HVAC Training Schools and Certifications in Arkansas

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For Arkansas, 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 & exhaust fans, unit heaters, electrical circuitry, motors, economizers, humidifiers, etc); use various tools (e.g., manifold gauge set, temperature & pressure charts, multimeters); 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 HVAC/R 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 AR.

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Demand for HVAC Workers in Arkansas

As mentioned above, there’s excellent news for people looking to enter the HVAC field: it’s high-growth and relatively lucrative. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2024) predicts a 6 percent explosion in HVAC openings across the country between 2022 and 2032, double the average growth projected across all occupations during that time period (3 percent). With the expected addition of 23,000 fresh openings nationwide, skilled HVAC professionals are likely to have plenty of opportunities in the coming decade and beyond.

In AR, there’s evidence that the prospects are equally bright. Projections Central (2024) reported that there would be a 5.5 percent percent increase in HVAC positions across Arkansas between 2020 and 2030. With the predicted addition of 190 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 (May 2024) had 176 relevant HVAC postings in the state at places such as Benning’s Heating & Air, Inc., Promark Heat & Air, Air Master Heating & Air Conditioning, International Support Group, Scott Systems Heat & Air., and Prime Air, among others. Monster (May 2024) had additional job posts for Aerojet Rocketdyne, Jobot, and Johnson Controls International., and others.

While the future looks bright in this field, it’s 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.

How Much Do HVAC Workers Make in Arkansas?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2023), HVAC professionals earn relatively competitive salaries, particularly for positions that may require just two years of post-secondary training. BLS (May 2023) states the median salary for HVAC workers nationwide was $57,300 per year, while the median salary for HVAC technicians in AR was $47,620 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 397,450 3,830
Annual mean wage $59,620 $49,340
10th Percentile $37,270 $34,510
25th Percentile $46,550 $37,730
50th Percentile (Median) $57,300 $47,620
75th Percentile $71,120 $57,830
90th Percentile $84,250 $66,000

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, PayScale (May 2024), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $36,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $55,000
  • 90th percentile: $83,000

The BLS (May 2023) stated that there were 3,830 HVAC workers in Arkansas with an annual average salary of $49,340. 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 2024) reported that AR was the seventh most affordable state in the country, boasting savings in housing, transportation, and healthcare relative to other states.

HVAC Apprenticeships in Arkansas

Although aspiring HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can seek employment as helpers and learn their skills through on-the-job training, few opportunities for doing so are available. Contemporary employers now expect workers to obtain training before seeking employment. Aspiring technicians may participate in an apprenticeship program or attend classes. Obtaining formal training or serving an apprenticeship opens up more employment opportunities, as well as enabling technicians to potentially start at higher wages and earn more throughout their career.

Apprenticeships include specified hours of on-the-job training (2,000) and classroom work (144) annually for three to five years. The Arkansas Office of Skills Development provides apprenticeship information and resources for employers and apprentices.

Industry associations such as the following also offer HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Their websites include schedules, fees, and other relevant information.

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 in order to establish a baseline standard of preparation and training for HVAC career. To learn about how programs are evaluated, please visit either of the above websites or the HVAC programs page.

As of May 2024, there were three HVAC Excellence-accredited programs in Arkansas: Arkansas State University—Beebe, Arkansas Tech University—Ozark, and North Arkansas College—Harrison.

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: Six months

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)

North Arkansas College

North Arkansas College offers three HVAC/R technology programs: a certificate of proficiency, a technical certificate, and an AAS degree. All three are accredited by HVAC Excellence. All three programs also teach refrigerant management in preparation for the EPA Section 608 exam. Students are required to sit for the exam before graduation.

Students in the certificate of proficiency program learn industrial safety, heating fundamentals, control wiring and components, introduction of HVAC/R, and math. The program can be completed in one semester.

The technical certificate program includes the above curriculum and adds coursework that includes load calculations, air distribution, mechanical codes, commercial HVAC/R, and building automation. Students also complete two internships.

The 63-credit degree program encompasses the above coursework. It also includes additional technical coursework such as commercial refrigeration, networks, industrial electricity/motors, and industrial control systems. Students also complete a third internship, as well as general education coursework that includes such subjects as algebra, English composition, and social and behavioral sciences. Graduates are qualified to seek employment in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors as HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Harrison, Arkansas
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate of proficiency (one semester); technical certificate (one year); degree (two years)

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)

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 (CP) 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 8 credits. The program includes two courses: basic electrical circuits; and principles of HVAC/R I.

The technical certificate consists of 31 credits. It includes the courses from the certificate of proficiency, with the addition of principles of HVAC/R II and III, technical math, circuit analysis, HVAC/R internship, and the student’s choice of 8 credits of technical coursework.

The AAS degree is made up of 60 credits. It includes all courses from the technical certificate with additional courses such as residential HVAC, heating systems, system design, commercial HVAC/R, unitary refrigeration, computer concepts, and social science electives.

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 (one semester)

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 and Certification

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. Entry-level HVAC professionals in AR must register and gain at least two years of experience before applying for one of the many contractor licenses available. Here is a summary of the types of licenses available in AR:

  • 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

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’re performing work, and they are encouraged to verify all necessary credentialing with local administrative authorities prior to 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).