HVAC Training Schools & Certifications in Arkansas

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For Arkansas (AR), the nickname Land of Opportunity is especially fitting given its bustling economy for professionals in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC-R or simply HVAC). Licensed by the AR state government, HVAC workers deal with the design, installation, construction, maintenance, service, repair, alteration, or modification of a product or of equipment that is used for heating, cooling, or ventilation purposes.

So what specifically do licensed HVAC professionals in Arkansas do? These workers calculate heat loads and losses; maintain detailed customer service records; make efficiency recommendations to clients; read blueprints; troubleshoot components of HVAC systems (e.g., refrigerant controls, hermetic compressors, heat pumps, split systems, ductless splits, water pumps, intake and exhaust fans, unit heaters, electrical circuitry, motors, economizers, humidifiers, etc); use various tools (e.g., manifold gauge set, temperature and pressure charts, multimeters); and solder and braze parts.

HVAC professionals must also maintain active licensure through the Arkansas HVAC/R Licensing Board, which must be renewed annually, in addition to any other necessary regional permitting or registration. Also, all workers who deal with the handling or disposal of refrigerants must get a national credential: the EPA Section 608 certification. Some HVAC workers choose to be generalists, while others may specialize in a type of equipment (e.g., commercial refrigeration systems) or technique.

Not only is there a wealth of employment opportunities and a relatively lucrative salary in this field (discussed below), but there is also a supportive working environment within AR. The Arkansas HVACR Association offers training opportunities, legislative advocacy, benefits such as discounted insurance plans, and other resources to help HVAC professionals in the state.

This guide covers the expected salary for HVAC workers and projected job growth in the industry, as well as accredited schools and license types in Arkansas.

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Demand for HVAC Workers in Arkansas

As mentioned above, there is excellent news for people looking to enter the HVAC field: it is high-growth and relatively lucrative. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020) predicted a 4 percent explosion in HVAC openings across the country between 2019 and 2029, as fast as the average growth projected across all occupations during that period (4 percent). With the expected addition of 15,100 fresh openings nationwide, skilled HVAC professionals are likely to have plenty of opportunities in the coming decade and beyond.

In AR, there is evidence that the prospects are even brighter. Projections Central (2021) reported that there would be a 16.3 percent increase in HVAC positions across Arkansas between 2018 and 2028. With the predicted addition of 500 fresh HVAC positions in AR, there is ample evidence that this is a promising profession in AR and across the country.

Varied forces are contributing to this booming employment climate. First, a majority of structures have climate control systems, particularly in areas with seasonal temperature extremes — and the hot, humid summers in Arkansas would certainly qualify. Second, HVAC systems generally need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. Also, with the rise of manufacturer warranties and service contracts, people in this industry may expect regular work throughout the year.

HVAC professionals sometimes work normal business hours, although others may be called upon to work weekends, holidays, or evenings according to the needs of their customers, especially during the high summer season.

Underscoring the healthy demand for HVAC services in AR is the flurry of openings across common job post websites. For example, Indeed (April 2021) had 156 relevant HVAC postings in the state at places such as Casey’s General Stores, Springfield Mechanical Services, Trane Technologies, Two Rivers Mechanical, and Sears Home Services. Monster (April 2021) had 63 HVAC postings in the state at places such as Lennox International, Baptist Health Arkansas, and Paschal Air, Plumbing & Electric, among others.

While the future looks bright in this field, it is important to note that HVAC workers suffer a higher-than-average rate of injury compared to other American occupations. Since these professionals lift heavy equipment, they are at an increased risk for muscle strains and tears; additionally, refrigerants and other chemicals can expose people to burns, and electric systems may deliver shocks. If HVAC workers don the proper safety equipment and are trained adequately in proper procedures, these issues can generally be kept to a minimum.

