Maine HVAC Training – Degrees & Certifications

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In Maine (ME) with its cold, snowy winters, there’s a thriving demand for qualified technicians and mechanics in heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and refrigeration (HVAC-R). To meet the community need for these qualified professionals, the MEMA Technical Education Center provides an accelerated vocational program in Brunswick which allows people to pursue certification in the booming HVAC field. Organized through the Maine Energy Marketers Association, the Technical Education Center’s crash course sequences are designed to get people to work quickly by credentialing them in varied skills such as how to work with oil, electrical, propane, and natural gas heating systems, in addition to AC and refrigeration services.

MTEC’s parent institution, the Maine Energy Marketers Association, has more than 300 members and represents 125 electricity, biofuel, heating oil, propane, and motor fuel providers. These individuals and companies serve more than 400,000 households across the Pine Tree State and the organization’s goals include promoting high standards of maintenance and installation in HVAC equipment; offering ongoing educational development services for members; and advocating for the most ethical and efficient standards possible across the industry. Additionally, MEMA provides energy-saving tips for consumers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), the responsibilities of HVAC installers and mechanics include, troubleshooting and repairing HVAC systems and parts (e.g., motors, heat pumps, controls, boilers, furnaces, intake fans, wiring, etc); utilizing blueprints to install equipment to manufacturers’ specifications; adjusting systems for optimal performance; educating clients on energy efficiency and upgrades; enrolling in continuing education opportunities to keep abreast of developments in the industry; keeping detailed service records; calculating heat loads and losses, and maintaining proper local permitting for all projects.

Climate control systems are present in most residential and commercial properties across the US, and especially in places like Maine with notably cold winters. Some of these skilled professionals choose to specialize in a certain type of equipment or environment such as industrial-scale refrigeration, home oil heating systems, or natural gas setups. Since the systems generally need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years and require regular maintenance, many HVAC workers have steady work, even during the slower seasons.

With the ongoing demand for HVAC services steady nationwide and in Maine, there are expected to be ample opportunities for these workers in coming years. This piece examines the bright career outlook in HVAC in ME, as well as the expected salaries, training programs, and credentialing within the state.

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Demand for HVAC Professionals in Maine

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020), people in HVAC are expected to have a wealth of job openings throughout the coming decade. The BLS predicted a 4 percent increase in openings nationwide in the industry between 2019 and 2029, which is as fast as the average growth anticipated across all US occupations (4 percent). One factor contributing to the high growth prospects in this field is the increasing concern for the environment; as people focus on energy conservation and pollution reduction, systems will need to be upgraded, retrofitted, or otherwise replaced with more earth-friendly systems.

While the expectations are rosy in HVAC, the BLS also cautions that people in this profession suffer a relatively high rate of injury compared to other US occupations, an effect of the physical nature of the work as well as the types of chemicals (e.g., refrigerants) used. Although the threat of muscle tears, strains, burns, and electrical shock remains higher in HVAC than in other occupations, these maladies can generally be kept to a minimum with proper training and safety equipment. Please note that HVAC technicians and mechanics are typically expected to be able to lift at least 40 pounds.

Some HVAC professionals in Maine work normal business hours, but their days may be extended to evenings, weekends, or holidays according to the servicing needs of customers, especially during the winter. Seven percent of the HVAC workers nationwide were self-employed in 2020, and 66 percent worked through contracting companies.

As a testament to the thriving demand for HVAC, major job post websites advertised relevant job openings across Maine. By illustration, Indeed (2021) had 54 opportunities at places such as Sodexo, Covenant Health, and The Jackson Laboratory. Also, a simple search for “HVAC jobs in Maine” on Monster (2021) yielded 137 results with companies such as EMCOR Group, Honeywell, Professional Placement, Synerfac Technical Staffing, and Sears Holdings Corporation. To summarize, the future looks bright for trained HVAC professionals in Maine and beyond.

