Atlanta HVAC Technician Training Schools

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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 ARS/Rescue Rooter of Atlanta (June 2015), 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 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.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Atlanta

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 Dec. 2015) projected a 14 percent increase in HVAC openings across the US between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the average predicted across all jobs during that time period (7 percent). Furthermore, Projections Central (Dec. 2016) reported that HVAC openings in GA would grow 20.1 percent during that same decade, more than 6 percent higher than the already impressive national growth predictions in the industry. With the anticipated addition of 39,600 HVAC positions around the country and 1,780 within GA, there is convincing evidence that this field will continue to have a bright outlook on 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 (Dec. 2015), one in ten HVAC workers nationwide were self-employed in 2014, and 63 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 (Dec. 2016) advertised an impressive 549 HVAC openings in the Atlanta area at places such as Strategic Properties, Total Air Care, Atlanta Public Schools, Lane Valente Industries, Palladium Consulting, CGL Facility Management LLC, Stuart Pro Air Services Inc., Chartwell Management, Ecolab, Fogelman Management Group, Cushman & Wakefield, AZ Air Conditioning and Heating Inc., Express Comfort Heating and Air LLC, Strategic Properties, and Advanced Mechanical Services. Additionally, Monster (Dec. 2016) boasted more than 1,000 local openings in this field with employers including, Advanced Mechanical Services, Southeastern Heating & Air, CGL Facility Management, Cobb County Human Resources, Publix Super Markets Inc., Randstad Engineering, Shumate Heating & Air, Spencer Heating & A/C, Pinnacle Consulting Group, Conserv Building Services, Grace Maintenance Service Heating & Air, and American Freedom Heating & Air LLC. In sum, there are plenty of job opportunities in the Atlanta HVAC industry.

HVAC Technician Salaries in Atlanta

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) found that there were 274,680 HVAC mechanics, technicians, and installers nationwide, earning an average salary of $47,380. They had the following detailed percentiles:

United States (274,680 HVAC workers): $47,380 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,790
  • 25th percentile: $34,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,110
  • 75th percentile: $58,070
  • 90th percentile: $71,690

Translated into hourly figures, the above wage percentiles equated to:

United States: $22.78/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.36/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.79/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.69/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.92/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $34.47/hr.

While the 8,850 Georgia HVAC workers made a slightly lower average annual salary at $43,710, it’s important to note that the cost of living in GA is also lower than many states. In fact, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2016) reported that GA is the thirteenth most affordable state in the country, boasting particular savings in housing and transportation relative to other American states. Please keep this in mind while evaluating the following regional HVAC salaries.

According to the BLS (May 2015), the GA HVAC workers had the following wage percentiles:

Georgia ( HVAC workers): $43,710 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,140
  • 25th percentile: $33,670
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,270
  • 75th percentile: $50,970
  • 90th percentile: $63,760

And in hourly terms:

Georgia: $21.01/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.05/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.19/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $20.32/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.50/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.65/hr.

Interestingly, Indeed (Dec. 2016) reported that HVAC professionals in Atlanta earned an average annual salary of $51,000, or $10,000 more than the Georgia average. Additionally, Salary.com (Dec. 2016) found that HVAC mechanics in Atlanta generally earned between $36,051 and $49,305, and had the following percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $30,648
  • 25th percentile: $36,051
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,985
  • 75th percentile: $49,305
  • 90th percentile: $55,970

These figures also varied by region within Georgia as well. In the Atlanta area, the top-employing and top-paying place was a metropolitan area covering Atlanta, Sandy Springs, and Roswell. Here were the numbers of HVAC workers, mean salaries, and wage percentiles among the six BLS-designated regions around Atlanta:

Athens-Clarke County, GA (250 HVAC workers): $38,770 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $26,260
  • 25th percentile: $28,090
  • 50th percentile (median): $31,130
  • 75th percentile: $42,410
  • 90th percentile: $62,280

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA (5,580 employed): $45,9700 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,800
  • 25th percentile: $36,160
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,560
  • 75th percentile: $54,420
  • 90th percentile: $68,400

Gainesville, GA (140 employed): $45,120 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $29,700
  • 25th percentile: $35,640
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,460
  • 75th percentile: $53,870
  • 90th percentile: $62,170

Middle Georgia Nonmetropolitan Area (170 employed): $38,980 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,310
  • 25th percentile: $31,640
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,780
  • 75th percentile: $50,590
  • 90th percentile: $57,750

North Georgia Nonmetropolitan Area (240 employed): $35,550 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,880
  • 25th percentile: $30,460
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,440
  • 75th percentile: $40,690
  • 90th percentile: $46,880

Rome, GA (90 employed): $36,560 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $20,860
  • 25th percentile: $27,240
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,690
  • 75th percentile: $45,500
  • 90th percentile: $49,000

Lastly, here were those same regional salaries in hourly figures:

Athens-Clarke County, GA (250 employed): $18.64/hour average

  • 10th percentile: $12.63/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $13.50/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $14.97/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $20.39/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.94/hr.

