual wage percentiles for HVAC professionals across the country and across Alaska (BLS May 2020):

United States Alaska
Number of HVAC professionals employed 344,020 300
Annual mean wage $53,410 $79,630
10th percentile $31,910 $48,810
25th percentile $39,320 $67,130
50th percentile (median) $50,590 $78,800
75th percentile $64,350 $94,960
90th percentile $80,820 $108,670

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, PayScale (September 2021), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $33,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,673
  • 90th percentile: $78,000

HVAC Apprenticeships in Alaska

To land a job in the HVAC industry, candidates must generally first obtain some type of formal education or on-the-job training. Many aspiring HVAC technicians enroll in a diploma or degree program or complete apprenticeships to fulfill initial training requirements.

Apprenticeships can provide comprehensive education and training, and often 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. In the case of this program, the apprentice is also compensated, earning $20.50 per hour to begin for most jobs, with ten percent raises given upon satisfactory completion of twelve months and 2,000 hours of work.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Alaska

Other aspiring HVAC professionals in Alaska choose to enroll in accredited formal diplomas, certificates, or degree programs. Accreditation is an evaluation of the quality of an educational institution’s program by an independent agency. The evaluation includes both the curriculum and the instructors. When choosing a school, it is essential to determine if it is accredited and which organization granted accreditation.

As of this writing, two main industry organizations evaluate and accredit HVAC programs: the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), which has awarded accreditation to Alaska Vocational Technical Center in Seward, AK, and HVAC Excellence, which has not currently accredited an Alaska program.

Alaska Vocational Technical Center

Aspiring HVAC technicians 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.

Students for this program should have the ability to manage time productively, strong reading and mathematics skills, and a good mechanical aptitude. They train on a variety of commercial and domestic refrigeration systems and learn to install, troubleshoot, and repair refrigeration and air conditioning systems, heat pumps, compressors, condensers, evaporators, control valves, control devices, electrical motors and controls, and electrical wiring.

Comprising 630 clock-hours, the program includes coursework in basic and advanced refrigeration, electricity, and employability skills. Additionally, students during the program will receive testing and training for industry certifications such as EPA 608 refrigeration technician, 10-hour OSHA construction safety certification, industry competency exam, and industrial first aid and CPR.

  • Location: Seward, AK
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education (COE); PAHRA
  • Expected Time to Completion: 630 clock-hours
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,748

Charter College

Charter College offers a certificate in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration preparing students to seek entry-level employment as aHVAC/R mechanics. Students in this program learn to install, maintain, and repair almost all types of HVAC/R systems focusing heavily on industry safety practices.

Consisting of 72 credits, the program includes courses such as Basic HVAC science and electrical, basic refrigeration and air properties, refrigeration pipe, duct and flue systems, maintenance and startup skills, residential and commercial controls, gas and oil heating systems, boiler, chiller, and cooling tower systems, and energy conservation, heat recovery, and air quality.

Upon successful completion, graduates will be prepared for the EPA refrigerant handling test and certification and will be able to demonstrate the skills, abilities, and knowledge required for the repair and maintenance of HVAC/R systems and demonstrate basic industry safety practices, including working with refrigeration, electricity, and other HVAC systems.

  • Location: Anchorage, AK
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 10 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the college for details

Matanuska-Susitna College – University of Alaska Anchorage

University of Alaska’s Mat-Su College offers an occupational endorsement certificate in refrigeration and heating preparing students with the technical knowledge and skills required for installing, diagnosing, and repairing modern residential and commercial HVAC/R systems.

Combining classroom instruction and hands-on training, the program helps students develop an understanding of complex systems and prepares them to sit for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 National Certification Exam and the ESCO Institute Employment Ready certification exam.

Made up of 24 credits, the program includes courses such as refrigeration and air conditioning, electrical circuits for refrigeration and heating, fundamentals of heating, HVAC/R codes, HVAC/R distribution systems, HVAC/R control systems, and HVAC/R troubleshooting essentials.

Graduates of this occupational endorsement certificate will be able to work safely with torches, tools, electricity, heating fuels, refrigerants, and other equipment associated with HVAC/R work, troubleshoot HVAC/R systems systematically, follow environmentally responsible work practices, and apply state, national, and municipal mechanical codes to decisions that involve the designing, installation, operation, and maintenance of HVAC/R systems.

  • Location: Palmer, AK
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($234 per credit); non-resident ($800 per credit)

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 before performing any work in this industry. To receive licensure, HVAC technicians must submit a notarized application to this division, along with the following:

  • A 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 can submit their scores to the division to receive a license.

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).