HVAC Salaries in Maine

Not only are there expected to be ample job opportunities in HVAC in Maine, but this industry is also one of the more lucrative fields among occupations requiring only one to two years of postsecondary training.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020) found that there were 344,020 HVAC workers nationwide with an annual average salary of $53,410; by comparison, the 2,190 HVAC mechanics and installers in ME had an annual average salary of $50,380, only slightly below the national average.

Interestingly, other sources of data varied in their wage estimates for HVAC workers. For example, Indeed (2021) reported that Maine HVAC professionals earn an average salary of $54,130 per year, which is higher than the BLS figures. That said, the BLS projections are generally considered more reliable due to the higher sample size and systematized data collection methods.

In more detail, here were the salary percentiles of HVAC professionals across the US and in Maine specifically:

United States Maine
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 344,020 2,190
Annual mean wage $53,410 $50,380
10th Percentile $31,910 $35,170
25th Percentile $39,320 $41,800
50th Percentile (Median) $50,590 $48,980
75th Percentile $64,350 $59,200
90th Percentile $80,820 $69,060

Again, the figures varied by the source of data. For comparative purposes, here are the national figures from Payscale (2021), a site that relies on self-reported data.

  • 10th percentile: $32,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,540
  • 90th percentile: $76,000

Please keep both the BLS and Payscale figures in mind as a basis for comparison for state salary estimates.

Note that these figures are roughly on par with the national salary percentiles in this field. It’s important to point out that the cost of living in Maine is also higher than in many US states, and consequently, the purchasing power of the salaries may not go as far. To illustrate, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2020) found that Maine was the thirteenth most expensive state in the country.

HVAC Schools in Maine

Before seeking work in Maine’s thriving HVAC industry, people in this field must receive the proper training. Some aspiring professionals choose to complete apprenticeship programs that last from three to five years, comprising at least 144 hours of technical education and hands-on instruction under the guidance of qualified HVAC workers, amounting to 2,000+ hours of on-the-job experience. Others may complete a more formal training program through one of Maine’s many HVAC schools.

These HVAC programs last from six months to two years and typically involve both didactic coursework on the fundamentals and opportunities to put one’s skills to the test through externships, internships, or lab sessions. To qualify for either an apprentice program or an HVAC training school, candidates must generally be 18 or older; possess a clean record; submit a copy of their high school transcript with proof of qualifying coursework (e.g., math, English); and have a driver’s license.

First, there is a wealth of national organizations which provide apprenticeship programs or resources for aspiring HVAC professionals who are interested in apprenticeships, including the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Inc.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association

Please reference individual websites to learn about opportunities specific to Maine.

Second, there is also an abundance of training programs within the Pine Tree State. The traditional accreditation agencies for HVAC schools are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA); as of April 2021, there were no programs accredited by either agency in ME. That said, there are still training options for people aspiring to join this high-growth industry.

Southern Maine Community College

Southern Maine Community College has campuses in South Portland and Brunswick and offers an associate of applied science (AAS) degree in heating, air conditioning & refrigeration, or heating & plumbing. These hands-on practical programs prepare students in installing, repairing, and maintaining HVAC/R equipment. Students learn to read blueprints and get a complete understanding of electronics and temperature control, and about the construction and components of HVAC/R systems.

With a unique focus on green technologies, SMCC’s programs feature coursework in residential heating systems; basic refrigeration; electronics for HVAC; print reading; introduction to welding; system design & industrial heating; and various general education classes. The AAS degrees typically take 4.5 full-time semesters to complete (65 credits).

SMCC also provides individual certificate programs in heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, and plumbing. Impressively, 92 percent of SMCC graduates secure employment or continue their studies within nine months of graduation.

On successful completion of the program, graduates will be ready for entry-level employment in the HVAC/Plumbing fields. They will be experts at assembling steam, hot water, and warm air systems, troubleshooting and repairing fuel and electrical systems, assembling, charging, and operating HVAC/R systems, and recovering, recycling, and working safely with refrigerants.

