HVAC Training Schools in Florida: Degrees & Certification

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With the hot and humid climate of Florida (FL), it’s no surprise that a resident of the Sunshine State invented one of the first air conditioning machines. In fact, Popular Mechanics reported that in the 1830s, Floridian Dr. John Gorrie built an ice-making system using compression to create buckets of ice. He then blew air on them, thus carrying the cool air to other parts of a room. Although Dr. Gorrie patented the idea in 1851, he was unable to find investors and did not make any money from his invention.

These days, there is still a booming demand for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC-R) professionals in FL, exemplified by the countless regional trade associations in this field. For instance, the Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ACCA) of Central Florida was established in 1966 and is an especially active chapter of the Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (FRACCA). The group provides training, discount programs for services, apprenticeship opportunities, and legal advocacy for members.

Another organization, the Tampa-based Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association Inc. (RACCA) was founded in 1949 and touts itself as the oldest and most active HVAC trade association in the state. RACCA offers an HVAC Excellence Certification program, EPA Section 608 certification testing, and four-year apprenticeship programs in two HVAC subfields: residential & commercial HVAC installation and commercial refrigeration.

Finally, the South Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SFACA) boasts uniquely impressive member discounts on services for employee leasing, cell phone plans, insurance, job-seeking services, continuing education courses, and credit card processing.

So what do HVAC technicians and installers in FL do? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019), these professionals take on varied responsibilities such as installing and repairing HVAC systems; testing all components (e.g., air ducts, motors, electrical wiring, heating units, drains, fans, intake valves, humidifiers, etc.) to ensure proper functioning; maintaining active certifications and licensure through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation; keeping up with local, state and federal legislation surrounding HVAC technologies; and teaching clients about best practices for equipment. Some HVAC workers choose to specialize in a type of equipment (e.g., solar panels) or environment (residential or commercial) while others work on a more general basis.

Read on to discover the promising career outlook for HVAC professionals in Florida, as well as to learn about the salary prospects, accredited HVAC training programs, and how to pursue licensure.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Professionals in Florida (FL)

There is a bright occupational outlook for HVAC mechanics and installers in Florida and beyond. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019), projected a 13 percent increase in openings for HVAC workers nationwide between 2018 and 2028, much greater than the 5 percent average growth projected across all occupations during that time.

Additionally, the projected HVAC job growth is even stronger in Florida. Between 2016 and 2026, Projections Central (2020) predicted that there would be 26.8 percent growth in openings for these professionals—an addition of 8,740 positions around the state.

There are several factors contributing to the strong demand for HVAC workers in FL and around the country. The BLS (2019) found that a majority of these professionals are employed by contracting companies, and therefore there is a steady stream of maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting for clients, particularly during the hot Florida summers.

Furthermore, the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research predicts that the population of Florida will grow by 893 people per day between 2019 and 2024, creating a subsequent demand for new commercial and residential structures. Also, existing HVAC systems must be replaced every 10 to 15 years, another factor adding to the steady stream of employment opportunities in the Sunshine State.

Finally, in May 2020, popular job-hunting site Indeed had almost 1,200 Florida-based listings for HVAC technicians, and more than 1,700 listings for “HVAC jobs” at places such as Houston Air, United State Solutions, LLC, Presidential Air Conditioning, School Board of Hillsborough County, and Peak Power Service, among many others. In short, there are expected to be ample opportunities in the HVAC field for Floridians in the years to come.

Florida HVAC Tech Salary

For a career that typically requires two years or less of postsecondary schooling, the salaries for HVAC technicians are relatively generous.

