Fort Lauderdale, FL HVAC Training Schools & Certification

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Its location on the southwest tip of Florida means that the weather in Fort Lauderdale (FL) is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Climatologists classify the climate as tropical rainforest. Rainfall is abundant, especially during the summer months. Precipitation from May through October exceeds six inches every month. June receives nearly ten inches, seconded by more than nine inches in September. The remaining months each receive two to four inches, for an annual total of slightly more than 60 inches. Temperatures from June through October are in the high 80s and low 90s F, leading to muggy conditions and frequent thunderstorms. Residents get a break during the winter months, which are cooler and drier. It doesn’t snow in Fort Lauderdale; however, the area lies in the path of hurricanes.

Native Americans inhabited the coastal regions for thousands of years. Spanish explorers arrived in the 1700s and eventually ceded the land to the British, who later turned it over to the United States, where it became part of the Confederacy. Little development occurred until the mid-1900s, which saw a land boom. Fort Lauderdale became the county seat of Broward County and was the home of a naval air base during WWII. It’s now one of Florida’s largest cities with a strong and diverse economy.

Miles of inland waterways within Fort Lauderdale have led to the nickname “Venice of America.” That designation is only part of what makes tourism one of the mainstays of the city’s economy. Millions of passengers start their cruises from the Port Everglades seaport, which is also one of Florida’s premier cargo ports. Maritime-related industries include yacht manufacturing and marine technology. Avionics/aerospace, construction, healthcare, manufacturing, professional services, retail trade, and technology additionally contribute to economic diversity. Fort Lauderdale is also a popular site for film and television producers.

The residents of Fort Lauderdale often remain indoors due to the weather and high humidity. They depend on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to stay comfortable in their homes or workplaces. Healthcare facilities, manufacturing plants, and entertainment and hospitality venues frequently add refrigeration (HVAC/R) to their systems. The expansion of the technology industry fuels the need for sophisticated climate-control systems to keep the electronics operating correctly. Older cities like Fort Lauderdale also need specialized HVAC systems to protect historic sites and artifacts.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022) data shows that 9,130 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area. The technicians and their employers receive resources and support from national, state, and local industry associations, including:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of South Florida (MCASF)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • South Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SFACA)
  • Southwest Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SWACCA)
  • The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART)
  • UA Local Union 725 Pipefitters, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

These and similar organizations collaborate with others in the industry and regulatory agencies to establish and maintain educational and licensing standards. They serve all aspects of the HVAC and refrigeration industries, including performance and the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Fort Lauderdale, FL

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can expect increasing job opportunities. The BLS (2023) predictions include an average of 37,700 new positions each year between 2022 and 2032. Not only is that a 6 percent annual increase in the nationwide demand for trained technicians, it is twice the growth predictions for all occupations nationally in the same timeframe.

HVAC industry growth primarily depends on constructing new commercial and residential buildings. In historic cities such as Fort Lauderdale, renovating and remodeling existing buildings are a significant source of industry growth. Aging or obsolete climate-control equipment and systems typically must be replaced, retrofitted, or updated. Additionally, new industries that rely on technology and evolving regulations can make it necessary to replace systems in recently built structures. The growing emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction also contributes to the HVAC industry’s growth.

There’s also an increasing demand for “smart” buildings by homeowners and businesses, whether they are constructing new structures or updating existing ones. That requires installing high-tech HVAC and HVAC/R equipment as part of contemporary systems. The ever-increasing complexity of sophisticated climate-control systems and equipment requires trained technicians to meet the HVAC needs in Fort Lauderdale. Technicians must have superior troubleshooting skills and proficiency with computers and electronics to obtain the best job opportunities.

If construction declines, technicians installing new systems may sometimes experience unemployment. However, a construction decline in Fort Lauderdale is unlikely in the foreseeable future. According to recent forecasts, the city’s “economic expansion will likely continue surpassing national growth.” Construction is one of the contributors to that expansion. Additionally, the city has established “itself as a world-class international business center and one of the most desirable locations for new, expanding or relocating businesses.”

Technicians specializing in maintaining, servicing, and repairing equipment and systems seldom experience unemployment regardless of the economy, as the weather makes year-round climate control essential for businesses and homeowners.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Fort Lauderdale, FL

According to the BLS, HVAC mechanics and installers they nationally earned an annual median salary of $51,390 during the period ended May 2022. Technicians in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach area received an annual median salary of $47,650. The wage difference can be significant for some technicians, as the cost of living in Florida is slightly higher than in other states. The wages in Fort Lauderdale are somewhat higher than the rest of Florida as the cost of living there is higher than in other parts of the state.

