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For many residents, a Montana (MT) winter would be unbearable 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 a 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, it is important for all aspiring HVAC professionals 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 in order 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 2017) reported that there were 307,060 HVAC technicians nationwide. This number is expected to grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. To put this into perspective, openings in all industries nationwide were expected to grow by only seven percent during the same time.

So why is the HVAC industry expanding at more than twice the average of all occupations in the U.S.? A number of 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 (Nov. 2018), for example, brought up 165 results with companies including the US Army, Emcor, CBRE, Johnson Controls, and many more. A similar search on Indeed (Nov. 2018) yielded 166 results with organizations such as LONG Building Technologies, Central Plumbing, Heating & Excavation, and Design Air, as well as a number of others.

HVAC Salaries in Montana

The BLS (2017) found that HVAC technicians can make a relatively generous wage throughout their career. The average salary for HVAC workers was approximately $49,530 per year, or $23.81 per hour, with the following percentiles:

Annual salary Hourly salary
United States Montana United States Montana
Average $49,530 $49,160 $23.81 $23.64
10th percentile $29,120 $28,750 $14.00 $13.82
25th percentile $36,150 $33,8200 $17.38 $16.26
50th percentile $47,080 $44,120 $22.64 $21.21
75th percentile $60,270 $58,750 $28.98 $28.24
90th percentile $75,330 $75,480 $36.22 $36.29

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (Nov. 2018), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States: 889 HVAC workers responding

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $36,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,532
  • 75th percentile: $56,000
  • 90th percentile: $71,000

An additional 4,873 HVAC workers gave Payscale their hourly salary figures, resulting in these percentile wages:

  • 10th percentile: $13.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.24/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.00/hr.

The average salary for HVAC workers in Montana is very similar to the average for the rest of the nation. As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. In 2018, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) found that MT was the 32nd 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.

The BLS designated seven regions within Montana for which employment data is available. The 240 HVAC workers in the Billings area earned the highest average salary in the state ($56,700). Following are the detailed salary data for the state of Montana:

Billings, MT (240 HVAC workers): $56,700 annual average salary

Billings, MT
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $56,700 $27.26
10th percentile $27,910 $13.42
25th percentile $31,420 $15.10
50th percentile $54,410 $26.16
75th percentile $86,420 $41.55
90th percentile $98040 $47.14

Central Montana nonmetropolitan area (40 HVAC workers): $44,930 annual average salary

Central Montana nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $44,930 $21.60
10th percentile $30,170 $14.51
25th percentile $36,400 $17.50
50th percentile $45,000 $21.63
75th percentile $54,860 $26.38
90th percentile $60,970 $29.32

East Montana nonmetropolitan area (50 HVAC workers): $44,380 annual average salary

East Montana nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $44,380 $21.34
10th percentile $32,510 $15.63
25th percentile $35,980 $17.30
50th percentile $42,290 $20.33
75th percentile $49,190 $23.65
90th percentile $68,850 $33.10

Great Falls, MT (40 HVAC workers): $51,330 annual average salary

Great Falls, MT
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $51,330 $24.68
10th percentile $33,130 $15.93
25th percentile $39,530 $19.01
50th percentile $54,020 $25.97
75th percentile $61,570 $29.60
90th percentile $65,160 $31.33

Missoula, MT (130 HVAC workers): $41,780 annual average salary

Missoula, MT
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $41,780 $20.09
10th percentile $28,220 $13.57
25th percentile $32,030 $15.40
50th percentile $38,480 $18.50
75th percentile $50,240 $24.15
90th percentile $62,420 $30.01

Southwest Montana nonmetropolitan area (number of HVAC workers unreported): $51,820 annual average salary

Southwest Montana nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $51,820 $24.91
10th percentile $32,370 $15.56
25th percentile $36,900 $17.74
50th percentile $46,450 $22.33
75th percentile $58,010 $27.89
90th percentile $64,880 $31.19

West Montana nonmetropolitan area (number of HVAC workers unreported): $35,930 annual average salary

West Montana nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $35,930 $17.27
10th percentile $26,330 $12.66
25th percentile $28,980 $13.93
50th percentile $34,460 $16.57
75th percentile $42,850 $20.60
90th percentile $48,910 $23.51

Accredited HVAC Schools in Montana

In general, nearly all aspiring HVAC technicians must obtain some type of formal or hands-on training before they are able to 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 < href="https://www.fvcc.edu/programs/occupational-trades/heating-ventilation-air-conditioning/" target="_blank">Flathead Valley Community College. Furthermore, apprentices are compensated for their work, and are often eligible for raises throughout the duration of the program.

The University of Montana – Missoula College also offers a certificate program in HVAC, which only requires students to complete 12 credits on the subjects of electricity and heating and air conditioning for a total of 200 hours. In-state tuition and fees for the 2018-19 school year was $7,242 for 12 credit hours or $24,958 for out-of-state students.

Finally, future HVAC technicians also have the option to complete an online program offered through HVACRedu, located in Heron. This program prepares students to become NATE-certified technicians while covering courses such as HVAC fundamentals, applied mathematics, cooling system troubleshooting, electrical common components, and much more. Tuition for the entire program was $2,665.

Here, 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 2 years. As of now, two main organizations offer accreditation to HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). As of November 2018, HVACRedu.net offers the only HVAC Excellence-accredited program in the state. No programs in Montana are currently accredited by PAHRA.

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. A number of 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 $53 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 their own specific licensing requirements for HVAC contractors. In light of this, all aspiring technicians should thoroughly research the criteria in their own cities before beginning any work in this field.