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA (5,580 employed): $22.10/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $13.85/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.38/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.42/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $26.16/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $32.88/hr.

Gainesville, GA (140 employed): $21.69/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $14.28/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.13/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.38/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $25,90/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.89/hr.

Middle Georgia Nonmetropolitan Area (170 employed): $18.74/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $11.69/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.21/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $17.68/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.32/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $27.77/hr.

North Georgia Nonmetropolitan Area (240 employed): $17.09/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $12.44/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $14.64/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $17.04/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $19.56/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $22.54/hr.

Rome, GA (90 employed): $17.58/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $10.03/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $13.10/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.60/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $21.87/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $23.56/hr.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Atlanta

In order to become an HVAC professional in Atlanta, a person must have the proper training. Some aspiring professionals in this field choose to pursue an apprenticeship through an organization such as the Mechanical Trades Institute, the training branch of the aforementioned Local 72 Union of Atlanta. Its Joint Apprenticeship and Training Trust (JATT) program has been around since 1936, and includes five years (over 8,500 hours) of on-the-job training, and apprentices are paid on a sliding scale. They learn the fundamentals of the industry such as blueprint interpretation; welding; brazing & soldering; basic electricity & controls; and preparation for the OSHA 10 and EPA 608 certifications, among other areas of instruction.

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.

As of December 2016, there were ten HVAC Excellence-accredited programs in GA, including three within 70 miles of Atlanta. For example, Lanier Technical College of Oakwood provides a diploma in air conditioning technology, and certificates in basic residential air conditioning system design and basic residential gas heat design. In its notable diploma program, students receive 51 credit-hours of training in the refrigeration fundamentals; interpersonal communication; electrical components & controls; heat pumps & related systems; HVAC/R electrical motors; and troubleshooting A/C systems. Tuition for those taking 15 or more credit hours is $1,335 per semester. Additional fees may apply.

Another standout option is the Southern Crescent Technical College, which has campuses nearby Atlanta in Flint River (Thomaston) and Griffin. In its association of applied science (AAS) in air conditioning technology program, students take 66 credit-hours of coursework in  refrigeration principles & practices; refrigeration systems components; and HVAC/R electrical motors, among other subjects.  This program costs $89 per credit hour, and other fees may apply.

Additionally, there were four PAHRA-accredited programs in GA, all of which were within 70 miles of Atlanta. For example, West Central Technical College’s Carrollton campus provides an air conditioning technology diploma with instruction in A/C systems application & installation; gas heat; troubleshooting A/C systems; and more. 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. These programs also cost $89 per credit hour.

Georgia Piedmont Technical College has campuses in nearby Clarkston and Covington offering certificates in A/C technicians’ assistance and sustainable technology, as well as a diploma in A/C technology and a 66-credit associate degree in A/C technology. The latter has coursework in heat pumps & related systems; gas heat; residential systems design; and commercial systems design, to name a few areas of instruction. Similar to many of the other programs, GPTC’s offerings also cost $89 per credit hour for in-state residents, and $178 for out-of-state enrollees. Another accredited program of note is available at Gwinnett Technical College of Lawrenceville, discussed on the main HVAC schools in GA page.

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 HVAC Certification & Licensing

In addition to getting the proper 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:

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. There are two levels of licensure available:

  • Class 1 – Restricted (candidates with four years of experience)
  • Class 2 – Unrestricted (candidates with five years of experience, including work installing systems with at least 175,000 BTU of heating and 60,000 BTU of cooling)

Two years of formal training can be applied toward this contracting license. Other application materials include:

  • Three notarized references
  • Proof of EPA Section 608 certification
  • Passing score (70 percent or more) on a comprehensive, open-book exam on conditioned air

These licenses are valid for two years and require eight hours of continued education (CE) to renew.

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.