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Atlanta—or ‘Hotlanta’ it’s been called, after a famous Allman Brothers Band song—has hot, humid summers with afternoon temperatures reaching 90 degrees and beyond; it’s no surprise that this city provides a fertile employment climate for workers in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R). Georgia not only has a higher projected growth rate in HVAC openings than the national rate, but this profession also pays a relatively generous salary, two findings discussed in the next section of this article.

According to the ARS/Rescue Rooter of Atlanta, the use of geothermal energy is on the rise for state-of-the-art, efficient systems. This form of energy boasts a lower carbon footprint than coal and other dirtier forms, and with current technological advances, can even provide a quieter machine than traditional HVAC units. The group reports that geothermal systems can reduce energy bills as well, decreasing the cost of cooling 20 to 50 percent; also, these systems last longer than traditional HVAC units and customers can expect a 25-year lifespan (as opposed to the 10 to 15 years expected traditionally).

New Start Heating & Air—a business which has had a location in West Atlanta since 2007—adds some interesting air conditioning and refrigeration facts. For instance, movie theaters were one of the first businesses to use A/C systems because they wanted to keep a steady stream of patrons even during the hot summers. Also, many medications rely on refrigeration to prevent the denaturing of potent compounds and to preserve the integrity of the molecular structures. Therefore, many medical treatments rely on the availability of a cool, controlled climate in order to exist.

In addition to an array of HVAC businesses within Atlanta, there are also various professional associations and trade groups to support people in this occupation. For example, the Conditioned Air Association of Georgia, Inc. (CAAG) is a non-profit trade association with over 400 members in 13 chapters, including Atlanta-based ones. The group reports that since 1949, HVAC contractors completing work in excess of $2,500 are required to be licensed by the Georgia Board of Conditioned Air Contractors, and those operating illegally can be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned for up to six months.

Another local trade group of note is the Cobb Heating & Air Conditioning Association, which works to promote high professional and ethical standards in the industry, as well as training opportunities, legal advocacy, and other resources to members.

Similarly, UA Local 72 advances all of the above objectives and offers apprenticeships to HVAC professionals in Atlanta. Notably, members of Local 72 have installed heating and cooling systems in the Georgia Dome, Phillips Arena, Georgia Aquarium, Grady Hospital, Lockheed Aeronautical, and countless other structures in the Atlanta area. In short, there are plenty of professional associations to support Atlanta workers in the HVAC industry.

So what do HVAC workers in Atlanta, and in Georgia (GA) more broadly, typically do? According to an analysis of common job posting websites such as Monster, CareerBuilder, and Indeed, HVAC workers in Atlanta must understand the fundamental principles behind HVAC systems (e.g., Ohm’s Law, refrigeration circuit theory, air treatment principles, etc.); install, repair, and troubleshoot HVAC systems and parts (e.g., condensers, evaporators, wiring, motors, humidifiers, intake fans, exhaust fans, ducts, heat pumps, metering devices, hermetic compressors, split systems, economizers, etc.); maintain all necessary certifications; use blueprints, temperature/pressure charts, and manifold gauges (among other tools) to work to product specifications; maintain all active credentialing to work in Atlanta; and make client recommendations to improve the efficiency of systems.

This guide examines how to become an HVAC technician in Atlanta, including a detailed examination of the career outlook in this field, salary prospects, accredited HVAC schools, and licensing procedures within the city.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Atlanta, GA

As mentioned above, HVAC is a high-growth and high-paying occupation in GA, particularly for a career typically requiring only one to two years of postsecondary training. To the first point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) projected a 13 percent increase in HVAC openings across the US between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the average predicted across all jobs during that time period (5 percent). With the anticipated addition of 46,300 HVAC positions around the country, there is convincing evidence that this field will continue to have a bright outlook into the future.

There are varied forces contributing to the explosion in HVAC positions around the country. First, as mentioned above, HVAC systems typically last from 10 to 15 years, typically requiring regular maintenance and repairs to keep them functioning properly. Second, as areas in Atlanta are upgrading or retrofitting their HVAC systems, people in this line of work can expect a steady stream of employment opportunities. Third, nearly all modern structures have climate control systems, and therefore employment grows with the population of an area. Lastly, Atlanta is a city with a relatively high rate of construction, thus this city has a wealth of openings, particularly for HVAC installers.

According to the BLS (May 2019), 9 percent HVAC workers nationwide were self-employed in 2018, and 64 percent worked for HVAC contracting associations. While some of these skilled professionals in Atlanta work normal business hours, others are called upon to install or service equipment on evenings, weekends, or holidays, particularly during the busy summer season.

It’s important to add that HVAC workers nationwide incur a relatively high rate of injury and illness compared to other US occupations. They lift heavy objects, deal with refrigerant chemicals, and reconfigure electrical wiring (to name three risky activities), and therefore these professionals are put at an elevated risk of muscle tears, burns, frostbite, and electrical shock. That said, with the proper training and use of safety equipment, these issues can generally be kept at bay.

