HVAC Training Programs in NC

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Working as a heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (i.e., HVAC-R or HVAC) professional in North Carolina (NC) can mean stady employment and opportunities for growth. The demand for these skilled workers is expected to increase around the country and all signs point to those expectations applying in NC as well.

Not only are the salary prospects bright for HVAC technicians in NC, there is also a wealth of professional associations and resources for these climate-control gurus. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) found that HVAC workers and mechanics nationwide made an annual average salary of $49,530. This figure is similar to the mean annual wage of all occupations at $50,620 (BLS 2017), and is relatively generous compensation in a profession that does not require a four-year postsecondary degree.

In the Old North State, there is also an abundance of HVAC and contracting trade associations to provide mentoring, continuing education (CE) opportunities, job posting boards, and legal advocacy in this occupation. For example, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of North Carolina (PHCCA of NC) is staunchly committed to the advancement of the technologies and methodologies in HVAC and the promotion of rigorous safety standards for all workers. This chapter of the PHCCA organizes events, provides training, and serves as a voice for members of this industry. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) also has thriving NC chapters and associations. Chapters are local branches, whereas associations are groups of chapters which typically share geographic boundaries.

So what is it that HVAC mechanics and installers do? And what type of education and licensure is necessary in NC? According to the BLS, these specialists perform a variety of functions to ensure temperature and air quality control within commercial and residential structures, including installing HVAC systems; maintaining all components and client records; testing equipment to determine required repairs (e.g., air ducts, electrical wiring, heating units); keeping up with evolving legislation and technologies; ensuring that systems are energy efficient; complying with annual renewal requirements of NC HVAC licensure; and educating homeowners and commercial property operators about the systems. Technicians in NC may specialize in an aspect of HVAC (e.g., solar panels, commercial refrigeration, radiant heating) or may have ore general knowledge of a range of HVAC systems and needs. Anyone entering the field should know that there is one mandatory certification for all HVAC professionals in the U.S. who work with the recovery and reuse of refrigerants: the EPA Section 608 credential. This certification ensures that an HVAC worker utilizes the proper methods in moving, replacing, or recycling materials which have been shown to adversely affect the earth’s climate.

Read on to discover the opportunities for HVAC technicians and mechanics in NC, as well as the salary prospects, educational programs, and requirements for local licensure and certification.

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North Carolina HVAC Occupational Demand

It’s no surprise that the demand and consequent growth in opportunities for qualified HVAC technicians in North Carolina and across the country are relatively high. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017) projected that there will be a 15 percent in job openings for HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide between 2016 and 2026, more than twice the average growth estimate for all occupations (7 percent). With the expected addition of 48,800 fresh positions for HVAC professionals in the US, there are expected to be ample employment choices in this industry in years to come.

Not only is there a continued demand for new residential and commercial HVAC systems as the construction of new structures grows, but climate-control systems generally must be replaced every 10 to 15 years. Furthermore, the maintenance and repair of existing systems coupled with improving technologies for energy efficiency necessitate the availability of qualified HVAC technicians in North Carolina and beyond.

It is important to note that there is a relatively high rate of injury for HVAC technicians and installers due to the physical nature of the occupation. Some common injuries include burns, electrical shocks, and muscular strains or tears. It is up to the technicians to ensure that they have the proper training and safety equipment and follow procedure to prevent these occurrences.

There are abundant opportunities for HVAC professionals in North Carolina. Projections Central (2018) indicates an expcted 16.4 percent growth between 2016 and 2026. In addition, Indeed (Nov. 2018) posted more than 1,150 job openings at places such as Blue Ridge Air, Bolton Construction and Service of WNC, Inc., Griffin Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., North Carolina Public Schools, Western Carolina University, and Gentry Heating.

Finally, the BLS (2017) estimated that one in ten HVAC technicians nationwide were self-employed and can dictate their own schedules. The majority, however, work for manufacturing and contracting organizations. Some work typical business hours while others—especially in the busy winter and summer seasons—may have to work weekends, holidays, or evenings to serve client needs.

HVAC Technician Salary in NC

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), there were 307,060 HVAC workers across the country with an average annual salary of $49,530. While the mean salary in this profession in North Carolina is somewhat lower at $42,580, it’s important to note that the cost of living in NC is also substantially lower than many states. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2018) reported that NC was the nineteenth most affordable state, boasting savings in housing and transportation relative to the rest of the country. Please keep this fact in mind while considering the following data.