  • Location: South Portland, ME; Brunswick, ME
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 4.5 full-time semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: Maine Residents ($96 per credit); non-residents ($192 per credit)

Northeast Technical Institute

The Northeast Technical Institute of Scarborough and Bangor has part-time and full-time programs for prospective workers in HVAC. Students at NTI may qualify for various certifications such as the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) credential and the CETP gas/propane certification.

The full-time HVAC/R diploma program offers hands-on training opportunities at Northeast Technical Institute’s HVAC/R labs. It provides students with the knowledge and theory required for installing, maintaining, and repairing light commercial and residential systems.

Comprising 810 hours, this program will allow students to specialize in a specific area of HVAC/R. Students can specialize in refrigeration or heating systems or; installation only. Combining hands-on training with classroom instruction, the program provides students with a detailed understanding of both the important current issues and fundamentals in the HVAC/R industry.

Students in this program will learn about safety measures, develop skills in electrical and mechanical applications, perform corrective and preventive maintenance to gas, electric, and oil furnaces, and develop an understanding of the different types of HVAC/R systems.

  • Location: Scarborough, Bangor, and Auburn, ME
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 27 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact Institute for details

Eastern Maine Community College

Eastern Maine Community College of Bangor offers an AAS HVAC degree with hands-on instruction for competency exams such as the Limited Electrician in Refrigeration license; EPA Section 608 (refrigerants); Oil Burner Journeyman license; and the Propane/Natural Gas license (CETP). Students are provided with opportunities to become proficient in installing, maintaining, and repairing HVAC/R equipment.

Made up of 64 credits, the curriculum includes courses such as refrigeration components & physical principles, refrigeration systems & flow controls, electricity, technical mathematics, heat pump systems, gas heating systems, HVAC systems, and commercial refrigeration systems.

Graduates will be able to find employment in a variety of industrial and commercial settings, with air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration contractors, and in sales positions. They will be able to follow National and State codes involving HVAC/R equipment, work safely with tools and test instruments for servicing HVAC/R equipment, apply the knowledge and skills for pipe fitting techniques related to brazing, pipe threading, and soldering.

Apart from the AAS degree, the college also offers a refrigeration certificate which comprises 34 credits.

  • Location: Bangor, ME
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (2 years); Certificate (1 year)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($96 per credit); out-of-state ($192 per credit)

The MEMA Technical Education Center (mentioned in the introduction) also provides preparation for several trade-specific certification exams, including the HVAC Pro certification and EPA Section 608 exams, as well as specialized training in gas and propane heating.

Lastly, some students may find it difficult to attend an on-campus program. For those aspiring HVAC professionals, there are various web-based classes available. To learn about how to join one of these convenient programs across the country, check out the online HVAC programs page.

HVAC Certification & Licensure in Maine

In addition to getting the proper training in the field, HVAC professionals in Maine should ensure that they have all the necessary credentialing before seeking employment. For all workers across the country who deal with refrigerants, there is one mandatory certification: the EPA Section 608. Also, 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), and type 4 (universal).

There are other competency-based national certifications provided through agencies including North American Technician Excellence (e.g., industry competency exams or ICE); HVAC Excellence (e.g., heating, electrical, air conditioning technology); the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., certified assistant refrigeration operator); and the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA).

To discover how to qualify for the broad range of certifications nationwide, check out the HVAC certification page.

Lastly, regional licensure and permitting for HVAC work vary within the state of Maine. Although there is no state license specifically for HVAC, the initial wiring of HVAC systems may require an electrical permit in “systems control wiring” from the Maine Electricians’ Licensing Board. These state licenses are valid for two years and can be renewed following the payment of a renewal fee and proof of having completed continuing education in electrical code (15 hours every three years).

Regions within the state may require additional permitting such as the City of Bangor, which issues building permits for the development of HVAC systems. Also, the Town of Wells issues permits for new construction, including the installation of HVAC systems.

Above all, HVAC workers in Maine are subject to different requirements based on the region of the state. Professionals in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, or refrigeration are strongly encouraged to reach out to city administrators to ascertain proper credentialing before beginning work.

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).