As further proof of the thriving employment climate for HVAC professionals in Atlanta, one need not look further than common job post websites. For example, Indeed (2020) has advertised an impressive 129 HVAC openings in the Atlanta area. Additionally, Monster (2020) boasts more than 450 local openings in this field.

HVAC Technician Salaries in Atlanta, GA

The BLS (May 2019) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730 as of May 2019. Technicians in Atlanta, GA received an annual median salary of $45520.

The table below is a comparison of national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals:

The BLS (May 2019) reported the following salary figures in the Atlanta area:

United States Georgia Atlanta, GA
Number of HVAC professionals employed $342,040 $9,970 $6,040
10th percentile $30,610 $26,240 $25,470
25th percentile $37,660 $32,900 $33,330
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $42,980 $45,520
75th percentile $62,070 $54,460 $56,980
90th percentile $77,920 $63,000 $64,380

HVAC Apprenticeships in Atlanta, GA

Aspiring HVAC professionals in Atlanta must look to acquire training, work experience, and certification. Let’s delve into each of these below.

In order to gain work experience, aspiring professionals in this field might choose to pursue an apprenticeship through an organization such as the Plumbers, Pipefitters & HVACR Technicians Local Union 72. Applicants for this apprenticeship are evaluated strictly on merit, irrespective of their gender, race, religious affiliation, and national origin. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age or older, have a high school education, one year of high school algebra, achieve a specific qualifying score on an aptitude test, and also must pass a drug test.

This five-year apprenticeship period is broken down into segments of one year each. Each of these segments includes 1,700 to 2,000 hours of on the job training and a minimum of 246 hours of classroom instruction. Students in this apprenticeship receive a strong foundation in the trade, with core courses in basics such as science, mathematics, welding, drafting, and other pipe trades related courses. Also, students at a certain point can choose a specific path to follow, whether they wish to be trained as a journeyman plumber, pipefitter, welder or HVAC/R Technician.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Atlanta, GA

Other prospective HVAC workers in Atlanta may prefer an accredited diploma, certificate, or degree training program, and there are several in GA. There are two main accreditation entities for HVAC programs nationwide: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). To learn about how programs are approved, check out their individual websites or the discussion on accreditation on the HVAC programs homepage.

Lanier Technical College

Lanier Technical College provides a diploma in air conditioning technology, and certificates in basic residential air conditioning system design and basic residential gas heat design. The diploma program prepares students to become successful HVAC/R professionals. The skills and knowledge acquired in the program will help them get jobs and also advance their career in the field.

For admission to all these programs, students must be at least 16 years of age, have a high school diploma or GED prior to admission, official transcripts from all colleges attended, and Accuplacer Testing, or submit SAT, ACT, COMPASS, or ASSET test scores.

The diploma program consists of 51 credit-hours, while both the certificate programs are made up of 16 credit-hours each. The coursework includes topics such as refrigeration fundamentals, HVAC/R electrical fundamentals, HVAC/R electrical motors, troubleshooting ac systems, gas heat, heat pumps/related systems, and foundations of mathematics.

  • Location: Oakwood, Georgia
  • Accreditation: HVAC-Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (three semesters), certificates (one semester)
  • Estimated Tuition: $100 per credit-hour

Southern Crescent Technical College

Another standout option is the Southern Crescent Technical College, which has campuses nearby Atlanta in Flint River (Thomaston) and Griffin. It offers the air conditioning technology associate degree program preparing students for the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) industry. Along with theory, the program also has a strong focus on practical skills, so that students are ready to take up jobs as soon as they graduate.

Admission requirements for this program include completed application and application fee, being at least 16 years of age, official high school transcript or GED transcript with test scores and all post-secondary transcripts in an official sealed envelope.

Comprising 66 credit-hours, courses in the program include refrigeration fundamentals, refrigeration principles and practices, refrigeration systems components, HVACR electrical fundamentals, air conditioning systems application and installation, and gas heat.

Graduates from the program will receive an air conditioning technology program associate degree, which will help them work as entry-level technicians.

  • Location: Griffin, Georgia
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four terms
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the school for a customized assessment

West Georgia Technical College

West Georgia Technical College provides an air conditioning technology diploma, preparing applicants for a fruitful career in the HVAC/R industry. Graduates of this program may find employment as air conditioning technicians.

From supermarkets to skyscrapers, HVAC technicians make sure the temperature is just right, and so will the graduates of this program. Made up of 51 credit-hours, some of the courses in the program include refrigeration principles and practice, refrigeration fundamentals, HVACR electrical fundamentals, refrigeration system components, HVACR electrical motors, and HVACR electrical components and controls.

For admission, students must be 16 years of age or older, submit an official transcript reflecting that the student has passed an examination the state recognizes as the equivalent of a high school diploma (e.g. GED), among other requirements. This school also provides four specialized professional certificates: A/C electrical technician, A/C repair, A/C technician assistant, and heat & A/C installation technician.

