HVAC Training Programs & Certifications in Florida

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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 2021), 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 2021), projected a 4 percent increase in openings for HVAC workers nationwide between 2019 and 2029, as fast as the 4 percent average growth projected across all occupations during that time.

Additionally, the projected HVAC job growth is much stronger in Florida. Between 2018 and 2028, Projections Central (2021) predicted that there would be a 16.2 percent growth in openings for these professionals—an addition of 5,420 positions around the state.

Several factors are contributing to the strong demand for HVAC workers in FL and around the country. The BLS (May 2020) 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, 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 September 2021, popular job-hunting site Indeed had almost 1,830 Florida-based listings for HVAC technicians at places such as Marriott Vacations Worldwide, Pinellas County Government, SpaceX, Publix, and US Air Force Materiel Command, 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 post-secondary schooling, the salaries for HVAC technicians are relatively generous.

By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020) reported that there were 344,020 HVAC workers around the country with an average annual salary of $53,410. This means salary is on par with many occupations which require bachelor’s degrees. In Florida, the 33,210 HVAC mechanics and installers (the highest most among all states in the nation) earned an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $45,450.

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 344,020 33,210
Average $53,410 $45,450
10th percentile $31,910 $29,210
25th percentile $39,320 $35,670
50th percentile $50,590 $43,890
75th percentile $64,350 $53,160
90th percentile $80,820 $64,930

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 2021) found that the Sunshine State is the 29th 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.

HVAC Apprenticeships in Florida

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 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.

Aspiring HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can find apprenticeship programs through local chapters of national industry associations. These include:

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

Details are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Florida

For aspiring HVAC workers in Florida interested in a more traditional classroom environment, many programs are 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 September 2021, there were seven Florida HVAC programs accredited by HVAC Excellence, and one with accreditation from PAHRA.

Traviss Technical College

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.

The college offers two HVAC/R technology programs that consist of 750 and 600 contact hours respectively. The first one is a prerequisite for taking up the second. Coursework includes HVAC/R fundamentals, an introduction to HVAC/R, HVAC/R intermediate service practices, HVAC/R advanced commercial and industrial service practices, and HVAC/R service practices.

  • Location: Lakeland, FL
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: HVAC/R Technology 1 (750 hours); HVAC/R Technology 2 (600 hours)
  • Estimated Tuition: Florida residents ($2.88 per clock-hour); out-of-state residents ($11.52 per clock-hour)

Lively Technical College

Lively Technical College 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).

Coursework includes an introduction to HVAC/R, HVAC/R intermediate service practices, HVAC/R fundamentals, HVAC/R advanced service practices, and HVAC/R service practices.

Graduates will be well prepared to take up roles such as HVAC/R helpers, mechanics, and technicians.

  • Location: Tallahassee, FL
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: HVACR/1 (750 clock hours); HVAC/R 2 (600 clock hours)
  • Estimated Tuition: $2.92 per clock hour

Palm Beach State College

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 of this HVAC industry through operational skills including management, finance, and labor.

This 1,350 clock-hour program includes courses in HVAC/R helper, HVAC/R mechanic assistant, and HVAC/R mechanic. The curriculum provides rigorous and coherent content that is aligned with academic standards and technical skills and knowledge needed for preparing students for further education and careers in the architecture and construction career cluster.

  • Location: Lake Worth, FL
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Day (12 to 13 months); evening (20 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: $4,200

Pinellas Technical College

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 receive training in areas of history and concepts of HVAC/R; safety, employability, tools, and accessories of the HVAC/R industry; troubleshooting HVAC/R electrical control systems; components for commercial HVAC systems; analyzing fluids, refrigerants, pressures, and related codes; and mechanical components of HVAC/R systems.

Pinellas Technical College also offers an apprenticeship program at their Clearwater, FL campus.

Taught by industry-experienced faculty, graduates of this program gain the knowledge and skills needed for installing, maintaining, and repairing HVAC/R systems and will be prepared for the EPA Refrigerant Handling Certification (Section 608) and the ESCO Workplace Readiness Certification.

  • Location: St. Petersburg, FL
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Council on Occupational Education (COE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Eight months
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,190

Suncoast Technical College

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 pump, 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.

The curriculum includes topics such as an introduction to HVAC/R, HVAC/R service practices, and HVAC/R fundamentals. The program provides students with technical skill proficiency teaching them to design, test, and repair HVAC systems.

  • Location: Sarasota, FL
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Seven months
  • Estimated Tuition: $2.44 per clock hour

Suncoast Technical Education Center

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 and ESCO R-410 safety, 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.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as HVAC/R fundamentals, introduction to HVAC/R, and HVAC/R service practices. Combining classroom knowledge with hands-on training, the program provides instruction in the basic principles of HVAC/R that apply to residential and commercial systems. Graduates will develop the skills and knowledge necessary for entry-level employment as mechanics or installers in the HVAC/R industry.

  • Location: Brooksville, FL
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 38 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $2.44 per contact hour

Withlacoochee Technical College

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.

Students in this program learn about the basics of electricity and electrical components, the importance of safety, environmental management systems, and health, design of cooling and heating systems, and troubleshooting HVAC/R electrical control systems and their components.

  • Location: Inverness, FL
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 1,350 hours
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,971 per session

Osceola Technical College

The Osceola Technical College holds PAHRA accreditation for its program specializing in the planning, installation, and servicing of HVAC systems. This HVAC/R technology certificate includes hands-on training in the lab and classroom lectures.

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.

  • Location: Kissimmee, FL
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 14 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $5,050

CBT College

For residents of South Florida, CBT College has five locations across Miami-Dade, two of which offer HVAC training (the Flagler and Hialeah locations). The College offers HVAC/R technology programs in English as well as Spanish. The diploma program comprises 24 credits, while the associate’s degree is made up of 60 credits. Both programs combine hands-on training with classroom instruction.

The diploma includes courses such as the fundamentals and principles of electricity, the fundamentals of refrigeration, blueprints & codes, and air-conditioning systems. Graduates are qualified for entry-level jobs in commercial and residential complexes.

The AS in HVAC/R technology degree builds on the diploma and includes additional coursework in advanced automatic controls, chilled water systems, heating systems, construction estimating, trade math, and alternative energy and sustainable practices. At the end of the program, graduates may be well prepared and ready to seek mid-level HVAC/R jobs or apply for the journey-level certification after meeting the work experience criteria. They will be able to develop, install, maintain, and repair, a variety of HVAC/R systems.

  • Location: Miami, FL; Cutler Bay, FL; Hialeah, FL
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges & Schools
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (8 months); degree (20 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: $498 per credit

Finally, some Floridians may have difficulty attending a traditional on-campus HVAC apprenticeship or vocational program. Luckily there is 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, before 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) before beginning any work in HVAC/R.

Jocelyn Blore

Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.