Montana HVAC Training Schools – Degrees & Certificates

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A Montana (MT) winter would be unbearable for many residents without having a heater in their homes. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of homes and other buildings throughout the Treasure State are equipped with some type of climate-control system. The necessity of working heat in the frigid winters is just one of the many reasons Big Sky Country is an excellent place to start a new career in the field of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).

HVAC technicians in Montana enjoy a wide array of benefits. For one, many organizations and unions operate throughout Montana, offering support to HVAC professionals. One example is the Plumbers & Pipefitters Union Local 30 in Billings. This union offers myriad benefits for HVAC technicians in the area, including continuing education and training, professional advocacy, and a health and pension plan, among other perks.

There are other unions throughout Montana as well. Some are affiliated with the Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders & Service Techs, including the Local 41 in Butte and the Local 459 in Missoula. HVAC technicians in these areas can pursue membership to help secure union benefits and privileges.

The reasons to start a career as an HVAC technician in Montana are extensive, but before taking the first steps, all aspiring HVAC professionals need to understand the scope of the job, as well as potential responsibilities. Here’s a brief overview of daily tasks expected of many technicians in the state:

  • Ensure HVAC equipment is properly calibrated
  • Perform calculations on equipment when necessary
  • Maintain records
  • Read blueprints
  • Make sure that projects have all necessary permits in compliance with local laws
  • Travel to various work sites
  • Provide education to customers on energy conservation and use
  • Maintain all required licensure and credentialing

In addition to the responsibilities listed above, technicians in Montana who work with refrigerants need to maintain active EPA Section 608 Certification to complete any refrigerant work. Ultimately, working as an HVAC technician in Montana can be truly rewarding.

This guide details the state of the HVAC industry in Montana and across the United States, including the salary expectations, available training programs, and licensure requirements.

Career Outlook for HVAC Technicians in Montana

The robust growth in the HVAC industry—both in Montana and across the country—signals that this may be the perfect time to start a new career in this field. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) reported that there were 344,020 HVAC technicians nationwide. This number is expected to grow by 4 percent between 2019 and 2029. To put this into perspective, openings in all industries nationwide were expected to grow the same (four percent) during the same time.

So why is the HVAC industry expanding at this rate? Several factors are at play. For one, regulations governing the HVAC industry are constantly changing, requiring educated technicians to stay abreast of these modifications and help ensure customers remain in compliance with the law. Furthermore, new buildings are being constructed in Montana at a rapid pace, nearly all of which will contain some form of climate-control system.

HVAC technicians are required to participate in and oversee this process. And finally, both existing and new climate-control systems require routine maintenance by an HVAC technician, and must generally be replaced every 10 or 15 years.

An online search for available HVAC positions in Montana highlights the demand for these skilled professionals. Monster (July 2021), for example, brought up results with companies including the EMCOR Group, Design Air, Recruit4HVAC, Mountain Heating & Cooling, and many more. A similar search on Indeed (July 2021) yielded 97 results with organizations such as Montana State University, Johnson Controls, LONG Building Technologies, and Flathead Valley Community College, as well as several others.

HVAC Salaries in Montana

Not only is HVAC a high-growth profession, but it is also relatively lucrative, especially for a profession requiring only one to two years of postsecondary training. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020), there were 344,020 HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $53,410, and 1,250 HVAC mechanics and installers in Montana with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $47,850.

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

United States Montana
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 344,020 1,250
Annual Mean Wage $53,410 $47,850
10th percentile $31,910 $31,130
25th percentile $39,320 $37,140
50th percentile (median) $50,590 $46,250
75th percentile $64,350 $57,850
90th percentile $80,820 $67,820

Salary figures do vary slightly by another source of data. PayScale (2021)—an aggregator of self-reported salaries—found the following percentiles among its HVAC respondents nationwide in June 2021:

  • 10th percentile: $32,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,126
  • 90th percentile: $78,000

The BLS figures are generally considered more reliable due to the organization’s methods of data collection and relatively high sample size. As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. In 2020, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) found that MT was the 27th most affordable state, making it costlier than a majority of states, but close to average. For HVAC technicians this means salaries may not go as far as they would in some more affordable states.

HVAC Apprenticeships in Montana

In general, nearly all aspiring HVAC technicians must obtain some type of formal or hands-on training before they can work in this capacity. This may come in the form of an apprenticeship, a degree, or a certificate program.