  • Location: Carrollton, Georgia
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Expected Time to Completion: One to three semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: $100 per credit-hour

Georgia Piedmont Technical College

Georgia Piedmont Technical College has campuses in nearby Clarkston and Covington, offering certificates in air conditioning technician assistant and air conditioning electrical technician, as well as a diploma in air conditioning technology and a 66-credit associate degree in air conditioning technology.

Graduates of these programs are well-equipped to become air conditioning technicians. They get prepared for applying refrigeration practices and principles to various HVACR systems, inspecting, servicing, installing and repairing refrigeration system components, and troubleshooting refrigeration systems. The A/C electrical technician certificate provides students with competencies in installing, servicing, and maintaining electrical systems.

Depending on the program they choose, students will need to complete the following number of credit-hours of coursework:

  • AAS degree in A/C technology – 66 credit-hours
  • Diploma in A/C technology – 51 credit-hours
  • Certificate in A/C technician assistant – 12 credit-hours
  • Certificate in A/C electrical technician – 12 credit hours

Some of the courses included in the curriculum are refrigeration fundamentals, refrigeration principles and practices, refrigeration systems components, HVACR electrical fundamentals, HVACR electrical motors, and HVACR electrical components and controls.

  • Location: Clarkston, Georgia
  • Accreditation: Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One to three semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: $100 per semester credit-hour

Gwinnett Technical College

Gwinnett Technical College offers the following programs:

  • Air conditioning technology, AAS – 65 credit-hours
  • Air conditioning technology, diploma – 51 credit-hours
  • Air conditioning electrical technician, certificate – 12 credit-hours
  • Air conditioning maintenance technician, certificate – 12 credit-hours
  • Refrigeration system service technician, certificate – 20 credit-hours

Students in these programs learn how to install, maintain and repair heating, ventilation, refrigeration, and air-conditioning systems. They learn how to review blueprints, test systems for proper functioning, perform emergency repairs, maintain tools, order supplies, and make routine adjustments to maximize operational efficiency. They also learn to record data such as fuel consumption, hours of operation, and temperature of equipment, while inspecting systems.

Students might find it helpful that Gwinnett Tech’s Air Conditioning Technology program offers five HOPE Career Grants. These grants provide students with free tuition assistance. Graduates of these programs are well prepared to serve as air conditioning service technicians.

Here are some of the courses in the curriculum: refrigeration fundamentals, refrigeration principles and practices, refrigeration systems components, HVAC/R electrical fundamentals, HVAC/R electrical motors, and HVAC/R electrical components and controls.

  • Location: Lawrenceville and Alpharetta, Georgia
  • Accreditation: Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHR)
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (five semesters) diploma (four semesters), certificates (two semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: $518 per credit-hour for in-state students, $618 and $818 per credit-hour for out-of-state and foreign students, respectively

Finally, while there is an abundance of training options in the Atlanta area, some aspiring HVAC workers may not be able to attend an on-campus program due to distance- or time-based constraints. Luckily, there is also a wealth of distance-based HVAC programs throughout the US, which provide quality training as well. To learn more, check out the online HVAC programs page.

Atlanta, GA HVAC Certification & Licensing

In addition to acquiring training, aspiring HVAC workers in Atlanta must ensure that they have all necessary credentialing prior to beginning work. There is one mandatory certification for all workers nationwide who handle refrigerants—the EPA Section 608 certification—and there are four categories of this credential which vary by type of equipment:

  • Type 1 (small appliance)
  • Type 2 (high-pressure appliances)
  • Type 3 (low-pressure appliances)
  • Type 4 (universal)

Also, there are several organizations which offer national employment-ready certifications for HVAC. Here is a list of those organizations and some of their sample certifications:

  • HVAC Excellence – Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology (HEAT), HEAT Plus, Green Awareness, Heat Pump Service, Residential Air Conditioning
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE) – Hydronics Gas, Hydronics Oil, Gas Heating, Air Distribution
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) – Commercial Air Conditioning, HVAC/R Electrical Controls, Dynamic Compression

To discover more about each of these certifying entities, check out the HVAC certifications page.

And finally, there is a state-specific credential as well. A contractor’s license from the Georgia Board of Conditioned Air Contractors is necessary for anyone who completes residential or commercial projects costing more than $2,500.

Lastly, HVAC workers in Atlanta must also have all municipal credentialing prior to beginning work. The City of Atlanta issues mechanical permits to HVAC/R workers. Since these permits may vary based on the size of a prospective job, all interested HVAC workers in Atlanta are strongly encouraged to reach out to the municipal office to find out all necessary licensure required.

Above all, Georgia is relatively strict when it comes to HVAC/R credentialing, and all of these skilled professionals are advised to have all necessary documents prior to beginning a project.

Farheen Gani

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).