By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019) reported that there were 342,040 HVAC workers around the country with an average annual salary of $51,420. This mean salary is on par with many occupations that require bachelor’s degrees. In more detailed terms, the annual salary percentiles for HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide and in Florida were:

United States Florida
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 31,710
Average $51,420 $44,720
10th percentile $30,610 $29,590
25th percentile $37,660 $35,130
50th percentile $48,730 $43,050
75th percentile $62,070 $52,140
90th percentile $77,920 $63,270

Although the average Florida wages for HVAC technicians were somewhat lower, FL also has a cheaper cost of living than many states in the country. As proof of point, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2020) found that the Sunshine State is the 26th most affordable in the country, boasting particular savings in housing and transportation costs. Prospective HVAC technicians should keep this in mind while evaluating the following state salary figures.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Florida

In order to become an HVAC mechanic, technician, or installer in Florida, it is important to receive the proper training and preparation for the field. There are various professional routes to this end.

For instance, historically, many people learned this trade through apprenticeships, which are still an option today. These programs typically last three to five years, comprising at least 144 hours of formal instruction and a minimum of 2,000 hands-on hours under the guidance of a qualified HVAC professional.

One such program is available from the Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ACCA) of Central Florida, involving 36 months (6,000 hours) of on-the-job training in addition to coursework taken over a period of three years. Apprentices take classes such as air conditioning fundamentals, basic electricity, basic blueprint reading, types of equipment and application, basic system components, refrigerant recovery, electrical installations, and water source heat pumps, among others.

For aspiring HVAC workers in FL interested in a more traditional classroom environment, there are many programs lasting six months to two years at vocational schools, community colleges, and similar institutions. Students are advised to seek out accredited college programs, which indicates that a program has been evaluated for its school facilities, program curricula, and student outcomes (among other criteria) to determine the fitness of the college in preparing its graduates for a career in HVAC technologies.

The two main accreditation agencies for HVAC programs are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). As of May 2020, there were seven Florida HVAC programs accredited by HVAC Excellence, and one with accreditation from PAHRA.

One program that has earned HVAC Excellence accreditation is available at Traviss Technical College in Lakeland. This air conditioning, refrigeration, and heating technology program includes rigorous training in the theory and applications of HVAC, blueprint reading, and troubleshooting components. Available as adult education or a for-credit program for high schoolers, Traviss prepares its students to take the federally mandated EPA Section 608 certification exam but does not result in a degree or other professional certification.

Lively Technical Center in Tallahassee also offers two HVAC Excellence-accredited training programs in heating, ventilation, air-conditioning/refrigeration. With hands-on instruction in how to use the tools of the trade and how to service various HVAC components (e.g., piping, tubing, fittings, electrical wiring), Lively’s HVACR/1 program prepares its students for a career in HVAC.

To complete the HVAC/R 2 program, students must take at least three employment-ready certification exams: Air Conditioning, Electrical, and one source of Heating (e.g. Heat Pump, Electric Heat, or Gas Heat).

Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Florida has an HVAC excellence-accredited post-secondary adult vocational program in heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration. In addition to technical and production skills, principles of health and safety, and knowledge regarding environmental issues, the career certificate prepares graduates HVAC industry through operational skills including management, finance, and labor. Students can enroll in a day program lasting 12 to 13 months, or an evening program lasting 20 months.

Pinellas Technical College in Saint Petersburg, Florida offers an HVAC-Excellence accredited 750 hour certificate program in air conditioning, refrigeration, and heating technology. Students enrolled in the program will learn principles of heating and air conditioning, soldering, brazing, safety, electricity, control wiring, electric heat and fossil fuel heating, indoor air quality and other properties of air, and more. PinellasTechnical College also offers an apprenticeship program at their Clearwater, FL campus.

Suncoast Technical College in Sarasota offers a seven-month, 750 hour, HVAC Excellence accredited certificate program in heating, ventilation, air-conditioning/refrigeration. The program prepares students to pass the EPA section 608 tests, to obtain HVAC excellence employment ready certifications in heat pumps, electrical, and air conditioning, and to pass The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) academic career tests for HVAC, levels one to three. Classes meet Monday through Friday during the day.

