HVAC Trade Schools in Little Rock, Arkansas

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Little Rock, Arkansas (AR) is hot and humid during the summer months. Temperatures in the mid-70s during April and October bracket the hottest days. June, July, and August temperatures spike into the high 80s and low 90s. Evenings average about 20 degrees cooler than the daytime highs. Those months all have three or more inches of rain. Other months have even more rain, with April and November receiving more than five inches each.

The weather starts cooling in November, with average highs in December, January, and February hovering in the low to mid-50s. The lows are in the 30s but seldom drop below freezing. The winter months occasionally experience light snow. Slightly more than three-and-a-half inches of snow falls the whole winter.

Situated close to the center of Arkansas, Little Rock is both the state capitol and a county seat. The Port of Little Rock on the Arkansas River contributes significantly to business growth and has helped make the city the hub of the state’s economic expansion.

Agriculture remains an essential part of Little Rock’s prosperity; however, the city’s industrial base now includes aviation, with companies like Raytheon Aircraft making it their home. Other growth industries include education, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, and technology. Numerous museums and cultural sites, such as the Clinton Presidential Library, draw visitors.

Heat and humidity during the long summer days and the wet and cold winters frequently keep Little Rock residents indoors. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) provides the comfort they need in their homes and workplaces. The addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R) is often required by agricultural, educational, healthcare, and manufacturing facilities. The growing technology industry often needs specialized climate control systems to keep their equipment operating efficiently.

Workforce data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) shows that 1,070 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed in the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway area during the period ended May 2019. Industry organizations that include the following provided support and training to the technicians and their employers:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Associated Builders & Contractors of Arkansas (ABCARK)
  • Associated General Contractors of Arkansas (AGCAR)
  • Arkansas HVACR Association
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA)
  • Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA)

These and similar organizations work with others in the industry and with government agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards for the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Little Rock, AR

In Little Rock, AR, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians continue to experience new job opportunities both locally and statewide. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) data anticipated a 13 percent increase in positions for technicians between 2018 and 2028. That is much faster than the predicted 5 percent growth for all US occupations during the same decade. The job market for HVAC technicians in Arkansas is even more favorable. Projections Central expects a 17.8 percent increase in the demand for technicians statewide between 2016 and 2026.

The growth in the climate control industry is due primarily to the construction of new homes and commercial structures. If existing structures are renovated or remodeled, aging HVAC and HVAC/R systems and equipment must be retrofitted, updated, or replaced to meet current environmental standards. Technological advances, changing regulations, or new industries sometimes require the replacement of equipment in recently-built structures. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction also contributes to industry growth.

Modern “smart” buildings include sophisticated HVAC systems that require trained technicians to install, maintain, and service. The best job opportunities will go to technicians who are skilled troubleshooters, understand electronics and high-tech, and are proficient with computers.

Technicians who specialize in new construction may occasionally experience unemployment if construction declines. The economic prosperity and continued growth of Little Rock make a decline in construction unlikely in the foreseeable future. Businesses and homeowners depend on year-round climate control. Technicians who maintain, service, and repair equipment and systems can expect full-time employment regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in Little Rock, AR

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) data shows that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730. Technicians in the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway area received an annual median salary of $38,280. The lower wage isn’t as significant as it appears because Arkansas has a substantially lower cost of living when compared to the national cost of living index.

National, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals are shown in the table below:

United States Arkansas Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 342,040 2,810 1,070
Average Annual Salary $51,420 $40,470 $39,310
10th Percentile $30,610 $25,540 $25,440
25th Percentile $37,660 $32,120 $30,560
50th Percentile (Median) $48,730 $39,280 $38,280
75th Percentile $62,070 $48,180 $47,220
90th Percentile $77,920 $58,360 $56,490

HVAC Apprenticeships in Little Rock, AR

Although aspiring HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can seek employment as helpers and learn their skills through on-the-job training, opportunities for doing so are decreasing. Employers now expect workers to obtain training before seeking employment. Workers 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 Division of Workforce Services provides apprenticeship information and resources for employers and apprentices. The Arkansas Construction Education Foundation offers a two-year HVAC program. Graduates receive a certificate of completion.

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 Little Rock, AR

Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the curriculum and instructors of an institution. Students should ensure that they select an institution that is accredited when choosing a school.

Two industry organizations accredit HVAC programs. HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to Arkansas State University-Beebe, Searcy, and Arkansas Tech University, Ozark. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has not accredited an Arkansas program. Arkansas Tech University is included in the profiles below, due to the accreditation, although attending would require a lengthy commute for Little Rock students.

Note: The information in this article was compiled in June 2020 during the “shelter-in-place” and “stay-home” restrictions. The schools have temporarily suspended classes or are transitioning to online options to comply with the restrictions. It is unknown at this time when classes will resume or which, if any, will be available on-campus. The profiles below indicate on-campus as per normal operations. Any questions as to timing and format should be directed to the school administration.

Arkansas State University-Beebe

ASU-Beebe offers a certificate of proficiency program and a technical certificate program in HVAC technology. Credits earned in the technical certificate program may be transferred to the general technology degree program. Credits may also be transferred to other Arkansas schools.