Arkansas HVAC Technician Salary Data

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020), HVAC professionals earn relatively competitive salaries, particularly for positions that may require just two years of post-secondary training. BLS (May 2020) states, the median salary for HVAC workers nationwide was $50,590 per year, while the median salary for HVAC technicians in AR was $41,120 per year. In more detail, here were the salary percentiles of HVAC professionals across the US and in Arkansas specifically:

United States Arkansas
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 344,020 3,090
Annual mean wage $53,410 $41,750
10th Percentile $31,910 $26,940
25th Percentile $39,320 $32,820
50th Percentile (Median) $50,590 $41,120
75th Percentile $64,350 $49,720
90th Percentile $80,820 $58,960

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

  • 10th percentile: $32,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,649
  • 90th percentile: $77,000

The BLS (May 2020) stated that there were 3,090 HVAC workers in Arkansas with an annual average salary of $41,750. While this is lower than the national mean, the cost of living in AR is also substantially lower. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) reported that AR was the fourth most affordable state in the country, boasting savings in housing, transportation, and healthcare relative to other states.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Arkansas

For aspiring HVAC professionals in Arkansas, there are a couple of accredited training schools available. The two main accreditation agencies nationally are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). This program-approval process is important to establish a baseline standard of preparation and training for the HVAC career. To learn about how programs are evaluated, please visit either of the above websites or the HVAC programs page.

As of April 2021, there were two HVAC Excellence-accredited programs in Arkansas: Arkansas State University—Beebe, and Arkansas Tech University—Ozark.

Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University—Beebe provides a 34-credit technical certificate, and a 10-credit certificate of proficiency in air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration technology. These programs train students in installing and servicing HVAC/R systems and equipment. They will learn about troubleshooting and servicing varied types of systems and develop knowledge and skills to pursue a satisfying job in the field.

The technical certificate in air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration technology includes courses such as electrical motors and components, gas heating systems, electric circuits and controls, air distribution, materials, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems, and air conditioning and refrigeration components, among others. The courses earned in this technical certificate can be applied toward an associate of applied science in general technology degree.

The certificate of proficiency in air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration technology includes courses such as air distribution, materials, and air conditioning and refrigeration components.

Graduates of these programs will be well prepared to install, service, and maintain, HVAC systems. As they advance in their career, they can also graduate by installing furnaces, completing ductwork for heating new homes, and servicing air conditioners.

  • Location: Beebe, AR
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: 6 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents ($102 per credit); Cleburne County resident ($97 per credit); out-of-state ($174 per credit)

Arkansas Tech University

Arkansas Tech University offers a technical certificate in air conditioning and refrigeration and an associate of applied science degree in air conditioning and refrigeration.

The technical certificate in air conditioning and refrigeration consists of 36 credits and includes courses such as fundamentals of electricity, tubing and piping, basic compression and refrigeration, industrial controls, electronic components, and residential systems.

The associate of applied science degree in air conditioning and refrigeration is made up of 60 credits and includes all the courses mentioned above. Additionally, students also delve into commercial refrigeration, sheet metal, welding for trades and industry, air conditioning service, boiler operations, and introduction to computers. Students are required to complete the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 Certification Test that will earn them a universal license.

Students will be trained to install equipment, wiring, and accessories, determine causes of operating errors, conduct inspections and tests of products, services, or processing to evaluate the quality of performance, determine the kind of equipment and tools needed to do the job, and repair machines or systems.

Apart from these programs, Arkansas Tech University also offers an associate degree in air conditioning and refrigeration facilities management options, a technical certificate in air conditioning and refrigeration facilities management option, and a certificate of proficiency in construction technology.

The facilities management option empowers graduates to take up significantly better employment opportunities. The certificate of proficiency in construction technology may be applied towards the technical certificate in facilities maintenance as well as the associate of applied science degree in air conditioning and refrigeration with an emphasis in facilities management.

  • Location: Ozark, Arkansas
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; HVAC excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS degree (four semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($129 per credit); out-of-state ($258 per credit)

While there are no PAHRA-accredited programs in AR, there are other options available:

Arkansas Northeastern College

Arkansas Northeastern College of Blytheville provides an AAS in general technology with an air conditioning and refrigeration option, a technical certificate in air conditioning and refrigeration, and a certificate of proficiency in air conditioning and refrigeration. These programs help students develop skills for installing, repairing, servicing, and inspecting air conditioning and refrigeration equipment.

