Anchorage, Alaska (AK) HVAC Training Schools & Certification

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Cool summers and frigid winters define the climate of Anchorage, Alaska (AK). The months of June, July, and August are the warmest months, with average highs in the mid-60s and lows in the upper 40s to the low 50s. Those averages can soar, such as the record-setting 90 degrees on July 4, 2019.

Although some rain falls during the summer, with August receiving the most at just under four inches, the days are lengthy and sunny. That begins to change in September, and by October, the daylight hours are much shorter with few hours of sunshine, with nearly a foot of snowfall. Daytime temperatures from November through February hover in the upper 20s, and the nighttime temperatures are in the teens. Record lows plunge to the minus 30s. In March, the days start to warm to above freezing temperatures, but the nights don’t pass the freezing mark until May. November and December receive the most snow, at 13 feet and 17 feet, respectively. Total snowfall for the winter exceeds six feet.

Nearly half of Alaska’s residents live in and around Anchorage. Unlike in other Alaskan cities, the economy of Anchorage isn’t dependent on mining or fishing. Its location, and the construction of the railroad, has made it a transportation hub. Transportation of cargo has made Anchorage’s airport the world’s fifth-busiest center. Three military installations (Elmendorf Air Force Base, Fort Richardson, and Kulis National Guard Base) contribute significantly to financial activity. The oil and gas industry and an expanding tourism industry round out the diversified economy.

Nature and an abundance of wildlife provide many opportunities for the residents of Anchorage to enjoy the outdoors. The weather, however, frequently keeps them indoors, where they rely on heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort in their homes and workplaces. Warehouses and storage facilities require sophisticated climate-control systems to protect their inventories, including the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R) to keep their modern electronics operating correctly. The hospitality venues depend on HVAC and HVAC/R to keep their guests and customers comfortable.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019), 200 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in Anchorage during the year that ended May 2018. The following industry organizations provided training and support to the workers and their employers:

  • Alaska Mechanical Contractors Association
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • Associated Builders and Contractors of Alaska
  • Associated General Contractors of Alaska
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association
  • UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 367

Organizations such as these coordinate with others in the industry and government agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards. They serve all aspects of the HVAC and refrigeration industry to ensure the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Anchorage, AK

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019) workforce data predicts a 13 percent increase in new job openings for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians nationwide between 2018 and 2028. That is more than twice the increase of 5 percent predicted for all occupations during that decade. Projections Central anticipates a 2.7 percent increase in the state for new technicians between 2016 and 2026—significantly lower than most areas.

The HVAC and HVAC/R industry grows for several reasons. The primary factor is new construction, and several projects are in the works for Anchorage, particularly at the airport. New residential housing is also on the increase. Extensive damage from earthquakes has led to repairs to existing structures, which ultimately means that aging HVAC systems need to be replaced or upgraded. All climate-control equipment and systems must meet contemporary pollution reduction and energy efficiency standards. Healthcare facilities, schools, and businesses that rely on technology demand systems that provide specific levels of humidity, air quality, and temperature.

The best job opportunities go to HVAC technicians who are trained to install, maintain, or service the complex climate-control systems in use today. Technicians must be skilled troubleshooters and problem solvers. Additionally, they must have advanced mechanical ability, be proficient in using computers, and understand electronics.

Technicians who work on new installations may occasionally experience unemployment if construction declines, but that seems unlikely in Anchorage in the near future. The number of visitors continues to shatter records. Technicians who specialize in maintenance and repair work typically have year-round employment, as businesses and homeowners want to keep their systems in good working order regardless of economic conditions.

HVAC Salaries in Anchorage, AK

The BLS (2019) reports that HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide received a median salary of $47,610. Technicians in Anchorage received a median salary of $66,500 during the same year. The higher earnings compensate for the cost of living in Alaska, which is higher than most US states.

The table below compares national, state, and regional HVAC technician salaries:

United States Alaska Anchorage, AK
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 300 200
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $66,290 $66,510
10th Percentile $29,460 $50,970 $52,990
25th Percentile $36,520 $57,760 $58,650
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $66,760 $66,500
75th Percentile $60,900 $76,290 $75,200
90th Percentile $76,230 $81,590 $80,110

HVAC Apprenticeships in Anchorage, AK

Although in the past, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians could find employment as helpers and learn their skills through on-the-job training, few opportunities for doing so exist today. Trained professionals are required to work on the climate-control systems installed in contemporary structures. Workers who acquire training either by participating in an apprenticeship or attending classes will not only have the best job opportunities, but also potentially start at higher wages and typically earn more throughout their career.

Details vary among the programs, but apprenticeships typically include 2,000 hours of on-the-job experience combined with 144 hours of classroom instruction per year for three to five years.

The State of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development provides information and resources for workers seeking apprenticeships. Associated Builders and Contractors of Alaska offers apprenticeships in the construction trades, including HVAC.

The Alaska Apprenticeship Training Coordinators Association Joint Administered Training Committees (JATC) provides apprenticeship for numerous construction trades, including HVAC. The Anchorage Area Plumbers & Pipefitters has a five-year program that includes 10,000 hours of on-the-job training. The Alaska Southcentral/ Southeastern Sheet Metal Workers Local Union #23 provides a four-year program that includes 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 960 classroom hours.