The BLS (2017) found the following percentiles among all HVAC technicians and installers around the country:

Annual salary Hourly salary
United States North Carolina United States North Carolina
Average $49,530 $42,580 $23.81 $20.47
10th percentile $29,120 $27,500 $14.00 $13.22
25th percentile $36,150 $33,110 $17.38 $15.92
50th percentile $47,080 $40,560 $22.64 $19.50
75th percentile $60,270 $50,790 $28.98 $24.42
90th percentile $75,330 $61,340 $36.22 $29.49

Not surprisingly, the wages for HVAC workers tended to vary by region within the state as well. In NC, HVAC workers in Durham-Chapel Hill were rewarded with the highest average salary at $50,800 while workers in the Northeast Coastal North Carolina nonmetropolitan area had the lowest average salary at $34,540.

Following is a complete breakdown of the number of HVAC workers employed, the average salaries, and the wage percentiles among the 19 BLS-designated regions of NC (BLS 2017):

Asheville, NC (860 HVAC workers): $39,660 annual average salary

Asheville, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $39,660 $19.07
10th percentile $29,060 $13.97
25th percentile $33,860 $16.28
50th percentile $38,790 $18.65
75th percentile $46,060 $22.15
90th percentile $51,380 $24.70

Burlington, NC (100 HVAC workers): $39,820 annual average salary

Burlington, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $39,820 $19.15
10th percentile $25,600 $12.31
25th percentile $28,370 $13.64
50th percentile $37,300 $17.93
75th percentile $49,430 $23.76
90th percentile $59,960 $28.83

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC (2960 HVAC workers): $44,140 annual average salary

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $44,140 $21.22
10th percentile $28,200 $13.56
25th percentile $33,690 $16.20
50th percentile $41,170 $19.79
75th percentile $54,710 $26.30
90th percentile $63,360 $30.46

Durham-Chapel Hill, NC (620 HVAC workers): $50,800 annual average salary

Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $50,800 $24.42
10th percentile $36,340 $17.47
25th percentile $42,660 $20.51
50th percentile $47,770 $22.97
75th percentile $55,730 $26.79
90th percentile $74,420 $35.78

Fayetteville, NC (370 HVAC workers): $41,340 annual average salary

Fayetteville, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $41,340 $19.88
10th percentile $27,660 $13.30
25th percentile $33,130 $15.93
50th percentile $41,980 $20.18
75th percentile $49,130 $23.62
90th percentile $54,350 $26.13

Goldsboro, NC (100 HVAC workers): $41,720 annual average salary

Goldsboro, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $41,720 $20.06
10th percentile $26,640 $12.81
25th percentile $31,480 $15.13
50th percentile $41,060 $19.74
75th percentile $49,140 $23.63
90th percentile $60,980 $29.32

Greensboro-High Point, NC (1230 HVAC workers): $43,880 annual average salary

Greensboro-High Point, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $43,880 $21.10
10th percentile $30,950 $14.88
25th percentile $34,830 $16.74
50th percentile $41,690 $20.04
75th percentile $52,530 $25.25
90th percentile $61,930 $29.77

Greenville, NC (170 HVAC workers): $40,280 annual average salary

Greenville, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $40,280 $19.37
10th percentile $27,830 $13.38
25th percentile $31,380 $15.09
50th percentile $38,850 $18.68
75th percentile $47,680 $22.92
90th percentile $57,280 $27.54

Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC (290 HVAC workers): $40,580 annual average salary

Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $40,580 $19.51
10th percentile $28,670 $13.78
25th percentile $33,950 $16.32
50th percentile $38,830 $18.67
75th percentile $46,750 $22.48
90th percentile $56,880 $27.35

Jacksonville, NC (180 HVAC workers): $36,240 annual average salary

Jacksonville, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $36,240 $17.42
10th percentile $22,090 $10.62
25th percentile $27,730 $13.33
50th percentile $34,950 $16.80
75th percentile $42,960 $20.65
90th percentile $56,310 $27.07

Mountain North Carolina nonmetropolitan area (470 HVAC workers): $40,250 annual average salary

