HVAC Programs in Alaska

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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 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. UA Local 367 offers a pension plan, continuing education and training, and a number of 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 3.3 percent between 2016 and 2026. This is somewhat slower than the latest national predictions; to be sure, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) reported that positions in HVAC would likely increase 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, representing an additional 48,800 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 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 in HVAC workers. For one, a search for HVAC positions in Alaska on Monster (Oct. 2018) brought up 92 results with organizations including Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Chugach Alaska Corporation, and Westward Seafood. A similar search on Indeed (Oct. 2018) yielded 90 results with companies such as NANA Management Services, Diamond Heating Comfort Systems, and LONG Building Technologies.

HVAC Worker Salary in Alaska

The BLS (2017) reported that HVAC technicians command relatively generous wages throughout their career. The average salary for HVAC workers is approximately $49,530 per year, or $23.81 per hour, with these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $29,120
  • 25th percentile: $36,150
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,080
  • 75th percentile: $60,270
  • 90th percentile: $75,330

In hourly figures, these salaries amounted to:

  • 10th percentile: $14.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.38/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.64/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.98/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $36.22/hr.

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (Oct. 2018), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States: 879 HVAC workers responding

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $36,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,410
  • 75th percentile: $56,000
  • 90th percentile: $71,000

Of the 4,809 respondents who reported hourly wages, the following rates were calculated:

  • 10th percentile: $13.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.24/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.00/hr.

Salaries for HVAC technicians in Alaska are significantly above the national average. There are 310 such professionals working across the state, earning an average annual wage of $64,040 and the following percentiles:

Alaska: $64,040 average

  • 10th percentile: $44,200
  • 25th percentile: $54,660
  • 50th percentile (median): $63,940
  • 75th percentile: $74,920
  • 90th percentile: $81,580

In hourly figures, these equate to:

Alaska: $30.79/hour average

  • 10th percentile: $21.25/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $26.28/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $30.74/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $36.02/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $39.22/hr.

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

Anchorage (190 HVAC workers): $64,090 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $46,720
  • 25th percentile: $54,900
  • 50th percentile (median): $63,230
  • 75th percentile: $74,660
  • 90th percentile: $81,160

Balance of Alaska nonmetropolitan area (40 HVAC workers): $72,480 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $56,490
  • 25th percentile: $67,520
  • 50th percentile (median): $73,660
  • 75th percentile: $79,800
  • 90th percentile: $89,110

Fairbanks (40 HVAC workers): $64,230 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $48,350
  • 25th percentile: $54,370
  • 50th percentile (median): $61,230
  • 75th percentile: $75,830
  • 90th percentile: $85,410

Southeast Alaska Nonmetropolitan Area (number of HVAC workers unreported): $55,940 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $34,020
  • 25th percentile: $38,150
  • 50th percentile (median): $58,170
  • 75th percentile: $69,040
  • 90th percentile: $77,560

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. Many aspiring HVAC technicians enroll in diploma or degree programs 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 $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 (AAS) in refrigeration and heating technology, which requires 66 credit-hours and takes approximately two years to complete. Students in this program take courses on refrigeration and air conditioning fundamentals, principles of thermodynamics, electrical circuits, technical mathematics, and other subjects. Tuition for this program is set at $204 or $212 per credit-hour for residents (the cost differential depends on where in Alaska the student is a resident), bringing the estimated total cost to between $13,464 and $13,992.

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. The Alaska Vocational Technical Center is the only accredited program offered in the state as of 2018.

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 can submit their scores to the division in order to receive a license.