HVAC Training Programs & Certifications in Michigan

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It’s no surprise that in Michigan—the Water Winter Wonderland—there is a wealth of opportunities and resources for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals available. ACHR News, a major HVAC media source based in Troy, Michigan (MI), covers the news in the industry organized by region and the numerous forums and events that support these skilled people in their work.

Michigan HVAC technicians must have a mechanical contractor’s license from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to perform work beyond the replacement of minor parts or in working with portable units with less than 30,000 BTU/hr. Numerous professional trade organizations support HVAC workers in building their skills and promoting local advocacy. For instance, the Michigan Air Conditioning Contractors Association represents mechanical contractors and supports evolving local regulations in the profession.

So what is it that HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers in Michigan do? HVAC workers monitor the performance of HVAC systems and their components (e.g., motors, electrical wiring, pipes, valves, humidifiers); repair broken equipment; counsel commercial and residential property owners on how to maximize efficiency; perform preventative maintenance on various parts (e.g., wiring fans, pumps, compressors, switches, gauges, controls); read blueprints and install systems; and maintain active credentialing by keeping up-to-date knowledge in the profession.

To become an HVAC mechanic, installer, or repairer in Michigan, it’s important to receive proper training in the profession. Not only is this important to ensure the proper functioning of machines, but HVAC work incurs a higher average rate of injury than other professions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that relatively common problems for HVAC technicians include burns, electric shocks, and muscle strains. Handling refrigerants can be especially hazardous since contact with the skin can produce frostbite or even blindness. Therefore, it is imperative to learn about the best practices and procedures in handling equipment safely.

A majority of Michigan’s HVAC employment opportunities call for knowledge of various types of systems such as geothermal, oil-burning, and electric. Additionally, certifications from national credentialing organizations such as NATE can also enhance a Michigan HVAC technician’s job candidacy.

Read on to learn about the promising job outlook for HVAC professionals in Michigan, including the salary prospects (statewide and regionally), accredited training, and how to pursue licensure.

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HVAC Occupational Demand in Michigan

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021), HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers can expect relatively high job growth in the years to come. The BLS (May 2020) projected a 4 percent increase in openings in this field between 2019 and 2029, which is as fast as the average percent growth anticipated across all occupations (4 percent). To enhance one’s ability to secure a job in this field, many MI HVAC employers call for:

  • Driver’s license
  • Proof of HVAC technical education (certificate, diploma, or degree)
  • Experience on the job (three to five years preferred)
  • NATE certification(s)
  • Ability to pass a drug test

These professionals work in a range of environments since a majority of structures in Michigan provide some form of climate control. HVAC technicians may work in homes, businesses, hospitals, schools, factories, and other environments. Since many HVAC contracting companies perform regular maintenance on equipment for customers in Michigan and systems generally need to be replaced every ten years, there is a steady stream of employment. Furthermore, there are seasonal spikes in activity for Michigan HVAC workers during summers and winters, and these professionals may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, or holidays to meet client demand.

There are HVAC opportunities available across all of the main job-hunting websites such as CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, and others. As proof of point, Indeed (June 2021) posted more than 400 openings for HVAC workers.

Michigan HVAC Technician Salary Data

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020), there were 344,020 HVAC workers around the country with an average annual salary(annual mean wage) of $53,410. Interestingly, Michigan HVAC workers boasted roughly the same mean annual salary ($52,590) despite living in one of the most affordable states in the US.

Following are the more detailed salary percentiles for HVAC professionals nationwide as compared to Michigan (BLS May 2020):

United States Michigan
Number of HVAC professionals employed 344,020 8,260
Annual mean wage $53,410 $52,590
10th percentile $31,910 $33,170
25th percentile $39,320 $39,680
50th percentile (median) $50,590 $50,090
75th percentile $64,350 $64,980
90th percentile $80,820 $78,010

According to another source of data, the national figures were slightly different, PayScale (June 2021), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $32,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,908
  • 90th percentile: $77,000

As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) found that Michigan had the 11th lowest cost of living in the United States.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Michigan

Aspiring HVAC workers are encouraged to seek out accredited training programs. The process of accreditation takes into consideration various aspects of a training program or school, including the quality of facilities, the comprehensiveness of curricula, and various student outcome measures (e.g., average student debt, post-program employment rates).

There are two esteemed program-approval entities in HVAC: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

Grand Rapids Community College

As of June 2021, this is the only PAHRA-accredited HVAC training program in Michigan. GRCC boasts affordable tuition, flexible class scheduling (day or evening), quality job placement assistance, and a focus on the practical applications of all knowledge imparted. Two HVAC programs are available, a certificate and a two-year associate of applied arts and sciences (AAS) degree in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technology.

The HVAC/R technology certificate program is made up of 38 credits. The curriculum includes courses such as basic refrigeration; refrigeration applications; heating and cooling controls; heating theory; air conditioning theory; HVAC blueprint reading and design; HVAC/R electronic controls; and more. All credits earned in this certificate program may be applied toward the AAS in HVAC/R technology program.