Mountain North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $40,250 $19.35
10th percentile $27,760 $13.35
25th percentile $33,210 $15.97
50th percentile $38,110 $18.32
75th percentile $48,530 $23.33
90th percentile $57,850 $27.81

New Bern, NC (170 HVAC workers): $37,890 annual average salary

New Bern, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $37,890 $18.22
10th percentile $27,340 $13.14
25th percentile $31,910 $15.34
50th percentile $36,540 $17.57
75th percentile $43,030 $20.69
90th percentile $50,820 $24.43

Northeast Coastal North Carolina nonmetropolitan area (300 HVAC workers): $34,540 annual average salary

Northeast Coastal North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $34,540 $16.61
10th percentile $22,490 $10.81
25th percentile $26,490 $12.74
50th percentile $34,260 $16.47
75th percentile $40,910 $19.67
90th percentile $48,310 $23.23

Piedmont North Carolina nonmetropolitan area (910 HVAC workers): $39,370 annual average salary

Piedmont North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $39,370 $18.93
10th percentile $26,730 $12.85
25th percentile $30,470 $14.65
50th percentile $38,140 $18.34
75th percentile $46,790 $22.49
90th percentile $53,380 $25.67

Raleigh, NC (2410 HVAC workers): $46,600 annual average salary

Raleigh, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $46,600 $22.40
10th percentile $29,140 $14.01
25th percentile $36,260 $17.43
50th percentile $45,980 $22.11
75th percentile $56,850 $27.33
90th percentile $64,170 $30.85

Rocky Mount, NC (160 HVAC workers): $38,670 annual average salary

Rocky Mount, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $38,670 $18.59
10th percentile $26,720 $12.84
25th percentile $29,460 $14.16
50th percentile $38,590 $18.55
75th percentile $47,180 $22.68
90th percentile $52,710 $25.34

Southeast Coastal North Carolina nonmetropolitan area (870 HVAC workers): $35,120 annual average salary

Southeast Coastal North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $35,120 $16.88
10th percentile $24,130 $11.60
25th percentile $27,830 $13.38
50th percentile $33,510 $16.11
75th percentile $39,770 $19.12
90th percentile $50,000 $24.04

Wilmington, NC (730 HVAC workers): $44,620 annual average salary

Wilmington, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $44,620 $21.45
10th percentile $28,830 $13.86
25th percentile $34,610 $16.64
50th percentile $43,630 $20.98
75th percentile $52,200 $25.10
90th percentile $61,850 $29.74

Winston-Salem, NC (840 HVAC workers): $39,790 annual average salary

Winston-Salem, NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $39,790 $19.13
10th percentile $27,280 $13.11
25th percentile $32,590 $15.67
50th percentile $38,340 $18.43
75th percentile $46,760 $22.48
90th percentile $54,250 $26.08

Finally, the expected salaries of HVAC workers also tended to vary by source of data. In fact, Indeed (Nov. 2018) reported that HVAC employees in North Carolina had an annual average wage of $19.85 per hour, somewhat below the BLS projections.

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.

Accredited HVAC Schools in NC

In order to become an HVAC technician, mechanic, or installer in North Carolina, a person must have the proper training and certification. Historically, taking on an apprenticeship was one way to prepare for this career. HVAC apprenticeships typically last from three to five years and involve advanced, hands-on training under the guidance of a qualified professional. They generally include at least 144 hours of technical education and 2,000 hours of practice hours repairing, maintaining, and testing HVAC equipment.

The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of North Carolina (PHCCA of NC) provides a four-year apprenticeship program featuring 146 hours of didactic instruction and 2,000 on-the-job hours assisting experienced professionals. Notably, this training program is approved by the NC Department of Labor and certified by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Apprenticeship Training. Other organizations which provide apprenticeship opportunities include the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Inc. and the Associated Builders and Contractors.

In recent decades, it has become increasingly common for HVAC technicians and installers in North Carolina to attend a six-month to two-year training program at a community college, technical school, or trade school. Students are advised to seek out certificate, diploma, or associate degree programs which are accredited. In HVAC technology, the two common accreditation entities are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). Please visit the websites to learn more about the process of accreditation, or check out the HVAC classes homepage.

Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro offers the only program in NC accredited by HVAC Excellence. This associate of applied science (AAS) program takes five semesters to complete (including summers) and involves 66 credits of coursework in topics such as HVACR electricity; heating technology; HVACR building code; comfort cooling; refrigerant certification (i.e., EPA Section 608); residential system design; heat pump technology; advanced comfort systems; hydronic heating; and indoor air quality. This program is also available as a 46-credit diploma program. As of 2017, in-state students could expect to pay $76 per credit for this program.

Pitt Community College in Greenville provides the sole PAHRA-accredited program in NC. The school offers three programs in the HVAC area: Heating and Refrigeration Service Diploma, Efficiency & Performance Diagnostics Diploma, and a Heating and Refrigeration Service Certificate. All programs provide baseline courses in HVAC technologies with the diploma programs offering more in terms of general education and hands-on experience. North Carolina students can expect to pay $76 per cerdit hour, as of 2018.

Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh offers several degree and certificate programs in HVAC technology. In its two-year AAS program, students learn the fundamentals of the trade with classes including mechanical refrigeration; installation of residential & light commercial systems; cooling theory; HVAC duct systems; residential system design; customer relations; building automation systems; and system diagnostics. Wake Tech has options for an AAS degree, a diploma, and certificates in various subfields of HVAC technology (e.g., basic HVAC knowledge, design, building automation, or commercial refrigeration). At Wake Tech, a fast track program allows new HVAC technicians to earn their degree in two years while taking classes just two days per week. Tuition at Wake Tech is also $76 per credit for North Carolina residents.

Finally, Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) of Charlotte has both associate degrees and diplomas in HVAC technology involving coursework in all-weather systems; energy management; electricity; and print reading construction. Notably, CPCC offers several targeted certificates in various aspects of HVAC technology such as heating service, air conditioning service, all weather systems service, commercial system design & maintenance, refrigeration service, HVAC contracting, and apartment & rental maintenance, to name a few. As a local community college, in-state students can expect the same tuition rate of $76 per credit.

Please note that there are various distance-based education options for aspiring HVAC technicians in NC as well. These typically involve the completion of online coursework in addition to hands-on trainings under the guidance of approved HVAC professionals who are located in a student’s area. Online programs may be ideal for people who live in more rural regions of NC or those with heavy professional or familial time commitments. To learn more about the web-based courses and degree programs, please check out the online HVAC programs page.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in North Carolina

In North Carolina, HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers must pursue state licensure prior to securing employment for most types of work. At minimum, all professionals nationally who work with refrigerants must have the EPA Section 608 certification. There are four types: type I (small appliances), II (high-pressure refrigerants); III (low-pressure refrigerants), and IV (universal). As part of all NC degree programs listed above, students get preparation for the EPA certification exam.

There are also various national certifications and knowledge certificates provided by a range of organizations including North American Technician Excellence (NATE), HVAC Excellence, the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute, the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA), and the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES). Please check out the main HVAC certification page to learn in depth about the credential offerings from each of these organizations.

The predominant body which regulates HVAC mechanics and installers in NC is the North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinkler Contractors. This entity issues several types of licenses to HVAC professionals:

  • Heating Group 1 (water-based climate control systems)
  • Heating Group 2 (forced air heating & cooling system with capacity in excess of 15 tons)
  • Heating Group 3 (forced air heating & cooling system with capacity less than 15 tons)

To qualify for a contractor-level licensure, applicants must have two years (4,000 hours) of full-time experience in category of license sought. Up to 2,000 of these hours can come from technical or academic training. To qualify for a technician-level licensure, applicants must have 18 months (3,000 hours) of full-time experience in the category of license sought. Up to 1,500 of these hours can come from technical or academic training. Please note that military experience may also qualify a person for NC HVAC licensure.

All licenses expire annually on the last day of December. Although HVAC contractors and technicians in NC must renew their licenses, there is no continuing education (CE) required.

Finally, there are two other regional authorities which issue specific licenses for HVAC workers. For anyone contracting to provide construction services (including complex HVAC installation) in excess of $30,000, they must seek licensure from the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors. Additionally, the North Carolina State Board of Refrigeration Examiners regulates all people and firms in the NC refrigeration trade. To secure a refrigeration contractor license, a person must have at least 4,000 hours of commercial refrigeration experience and pass an examination. This license must be renewed annually.

To learn more about the various NC regulations and licenses available, please contact the appropriate credentialing agencies.