Suncoast Technical Education Center in Brooksville offers a 38-week, 750-hour, HVAC Excellence accredited certificate program in heating, ventilation, air-conditioning/refrigeration (HVAC/R). In addition to preparing students for EPA section 608 certification, ESCO R-410 safety, and students will be prepared for HVAC Excellence employment-ready exams in electrical, air conditioning, and heat pumps. This is an afternoon and evening program that meets Monday through Thursday.

Withlacoochee Technical College in Inverness offers a 1,350-hour HVAC Excellence accredited certificate program in heating, ventilation, air-conditioning/refrigeration. Students enrolled in this program will learn hands-on systems troubleshooting, fabrication of duct systems, electrical circuits, walk-in coolers, field style techniques, and more.

After completing the HVAC/R fundamentals, students can choose to specialize in advanced service practices or advanced commercial and industrial service practices. In addition to HVAC Excellence Employment Ready certifications and EP section 608, students will be prepared for optional certification in OSHA 10 and NATE ICE.

The Osceola Technical College holds PAHRA accreditation for its program specializing in the planning, installation, and servicing of HVAC systems. Coursework at this school includes troubleshooting of electrical and mechanical systems; routine maintenance and service; use of specialized tools and equipment; job estimating and code compliance; employability skills; and a class on entrepreneurship. Notably, this school prepares its graduates to take the EPA 608 and the NATE core and heat pump certification exams. This program involves 1,350 hours of training.

For residents of South Florida, CBT College has five locations across Miami-Dade, two of which offer HVAC training (the Flagler and Hialeah locations). In its eight-month A/C refrigeration technician program, CBT covers topics such as the basic design of HVAC systems, repair of residential and commercial equipment, air conditioning repair, heating equipment repair, installation, and refrigeration maintenance. Conveniently, this program is available in both English and Spanish.

Finally, some Floridians may have difficulty attending a traditional on-campus HVAC apprenticeship or vocational program. Luckily there are also a wide range of distance-based training and diplomas available. Students are advised to ensure their eligibility as state legislation regarding distance-based education varies by region. To learn more about web-based HVAC training options, check out the online HVAC programs page.

HVAC Certification & Licensure in Florida

There are various types of certifications available to Florida-based HVAC workers. One mandatory certification for all people who work with environmentally-harmful refrigerants is the aforementioned EPA Section 608 certification of which there are four kinds:

  • type I (small appliances)
  • type II (high-pressure refrigerants)
  • type III (low-pressure refrigerants)
  • type IV (universal)

Other competency-based certifications are available through the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence. Please check out the main HVAC certifications page for an overview of these options.

Lastly, prior to securing HVAC employment in Florida, proper credentialing is required. People who work with A/C units in FL are required to have state-issued licenses. There are currently two types of licenses available in the Sunshine State, which are issued by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation: registration (for practice within a specific FL locale) and certification (statewide).

To qualify, candidates must have the following:

  • Proof of experience (or a copy of one’s local certification)
  • Background check
  • Net worth between $2,500 and $20,000 (depending on the license type)
  • Minimum liability insurance
  • Application fee

Additionally, candidates must pass two exams: business & finance and a trade-specific exam. Class A air-conditioning contractors hold unlimited licenses, whereas class B contractors can work on cooling systems up to 25 tons and heating systems up to 500,000 BTUs.

The state of Florida also accepts some HVAC credentialing examinations from California, Georgia, and North Carolina, but HVAC professionals new to the state should verify whether or not their license qualifies. Florida licenses must be renewed biennially following the completion of 14 hours of qualified continuing education units (CEUs).

All HVAC professionals in Florida are strongly encouraged to verify that they have all necessary credentials (including city permits) prior to beginning any work in HVAC/R.

Becca Brewer

Becca Brewer is building a better future on a thriving earth by fostering healing, human wholeness, and next-world building through storytelling help, one-on-one self-awareness workshops, and customized team-alignment sessions. She offers these services at a rate of $0.00 to anyone interested (contact her at rkbrewer@gmail.com for more information). Previously to her journey as an adventurer for a just, meaningful, and regenerative world, Becca was a formally trained sexuality educator with a master of education.