The associate of applied science degree requires successful completion of 60 credits, while the technical certificate is made up of 30 credits. The certificate of proficiency consists of 16 to 17 credits. The curriculum includes courses such as introduction to air conditioning, tubing, pipe, and welding, HVAC electricity, electrical components and motors, schematics, fundamentals of gas and electric heat, and residential systems, among others.

  • Location: Blytheville, Arkansas
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS degree (two years); technical certificate (one year); certificate of proficiency (one semester)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-county ($72 per credit); out-of-county ($82 per credit); out-of-state ($132 per credit)

University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College

Finally, the University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College (UA-PTC) of North Little Rock offers the following programs in HVAC/R technology: Associate of applied science degree (AAS), a technical certificate (TC), and a certificate of proficiency (COP) program. These programs help students in developing a wide swath of academic and technical skills and knowledge.

The certificate of proficiency requires successful completion of 15 credits. Courses include technical mathematics, basic electrical circuits, introduction to HVAC/R, and principles of HVAC/R I, and II.

The technical certificate consists of 32 credits. It includes all courses from the certificate of proficiency, with the addition of HVAC/R internship, residential or commercial HVAC, heating systems, commercial refrigeration, and unitary refrigeration.

The AAS degree is made up of 61-62 credits. It includes all courses from the technical certificate with additional courses such as computer concepts, social science, and boiler operations.

These programs help students develop the knowledge and skills necessary for employment in the HVAC/R industry. After graduation, they can take up roles such as HVAC service technician, HVAC/R drafter, refrigeration service technician, HVAC/R designer, building inspector, energy auditor, and HVAC/R estimator.

  • Location: North Little Rock, AR
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS degree (four semesters); technical certificate (three semesters); certificate of proficiency (two semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-State ($134 per credit); out-of-state ($175 per credit)

For residents of more rural regions of AR or those with commitments preventing them from attending a traditional, on-campus HVAC program, there are also distance-based programs available. To learn about these schools, please visit the online HVAC programs page.

Arkansas HVAC Licensing

Before securing work as an HVAC installer or mechanic, workers in Arkansas are strongly advised to check that they have all necessary credentialing. As mentioned previously, there is one mandatory credential for all people nationally who handle refrigerants: the EPA Section 608 certification. There are four types of this specific certification:

  • Type 1 (small appliance)
  • Type 2 (high-pressure appliances)
  • Type 3 (low-pressure appliances)
  • Type 4 (universal)

A majority of HVAC certificate and degree programs in AR provide preparation for this mandatory certification.

There are other national certifications available from organizations such as North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams); HVAC Excellence; and the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association. To discover how to pursue any of these competency-based credentials, please visit the HVAC certifications page.

Lastly, all AR HVAC professionals must have a license from the Arkansas HVAC/R Licensing Board which is affiliated with the Department of Health. Entry-level HVAC professionals in AR must register (at $25) and gain at least two years of experience before applying for one of the many contractor licenses available. Following is a summary of the types of licenses available in AR and how much they cost:

  • Class A – unrestricted
  • Class B – restricted to less than 15 tons of cooling capacity or one million BTUs (heating), and less than 15 horsepower
  • Class C – restricted to repair and servicing only (not installation); systems with less than 15 tons of cooling capacity or one million BTUs (heating), and less than 15 horsepower
  • Class D – allows the licensee to perform sheet metal work on HVAC/R ducts
  • Class E – unrestricted refrigeration-specific license
  • Class L – unrestricted license for those 65 and older

These licenses are valid for one year, and while the state currently does not require any continuing education (CE) hours to renew, this may change in the coming years as the AR HVACR Association has advocated for the adoption of ongoing training requirements for license renewal.

Finally, HVAC professionals in AR may require additional credentials based on the city or county in which they are performing work, and they are encouraged to verify all necessary credentialing with local administrative authorities before beginning any work.

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).