The certificate of proficiency program includes three courses: air distribution, materials, and HVAC/R components. The coursework totals ten credit-hours. Students in the technical certificate program build on those courses with additional curriculum that encompasses electrical motors and components, gas heating systems, electric circuits and controls, HVAC/R systems, electronics, technical mathematics, and career communication. They earn their certificate at the completion of 34 credit-hours.

The general technology degree program is designed to add general education studies to the technical coursework with the goal of improving the student’s employability and opportunities for promotions. Students complete 15 credit-hours of general education including instruction in English, math, microcomputer applications, psychology/sociology, history, and electives. The technical coursework includes the credits completed for their technical certificate and electives based on their chosen specialty. The degree is awarded at the completion of 60 credit-hours.

  • Location: Searcy, AR
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $102 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Certificates vary; degree two years

Arkansas Tech University

ATU offers HVAC (and HVAC with facilities management) certificates, as well as HVAC (and HVAC with facilities management) degree programs. The programs are taught via classroom lectures and hands-on practice in a fully equipped lab. Students are required to take the EPA Section 608 exam and gain universal certification prior to graduation. Additionally, they are required to sit for employment-ready electrical, air conditioning, and heat pumps industry competency exams (ICE) before graduating.

The HVAC technical certificate curriculum includes the fundamentals of electricity, tubing and piping, industrial safety, basic compression and refrigeration, industrial controls, electronic components, schematics, residential systems, heat gain/loss, air conditioning service, business English, technical mathematics, and an internship or approved elective. Students choosing the facilities management option replace some of the above coursework with metallurgy, carpentry, plumbing, and industrial fluid power. Both certificate programs require 36 credit-hours to complete.

Students seeking the HVAC degree or HVAC with facilities management option degree complete the technical curriculum of the respective certificate programs. Both require a total of 60 credit-hours to earn their degrees. Additional curriculum for the HVAC degree includes boiler operations, commercial refrigeration, sheet metal, welding, composition, social science, and computers. Students choosing the HVAC with facilities management option also complete coursework in management and grounds maintenance.

  • Location: Ozark, AR
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $129 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Certificates one year; degree two years

University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College

The UAPTC offers an HVAC/R certificate of proficiency program, an HVAC/R technical certificate program, and an HVAC/R degree program. The programs require 15 credit-hours, 32 credit-hours, and 61 to 62 credit-hours, respectively.

The curriculum for the certificate of proficiency program includes basic electrical currents, an introduction to HVAC/R, the principles of HVAC/R, and technical mathematics. The curriculum for the technical certificate program encompasses the above coursework, as well as electrical controls and electives such as residential HVAC, commercial HVAC, heating systems, commercial refrigeration, unitary refrigeration, and a residential or commercial internship. Students also complete coursework in career essentials, technical mathematics, and English composition.

Students in the degree program complete the coursework in the certificate programs. Technical electives in the certificate program also are required coursework in the degree program. Additional coursework includes system design, microcomputer applications, computer concepts, and a social science elective. Technical electives include boiler operations, welding, and special projects.

  • Location: North Little Rock, AR
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $134 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Certificates vary; degree two years

Students in Little Rock who are unable to attend on-campus schools may find that online institutions can better meet their needs. More information on accredited programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Little Rock, AR

Because refrigerants present health hazards and can harm the environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain Section 608 certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. There are four types of certifications according to the systems on which technicians work as follows:

  • Type I – for servicing small appliances
  • Type II – for servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning
  • Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances
  • Universal – for servicing all types of equipment

The EPA includes full information on their website.

Section 608 testing and other training and certifications that increase a technician’s employability are available from industry organizations. These include, among others, the following:

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

Further information and details are available on the HVAC certifications page.

The State of Arkansas HVAC/R Licensing Department, as administered by the Arkansas Department of Health, Division of Protective Health, requires HVAC and HVAC/R technicians to obtain licensing. Several classes of licenses are issued. The description and the basic fee for each are as follows:

  • Class A: Unrestricted ($200)
  • Class B: Restricted to not more than 15 tons of cooling capacity per unit or one million BTUs heating and 15 horsepower per unit ($150)
  • Class C: Restricted to servicing or repairing systems of not more than 15 tons of cooling capacity per unit or one million BTUs heating and 15 horsepower per unit. Class C licensees may not install or replace equipment ($100)
  • Class D: Restricted to performing sheet metal on HVAC/R ducts without limitation to the size of the system to which the duct connects ($150)
  • Class E: Unrestricted refrigeration work without limitation of horsepower; licensees may not sell, install, or service HVAC equipment ($150)
  • Class L: A licensee in good standing in any specific category who is 65 or older may obtain a restricted lifetime license (free)

Except for Class L, all licenses expire in one year and must be renewed. Employees of licensees must register with the Department and pay a $25 registration fee. Licensed or registered technicians are not required to obtain city or county licenses.

Contractors working on commercial projects of $50,000 or more or residential projects of $2,000 or more must obtain a contractor’s license. Applicants must pass the Arkansas law and business test, submit financial documents, submit proof of a contractor’s bond and workers comp insurance, submit references, and pay the $100 fee.

Finally, the City of Little Rock requires a business license. The fees vary depending on the type of business and number of employees.

As licensing guidelines are subject to change, HVAC professionals are encouraged to ensure that they have all necessary state and local licenses before beginning any projects.

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.