The AAS program consists of 60 credits featuring hands-on coursework in heating and cooling controls; HVAC/R electronic controls; commercial refrigeration; metallic and non-metallic joining; duct construction and design; mechanical codes; and basic boiler operation.

Students are trained in various areas of HVAC work, as they learn about cooling, filtering, and controlling humidity, reading blueprints, diagnosing malfunctions, and using technical manuals.

The program opens up several opportunities for graduates. They can take up roles such as air-conditioning technician, heating and cooling technician, domestic air-conditioning installer, climate control technician, environmental-control-system installer, heating technician, and refrigeration technician.

  • Location: Grand Rapids, MI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; PAHRA
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (12 months); AAS degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($117 per contact-hour); non-resident ($247); out-of-state ($371)

Washtenaw Community College

Washtenaw Community College offers the following HVAC programs:

  • Associate in applied science (AAS) in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (60 credits)
  • An advanced certificate in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration – Commercial trade (17 credits)
  • Certificate in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration – residential (25 credits)

The advanced certificate in HVAC/R is ideal for students wanting to develop skills in HVAC/R installation or mechanics and includes courses such as refrigeration systems; hydronic systems; commercial industry standards with competency exams; energy audits; and air system layout and design.

The residential HVAC/R certificate program prepares students for entry-level employment in the HVAC industry and also prepares them for EPA certification. Courses in this program include heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; HVAC sheet metal fabrication; residential and light commercial heating systems; residential and light commercial air conditioning systems; residential HVAC competency exams and codes; and soldering and brazing.

The AAS program—ideal for journey-level technicians ready to complete a degree—provides additional instruction in advanced electrical & direct digital controls; air system layout & design; residential HVAC competency exams & codes; hydronic systems; energy audits; and commercial industry standards with competency exams. The program also prepares students to take up advanced industry-recognized certifications.

  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission; HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS degree (five semesters); certificates (timeline varies)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($95 per credit); out-of-district ($164); out-of-state ($227); international ($268)

Dorsey Schools

Finally, the Dorsey Schools offers an HVAC systems technician diploma, providing hands-on instruction in HVAC systems (residential and commercial), electricity, and refrigeration. This program includes preparation for the mandatory EPA 608 Certification. Along with traditional classroom instruction, the program also provides a hands-on learning experience to students.

Classes in this skilled trades program include fundamentals of HVAC; controls; electricity; refrigeration; commercial systems; residential systems; blueprinting, weatherization, and sustainability; EPA standards; industry safety standards; systems troubleshooting and schematics; and more.

The program is taught by professionals who possess experience and expertise in their respective fields. Through the program, students will learn how to install as well as maintain HVAC systems, change filters, calibrate thermostats, repair motors, perform preventative and general maintenance on air and heating units, and handle the maintenance of equipment and tools.

Graduates of the program can pursue roles such as HVAC service tech, HVAC mechanic, HVAC specialist, HVAC technician, service technician, systems mechanic, AC tech, and HVAC installer.

  • Location: Roseville and Wayne, MI
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Nine months
  • Estimated Tuition: $15,300 for the program

For those who live in more rural regions of Michigan or have other time commitments preventing them from attending an on-campus program, there are other distance-based HVAC training programs available in addition to the aforementioned AAS (Washtenaw Community College).

To learn about the range of web-based learning available in this field, check out the online HVAC programs page.

Michigan HVAC Certification & Licensing

To work as an HVAC technician, mechanic, or installer in Michigan, it’s essential to get the proper credentialing. There is one mandatory national certification for anyone who works with refrigerants: the EPA Section 608 Certification. Four subtypes vary by equipment: type I (small appliances), type II (high-pressure refrigerants), type III (low-pressure refrigerants), and type IV (universal).

Additionally, many job postings for HVAC techs in MI call for three to five years of experience in the field, as well as a competency-based certification. These credentials are available through various organizations such as the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence.

To learn in-depth about each of these credentialing entities, check out the HVAC certification page.

Finally, there is a required state credential for this profession, as well. In the state of Michigan, HVAC technicians must have a mechanical contractor’s license from the MI Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). To qualify for the MI mechanical contractor’s license, candidates must have:

  • At least three years of experience (6,000 hours) in each of the work classifications for which he or she is applying (e.g., hydronic heating & cooling; HVAC equipment; refrigeration; ductwork, etc.), one year of which can be from an educational program
  • Detailed application with all qualifying work performed
  • Application fee and exam fee
  • Passing score (at least 70 percent) on an exam

The MI mechanical contractor’s license exam comprises written tests for each work classification sought, as well as 20 questions on general laws & rules, the construction code, and basic safety rules. Permits and licenses are not required to install portable equipment, self-contained refrigeration systems, or window-mounted air conditioners.

Finally, there are six types of specialty licenses available for those in MI with more advanced experience in the following areas: solar, solid fuel, LP tank & pipe, underground tank & pipe, gas piping, and gas piping & venting.

To learn in-depth about the laws regulating HVAC workers in Michigan, please visit the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) page.

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).

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