The table below details the BLS wage data for national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals—the latest data available as of January 2024:

United States Florida Miami-
Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL
Number of HVAC professionals employed 374,770 33,560 9,130
Average annual salary $57,460 $49,380 $50,410
10th percentile $36,170 $32,120 $31,380
25th percentile $44,100 $38,320 $38,220
50th Percentile (Median) $51,390 $47,260 $47,650
75th percentile $65,630 $58,540 $59,720
90th percentile $82,630 $64,600 $68,130

HVAC Apprenticeships in Fort Lauderdale, FL

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians traditionally acquired their skills through on-the-job training. Few opportunities exist now for doing so, as contemporary climate-control equipment and systems require trained workers. Aspiring technicians now typically attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Formal training opens up more employment opportunities for most workers. Apprenticeships typically include specified hours of on-the-job training, usually 2,000 hours, and classroom work, usually 144 hours, annually for three to five years.

Workers can find information about registered apprenticeships and other resources from the Florida Department of Education.

The Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, and Pipefitting Education Center (ARPEC) offers a five-year HVAC program incorporating classroom instruction and on-the-job training. The program is open to Broward County students who are willing to travel to Miami. Atlantic Technical College offers a five-year HVAC/R apprenticeship. Credits earned in the classroom study portion may be transferred toward a degree at Broward College. Students able to travel to Fort Myers may enroll in a four-year HVAC/R apprenticeship at the Tri-County Apprenticeship Academy.

Workers may also benefit from HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs sponsored by industry associations such as the following:

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

Scheduling and fees are available on each organization’s website.

Accredited HVAC and HVAC/R Schools in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Aspiring technicians who prefer to attend a school should select an accredited institution. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the school’s program. Both the curriculum and the instructors’ credentials are part of the evaluation. HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) accredit HVAC programs.

HVAC Excellence has accredited the following Florida schools:

  • Lively Technical College, Tallahassee, FL
  • Traviss Technical Center, Lakeland, FL
  • Wilton Simpson Technical College, Brooksville, FL
  • Withlacoochee Technical College, Inverness, FL

PAHRA has accredited Osceola Technical College, Kissimmee, FL.

The industry-accredited schools require a commute for Fort Lauderdale students. Due to its accreditation, the Osceola Technical Center is included in the profiles below. Other reputable agencies have accredited the remaining schools.

Atlantic Technical College – Arthur Ashe, Jr. Campus

Atlantic Technical College is part of the Broward Technical College system. ATC offers an HVAC/R program that prepares students for entry-level employment as technicians. Students may enroll in the daytime track or attend evening classes part-time.

The coursework is divided between classroom instruction and hands-on practice in the lab and is identical for the daytime and evening tracks. The curriculum includes an introduction to HVAC/R, fundamentals, service practices, and advanced commercial and industrial service practices. Among other skills, students learn how to read blueprints, use metering devices and controls, building codes, diagnostics, repair, replace, or adjust compressors, and refrigerant basics. They are prepared to take the EPA 608 and R-410A exams and other industry exams.

Graduates can transfer credits toward a degree at Broward College.

  • Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Estimated Program Length: Full-time one year, part-time two years

Broward College

Broward offers an HVAC/R certificate program that prepares students to earn “work ready” certificates. They are also prepared to start an apprenticeship or to seek entry-level employment as technicians. The coursework is completed online.

The curriculum includes safety, tools and equipment, shop practices, automatic controls, electric motors, commercial refrigeration, cooling, heating, humidification, all weather systems, domestic appliances, commercial air conditioning, chilled-water systems, and soft skills for HVAC technicians. Troubleshooting and electricity are taught using hands-on virtual simulation.

  • Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Estimated Program Length: Self-paced, but must be completed within 12 months

Florida Technical College – Pembroke Pines Campus

FTC, a privately owned institution with several Florida campuses, offers an HVAC/R diploma program in English and Spanish and an HVAC/R with PLC diploma program in English and Spanish. However, the Spanish programs are only sometimes available at the Kissimmee campus. The only difference in coursework in each program is the language in which it’s taught. Students learn via classroom instruction and hands-on practice in the lab. Graduates of the programs are qualified to take industry certification exams such as EPA 608 and OSHA and to seek entry-level employment as technicians.

