HVAC Training Programs 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 trainings, 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 (DBLS 2017), 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 FL

There is a bright occupational outlook for HVAC mechanics and installers in Florida and beyond. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), projected a 15 percent increase in openings for HVAC workers nationwide between 2016 and 2026, much greater than the 7 percent average growth projected across all occupations during that time.

There are several factors contributing to the strong demand for HVAC workers in FL and around the country. The BLS (2017) 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 population of the state is growing at rate of 986 people per day (Herald Tribune 2016) and there is 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 October 2018, popular job-hunting site Indeed had nearly 2,000 Florida-based listings for HVAC technicians at places such as Destin Palms Vacations, the Mayo Clinic, Ingersoll Rand, Orlando Health, and the ICEE Company. 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 (2017) reported that there were 307,060 HVAC workers around the country with an average annual salary of $49,530. This mean salary is on par with many occupations which require bachelor’s degrees. In more detailed terms, the annual salary percentiles for HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide (BLS 2017) were:

United States (307,060 HVAC workers): $49,530 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $29,120
  • 25th percentile: $36,150
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,080
  • 75th percentile: $60,270
  • 90th percentile: $75,330

In hourly figures, these salaries equated to:

US: $23.81/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $14.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.38/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.64/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.98/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $36.22/hr.

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 2018) found that the Sunshine State is the 27th most affordable in the country, boasting particular savings in housing and healthcare costs. Prospective HVAC technicians should keep this in mind while evaluating the following state salary figures.

The BLS (2017) found an average annual salary of $42,260 among the 29,450 HVAC workers in the Florida. Notably, FL is the top employer of HVAC professionals in the country with roughly 4,500 more than California, the second top-employing state. Here is a breakdown of the salary percentiles for HVAC mechanics and installers in FL:

Florida (29,450 HVAC workers): $42,460 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,410
  • 25th percentile: $33,030
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,300
  • 75th percentile: $50,110
  • 90th percentile: $61,070

In hourly terms, these Florida salary percentiles were:

Florida: $20.32/hr. avg.

  • 10th percentile: $13.18/hr
  • 25th percentile: $15.88/hr
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.38/hr
  • 75th percentile: $24.09/hr
  • 90th percentile: $29.36/hr

The number of people employed and salaries also varies by region, even within the state of Florida. It is no surprise that the more densely populated southern areas tended to employ more HVAC mechanics and installers than the northern region. Also, the southern West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, FL Metropolitan Division area paid the highest average salary to its HVAC workers at $46,510.

Using Tampa as a dividing line, here is a breakdown of the number of HVAC professionals employed, the average salaries, and percentiles across the 28 BLS-designated regions of Florida (BLS 2017):

Northern Florida:

Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL (630 workers): $41,680 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $29,410
  • 25th percentile: $33,730
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,390
  • 75th percentile: $51,950
  • 90th percentile: $60,450

Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL (780 workers): $40,330 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,000
  • 25th percentile: $31,790
  • 50th percentile (median): $39,390
  • 75th percentile: $49,530
  • 90th percentile: $56,310

Gainesville, FL (420 workers): $40,940 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,970
  • 25th percentile: $34,570
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,070
  • 75th percentile: $47,490
  • 90th percentile: $53,670

Homosassa Springs, FL (50 workers): $31,440 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,370
  • 25th percentile: $26,300
  • 50th percentile (median): $31,720
  • 75th percentile: $36,020
  • 90th percentile: $38,580

Jacksonville, FL (2,070 workers): $43,260 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,670
  • 25th percentile: $30,930
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,100
  • 75th percentile: $54,590
  • 90th percentile: $62,730

Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL (830 workers): $37,460 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,320
  • 25th percentile: $29,090
  • 50th percentile (median): $39,220
  • 75th percentile: $45,190
  • 90th percentile: $49,020

Ocala, FL (240 workers): $38,740 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,770
  • 25th percentile: $33,270
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,840
  • 75th percentile: $41,090
  • 90th percentile: $52,150

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL (3,800 workers): $43,760 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,960
  • 25th percentile: $33,310
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,950
  • 75th percentile: $54,740
  • 90th percentile: $62,740