Anchorage workers who are unable to attend the local programs may obtain their training from industry associations, including:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society

Details as to program offers, schedules, and fees are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Anchorage, AK

Aspiring technicians choosing formal classroom training instead of an apprenticeship should first confirm that the school of their choice is accredited. Accreditation is the process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the curriculum and instructors of a program.

Two industry organizations are responsible for accrediting HVAC programs. HVAC Excellence has not yet accredited an Alaska program. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has awarded accreditation to Alaska Vocational Technical Center (AVTEC) in Seward. Although attending AVTEC would require a lengthy commute for Anchorage students, it is included in the profiles below due to its accreditation.

Alaska Vocational Technical Center

AVTEC offers two certificate programs: plumbing and heating technology and refrigeration. Both programs divide the coursework between 50 percent hands-on training and 50 percent classroom instruction. Graduates are qualified to seek employment in entry-level positions or participate in an apprenticeship.

Students in the plumbing and heating program complete coursework in electricity, heating, and plumbing. They are awarded certificates as plumbing and heating technicians, plumbing and heating repairs, or plumbing and heating assistant repairers, depending on their level of competence.

The curriculum for the refrigeration program includes electricity, as well as basic and advanced refrigeration. Students also prepare for and take industry certification exams that include OSHA Safety, EPA Section 608, Industrial Competency Exam (ICE), and Industrial First Aid and CPR. Graduates are awarded certificates as a refrigeration technician, refrigeration repairer, or refrigeration assistant repairer, based on their competence.

  • Location: Seward, AK
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Commission of the Council on Occupational Education
  • Tuition: Plumbing and heating $3,528; refrigeration $4,131
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Plumbing and heating 18 weeks; refrigeration 20 weeks

Charter College

Charter, a private school, offers an HVAC certificate program. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for entry-level positions and includes HVAC science; electricity; refrigeration; air properties’ pipe, duct, and flue systems’ refrigerants and oils; commercial refrigeration systems; maintenance and startup; controls; gas and oil heating systems; boiler, chiller, and cooling tower systems; residential and commercial HVAC and heat pumps; energy conservation; heat recovery; air quality; and the fundamentals of technology.

Non-technical classes, which may be completed online, include student and professional success strategies. Students complete a total of 72 credit-hours to earn a certificate.

  • Location: Anchorage, AK
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools; Authorized by Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education
  • Tuition: $24,480 *
  • Format: On-campus and online
  • Program Length: 10 months

*Alaska Native & American and Canadian Indian Tuition Discount (15 percent) applies to Alaska Native & American and Canadian Indian students. Proof of eligibility is required.

University of Alaska, Anchorage

The University of Alaska offers occupational endorsement certificates (OEC), an undergraduate certificate, and an associate’s degree in refrigeration and heating technology at the Matanuska-Susitna College campus.

The commercial refrigeration OEC includes coursework in refrigeration and air conditioning, electrical circuits, and troubleshooting HVAC/R systems. Students must complete 17 credit-hours to earn their certificate and are prepared for entry-level positions. The residential and light commercial HVAC OEC curriculum includes HVAC/R controls, customer relations and job etiquette, heating and forced air heat, commercial HVAC/R systems, and hydronic heat systems. Students complete 16 credit-hours to earn a certificate.

The undergraduate certificate program includes the OEC coursework, with the addition of technical math, thermodynamics, HVAC/R codes, commercial and ammonia refrigeration, and HVAC/R sheet metal, for a total of 51 credit-hours. Graduates are qualified to sit for the Section 608 and NATE entry-level certification exams. They are also eligible for institutional recommendation for the Unlimited Refrigeration Mechanical Administrator license.

Students seeking a degree complete all the coursework for the certificate programs, as well as general education requirements. Their degree is awarded at the completion of 60 credit-hours. The credits and coursework may be applied toward a bachelor of science in the applied technologies leadership program.

  • Location: Palmer, AK
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition: OEC $223 per credit-hour; undergraduate and upper-division $269 per credit-hour
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Timeline for certificates vary; degree requires two years

Anchorage workers who are unable to attend a local school may find that online HVAC training at an accredited online school will meet their needs. The online automotive HVAC program at Ashworth College in Wasilla, AK may be of interest to Anchorage technicians.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Anchorage, AK

All HVAC technicians who work with refrigerants are required by federal law to obtain Section 608 certification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Becoming certified requires passing exams on the safe handling of refrigerants. The exams encompass four levels of certification, which are based on the size and type of equipment on which the technician works. A technician who works on all types of HVAC and HVAC/R equipment should obtain Universal certification. Practice exams and additional information are available on the EPA website.

Section 608 certification and additional certifications are offered by industry organizations. The certifications potentially increase the employability and salaries of technicians. These include the following:

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

Each organization’s website has details of certifications available and fees. Further information is available on the HVAC certifications page.

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians are subject to regulation by the Alaska Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing. Applicants may be licensed by examination or by credentials. The initial fee for either is $350.

In both cases, applicants must submit a notarized application, a resume of experience, statements from three individuals who are familiar with the applicant’s experience and qualifications, and transcripts from educational institutions. Applicants seeking licensure by examination will then undergo the appropriate testing. Applicants seeking licensure by credentials must submit verification of examination and licensure by another state. Seven categories of licensing are available, two of which are residential HVAC and unlimited refrigeration. Additional credentials may be required for each category.

The Municipality of Anchorage does not currently require HVAC technicians to obtain a license.

As all licensing agencies can change their guidelines, HVAC professionals are encouraged to confirm that they are in compliance with current requirements before starting a project.

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.