The curriculum for the HVAC/R program includes safety and craft skills, applied math for technicians, electricity, introduction to HVAC/R, residential HVAC, commercial HVAC, heat pumps and related systems, electrical instrumentation, mechanical instrumentation, residential equipment, commercial equipment, and EPA regulations.

The HVAC/R with PLC program adds digital electronics and programmable logic controllers to the above curriculum.

  • Location: Pembroke Pines, FL
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Estimated Program Length: HVAC/R (48 weeks), HVAC/R with PLC (60 weeks)

Sheridan Technical College

Sheridan Technical College is part of the Broward Technical Colleges system. STC offers an HVAC/R program taught on-campus during the day or as a hybrid on-campus/online program in the evenings. Coursework is divided between classroom instruction and hands-on lab practice on state-of-the-art equipment.

The curriculum includes planning, installing, testing, and servicing HVAC/R equipment, troubleshooting electrical and mechanical components, testing, diagramming, and solving HVAC/R problems, brazing and soldering tubing and piping, installing and servicing controls and components, electrical wiring, routine maintenance and service, and EPA exam preparation.

Graduates are qualified to take the EPA 608 exam and seek employment as entry-level technicians.

  • Location: Hollywood, FL
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Estimated Program Length: One year

Osceola Technical College

The college offers HVAC/R 1 certificate and HVAC/R 2 certificate programs. Students may attend full-time or part-time. The full-time track is available in the mornings and evenings. The part-time track is taught in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings. The part-time track is available only to dual enrollment students. All students are required to wear the prescribed uniform.

The curriculum follows established occupational completion points (OCP). Completion of each OCP qualifies students for specified levels of employment. The HVAC/R 1 curriculum includes an introduction to HVAC/R, fundamentals, and service practices. Each course is 250 hours, and completion of each result in OCP. The coursework must be completed before students can enroll in the HVAC/R 2 certificate program.

The curriculum for the HVAC/R 2 program begins with intermediate service practices for 250 hours. Students then choose advanced service practices or advanced commercial and industrial service practices, which are 350 hours. Graduates are familiar with designing, testing, and repairing HVAC/R systems. They are also qualified to sit for industry exams such as EPA 608, NATE, OSHA, and CPR. Their credits are transferable to a degree program.

  • Location: Kissimmee, FL
  • Accreditation: PAHRA, Council on Occupational Education
  • Estimated Program Length: HVAC/R 1 (nine months); HVAC/R 2 (seven months)

Online institutions can meet the needs of Fort Lauderdale students who cannot attend one of the above schools. More information on accredited programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in Fort Lauderdale, FL

All HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who handle refrigerants are required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to obtain Section 608 certification. Certification is awarded when a technician passes exams on refrigerant safety. Four certification levels are available based on the type and size of equipment on which a technician works, as described below:

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

The EPA provides information on each exam on its website.

Industry organizations provide Section 608 certification and other certifications that increase a technician’s employability. The following organizations, among others, offer testing resources:

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

Details of testing sites, times, and fees are available on each organization’s website. There is also more information on the HVAC certifications page.

HVAC and HVAC/R contractors are licensed and regulated by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Three classifications of licensing apply, as follows:

  • Class A: unlimited
  • Class B: limited to 25 tons of cooling and 500,000 BTU of heating in any one system
  • Class C: limited to the servicing of air-conditioning, heating, or refrigeration systems, including any duct cleaning and equipment sanitizing which requires at least a partial disassembling of the system

Certified contractors possess a certificate of competency from the department which allows them to contract in any jurisdiction of the state without having to fulfill the competency requirements of that jurisdiction. A registered contractor has registered with the department pursuant to fulfilling the competency requirements.

Applicants for all licenses must meet experience requirements, pass a business and finance exam and a trades exam, obtain liability, property damage, and workers comp insurance, be financially stable or submit a bond, and pay the relevant fees. Licenses are valid for two years. Renewal requires 14 continuing education units in specified subjects and paying a fee.

The City of Fort Lauderdale requires all businesses, including home-based businesses, to register with the city and obtain a business license. Contractors must submit a copy of the state license. All applicants must submit proof of liability and workers comp insurance and pay a fee, which is currently $157.50. Licenses must be renewed annually.

As licensing regulations are always subject to change, HVAC professionals are encouraged to confirm that they comply with current state and local guidelines before starting a project.

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.