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL (790 workers): $38,980 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,260
  • 25th percentile: $33,260
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,030
  • 75th percentile: $45,340
  • 90th percentile: $50,750

Panama City, FL (450 workers): $39,200 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,530
  • 25th percentile: $31,550
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,270
  • 75th percentile: $46,700
  • 90th percentile: $54,760

Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL (740 workers): $39,900 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,780
  • 25th percentile: $31,930
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,190
  • 75th percentile: $47,000
  • 90th percentile: $59,600

Tallahassee, FL (530 workers): $40,740 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $29,090
  • 25th percentile: $33,310
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,020
  • 75th percentile: $46,640
  • 90th percentile: $58,120

The Villages, FL (100 workers): $36,100 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,740
  • 25th percentile: $29,370
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,660
  • 75th percentile: $43,860
  • 90th percentile: $48,470

Northwest Florida Nonmetropolitan Area (210 workers): $39,090 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,630
  • 25th percentile: $26,840
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,140
  • 75th percentile: $51,820
  • 90th percentile: $61,170

Northeast Florida Nonmetropolitan Area (150 workers): $33,980 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $19,060
  • 25th percentile: $21,930
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,000
  • 75th percentile: $41,220
  • 90th percentile: $55,150

South Florida:

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL (1,680 HVAC workers): $43,550 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $32,110
  • 25th percentile: $36,780,350
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,350
  • 75th percentile: $49,070
  • 90th percentile: $56,350

Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Metropolitan Division (3,700 workers): $45,200 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,720
  • 25th percentile: $34,370
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,150
  • 75th percentile: $53,380
  • 90th percentile: $69,220

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL (7,380 workers): $43,920 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,130
  • 25th percentile: $32,770
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,560
  • 75th percentile: $53,440
  • 90th percentile: $64,960

Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL Metropolitan Division (2,050 workers): $39,550 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,900
  • 25th percentile: $28,660
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,070
  • 75th percentile: $47,830
  • 90th percentile: $63,660

Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL (730 workers): $45,160 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,050
  • 25th percentile: $34,670
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,670
  • 75th percentile: $53,950
  • 90th percentile: $63,850

North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL (1180 workers): $43,300 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,420
  • 25th percentile: $39,250
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,880
  • 75th percentile: $48,310
  • 90th percentile: $51,470

Port St. Lucie, FL (310 workers): $42,980 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,720
  • 25th percentile: $34,080
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,770
  • 75th percentile: $52,340
  • 90th percentile: $60,940

Punta Gorda, FL (250 workers): $39,600 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,210
  • 25th percentile: $33,050
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,930
  • 75th percentile: $46,830
  • 90th percentile: $55,620

Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL (230 workers): $34,050 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,020
  • 25th percentile: $28,370
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,270
  • 75th percentile: $39,240
  • 90th percentile: $45,850

Sebring, FL (80 workers): $37,460 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,990
  • 25th percentile: $28,090
  • 50th percentile (median): $33,200
  • 75th percentile: $43,830
  • 90th percentile: $55,350

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL (5,450 workers): $40,750 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,920
  • 25th percentile: $32,410
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,450
  • 75th percentile: $47,780
  • 90th percentile: $58,390

West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, FL Metropolitan Division (1,630 workers): $46,510 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,090
  • 25th percentile: $38,120
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,230
  • 75th percentile: $56,750
  • 90th percentile: $62,610

South Florida Nonmetropolitan Area (260 workers): $40,960 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,140
  • 25th percentile: $34,390
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,560
  • 75th percentile: $47,810
  • 90th percentile: $58,440

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 an apprenticeship, 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 & 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 October 2018, 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 & 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 an HVAC Excellence-accredited training program in air conditioning, refrigeration and heating technology. 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 program prepares its students for a career in HVAC. Prior to completion, students in this program 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).

The Osceloa 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 & mechanical systems; routine maintenance & service; use of specialized tools & equipment; job estimating & code compliance; employability skills; and a class on entrepreneurship. Notably, this school prepares its graduates to take the EPA 608 and the NATE core & 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 basic design of HVAC systems, repair of residential & 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 trainings 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 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. To learn more about the trade-specific exams for each of these types of licenses, please visit the following information pages: class A air-conditioning exam and class B air-conditioning exam. 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).