Anyone interested in an apprenticeship may consider a program facilitated by the Montana Department of Labor & Industry. The apprenticeship programs for HVAC technicians last four years, during which the apprentice receives on-the-job training, as well as classroom credits through Flathead Valley Community College. Furthermore, apprentices are compensated for their work and are often eligible for raises throughout the program.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Montana

It is important to mention that it is common practice now for many aspiring HVAC technicians to enroll in accredited programs, which generally last between six months and two years.

As of July 2021, two main organizations offer accreditation to HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). HVACRedu.net currently offers the only HVAC Excellence-accredited program in the state. No programs in Montana are currently accredited by PAHRA.

HVACRedu

HVAC technicians have the option to complete an online program offered through HVACRedu, located in Heron. This program prepares students to become NATE-certified technicians.

Nate certification will help you in increasing your earning potential and job demand. Technicians who have earned this certification are preferred among customers, delivering reduced warranty returns, fewer callbacks, and higher billable efficiency.

The program comprises 256 or more instructional hours. As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as HVAC/R applied math, building systems, basic hand & power tools, introduction to HVAC systems, customer service & sales skills, electrical common components, electrical motors, air properties & measurement, refrigeration cycle service procedures, introduction to cooling system troubleshooting, and much more.

  • Location: Heron, MT
  • Accreditation: N/A
  • Expected Time to Completion: 256 or more instructional hours
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,665

Gallatin College, MSU

Gallatin College of Montana State University offers a certificate as well as an associate of applied science degree preparing students to work as HVAC/R installers or technicians. Combining hands-on training with classroom instruction, these programs teach students about the theoretical, procedural, and technical aspects of working in this HVAC/R industry where they will initially focus on residential systems and then advance to commercial systems and new technology.

Some of the topics students will delve into would include Introduction to interpersonal communication, introduction to electricity, introduction to HVAC/R, OSHA 10 safety training for construction trades, HVAC-R electrical, HVAC systems, blueprint reading & wiring schematics, HVAC installation & sheet metal fabrication, and welding, brazing and pipe joining, among others.

Graduates will be able to interpret blueprint plans, properly utilize brazing, pipe-joining, and welding techniques, comprehend parallel and series circuit systems, troubleshoot, maintain, and repair HVAC/R equipment, gain proper understanding and knowledge of control systems, and develop professional communication skills.

  • Location: Bozeman, MT
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (one year); AAS (two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: 109.15 per credit

Flathead Valley Community College

Flathead Valley Community College’s HVAC certificate program is designed for working apprentices who wish to become certified HVAC professionals. All courses in this program are taught on campus preparing students for the NATE certification exam.

Consisting of 28 credits, the program includes courses such as introduction to electricity, electric motors & generators, HVAC fundamentals, HVAC electrical, boiler operator certification, HVAC systems, and HVAC refrigeration, among others.

Graduates of the program will be ready to work as HVAC technicians, facility maintenance technicians, or refrigeration specialists. Experience in this field may also lead to self-employment or management opportunities.

  • Location: Kalispell, MT
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years or five semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($129.70 per credit); out-of-district ($179.20 per credit); out-of-state ($385.70 per credit)

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Montana

HVAC technicians who work with refrigerants in Montana are required to maintain active EPA Section 608 Certification of which there are four categories:

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

Additionally, anyone considering a career in this field may wish to pursue additional skill-specific HVAC certifications. Several organizations offer these certifications, such as the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator); North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams or ICE); and HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus), among others.

As a final note, it is important to understand the state licensing requirements for HVAC technicians in Montana. To begin, registering as a contractor in Montana is optional for any technicians who work independently and without employees.

However, an HVAC technician who hires others must register as a construction contractor with the Montana Department of Labor & Industry. This requires the submission of an application, along with a $70 non-refundable fee. Not only does this provide benefits to contractors—including the ability to participate in the state’s workers’ compensation program—but also non-registered construction contractors can be fined $500 per violation of performing work without a license.

Furthermore, some cities throughout Montana have specific licensing requirements for HVAC contractors. In light of this, all aspiring technicians should thoroughly research the criteria in their cities before beginning any work in this field.

Jocelyn Blore

Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.

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