Charlotte, NC HVAC Trade Schools & Certifications

Find HVAC Programs Now Enrolling Students

Get information on HVAC-R Certified Technician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

Sponsored Ad

Charlotte, North Carolina (NC) is a major U.S. financial center. It boasts the second-largest banking center after New York City, according to Forbes. However, Charlotte does not rely on one sector for economic health. The Queen City also has a thriving tech industry, which includes several data centers, and is a booming insurance hub. It now holds the number two spot in the recent Business Facilities report of the economic growth potential of metro areas.

Although the Chamber touts great weather in Charlotte, others might argue this point. Summers are hot and muggy, and winters are wet and cold. Residents work and play under cloudy skies most days. Heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) are essential for comfort in Charlotte as all businesses and homes require climate-controlled facilities. The tech industry also requires additional ventilation and air conditioning for electronics, increasing the local need for skilled HVAC professionals.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022) reports that 3,860 HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics and installers worked in the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia area. State and local chapters of industry organizations that provide training and support to the technicians include:

  • Associated Builders and Contractors Carolinas Chapter (ABC)
  • Carolinas Associated General Contractors (CAGC)
  • Charlotte Plumbing, Heating, & Cooling Contractors Association (CPHCCA)
  • Hispanic Contractors Association of the Carolinas (HCAC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

These organizations coordinate with government organizations and others in the industry to put in place educational and licensing standards and serve all elements of the HVAC and HVAC/R industries, including safety, performance, and promotion.

Read on to discover how to become an HVAC worker in Charlotte, NC, including the training, career outlook, and credentialing information.

Career Outlook for HVAC Professionals in Charlotte, NC

Demand for HVAC technicians is growing nationwide. According to the BLS (2023), the demand for technicians is expected to increase 6 percent between 2022 and 2032. That is much faster than the average 3 percent projected for all occupations nationwide. Demand for technicians in North Carolina, specifically, is growing at a slightly higher rate than the national average. By illustration, CareerOneStop—a data organization partnered with the US Department of Labor—reported that there would be a 13 percent statewide increase from 2020 to 2030.

The growth of the HVAC and HVAC/R industry has several components. The primary factor is the increasing sophistication of climate control systems and the need to replace, retrofit, or upgrade older systems. Industries that rely on technology, such as those driving the economic growth in Charlotte, frequently require specialized climate-controlled facilities. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution also increases demand for new installations.

HVAC Salaries in Charlotte, North Carolina

The BLS (May 2022) reports that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally receive a median salary of $51,390 annually. Technicians in the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia area receive an annual median salary of $49,150, but the cost of living in NC is substantially less than the national average. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (2023) reported that NC was the 27th most affordable state in the country, enjoying particular savings in housing and transportation.

Here are the HVAC salary comparisons of the U.S., North Carolina, and the Charlotte area as reported by the BLS:

United States North Carolina Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC
Number of workers 374,770 14,160 3,860
Average annual salary $57,460 $49,380 $52,220
10th percentile $36,170 $32,910 $35,640
25th percentile $44,100 $39,010 $43,700
50th percentile (median) $51,390 $48,000 $49,150
75th percentile $65,630 $57,720 $59,910
90th percentile $82,630 $65,240 $74,860

HVAC Apprenticeships in Charlotte, North Carolina

In the past, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians began their careers as helpers and learned their skills through hands-on training. It is still possible to do so, but most workers now attend formal classes or participate in apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeships include specified hours of on-the-job training (typically 2,000) and classroom work (at least 144 hours) for three to five years. ApprenticeshipNC is the state agency in North Carolina that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is part of the community college system.

Examples of associations offering apprentice programs include, but are not limited to:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors

Details of what each association offers and corresponding fees are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Programs in Charlotte, North Carolina

When choosing a formal training program, it is essential to determine if it is accredited and by which organization. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the program’s quality, including both the curriculum and the instructors.

Two organizations evaluate HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to NC’s Guilford Technical Community College and Johnston Community College, and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has accredited Pitt Community College. Although these schools are not located in Charlotte, they are profiled below (under North Carolina Community College) due to their accreditation status. All other local programs have regional accreditation.

North Carolina Community College

The North Carolina Community College system has 58 campuses throughout the state. Central Piedmont Community College is the only one located in Charlotte. The HVAC and HVAC/R programs closest to Charlotte are at the following schools:

Not all programs are available at all colleges at all times. Certain credits earned in a certificate program may be applied to the HVAC diploma or degree program, and certain credits earned in the diploma program may be applied to the degree program.

Coursework for all programs may be completed during day or evening classes. Students may attend part-time or full-time. Because participating in labs is required, the technology courses are on campus. After consulting with their advisor, students can complete some general education coursework online.

Several types of HVAC certificates are available. The types offered and curriculum details vary from school to school and are available as demand warrants. A sampling includes comfort cooling, commercial building automation, heat pumps, HVAC design and installation, residential technician, and servicing.

The certificate programs are designed to prepare students for entry-level positions. Students take introductory courses in refrigeration, electricity, and HVAC, and job safety, as well as courses specific to their chosen certificate. Coursework involves classroom lectures and hands-on training in labs. Certificate programs require 12 to 18 credits to complete.

The HVAC technology diploma program builds on the certificate programs with additional coursework in the basics of HVAC and HVAC/R, electronics, reading blueprints and schematics, math, building codes, air quality, and energy management. Students attend classroom lectures and receive hands-on training in labs. They also complete coursework in customer relations and general education electives for 36 to 48 credits to graduate.

General education courses in the associate of applied science (AAS) in air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration technology program include oral and written communication, electives from the humanities (e.g., workplace values and ethics), electives from behavioral sciences (e.g., psychology), and electives from the natural sciences. The technical coursework includes the basics covered in the certificate and diploma programs, with the addition of HVAC and HVAC/R technology, system design, controls, hydronics, thermodynamics, computers, and ducting.

Students attend classroom lectures and receive hands-on training in labs. The degree program requires the completion of 62 to 76 credits. Graduates are prepared to take the EPA Section 608 exam and other industry exams.

  • Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for all colleges; HVAC Excellence at Guilford only; PAHRA at Pitt only
  • Program length: Six to 12 months for the certificate; 12 to 18 months for the diploma; two years for the degree

Students who cannot attend on-campus schools may find that distance-based, or online, institutions can better meet their needs. Several accredited online schools offer HVAC and HVAC/R programs. Two of them are profiled below.

Excelsior College

Excelsior offers an associate in applied science (AAS) degree in technical studies with a concentration in electronic and instrumentation technologies. This fully online program prepares graduates to manage and troubleshoot electronic components in HVAC/R systems. The program also prepares students for technician jobs in technology-powered fields such as electronics, energy, nuclear, and computers.

The curriculum includes electricity and digital circuits, microprocessors, power systems, programmable controllers, and computer programming classes. Students must complete 60 credit-hours, which include 20 hours of electives. Graduates are qualified to seek positions as skilled electronics technicians.

Apart from the electronic or instrumentation technologies concentrations, the program also offers other concentrations such as computer, electromechanical, and nuclear or power plant technologies.

Graduates of this online AAS in technical studies program can take up roles as database specialists, hardware technicians, equipment maintenance specialists, machine operators, plant operators, and maintenance technicians.

  • Location: Albany, NY
  • Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Format: Online
  • Program length: Self-paced

Ferris State University

Ferris State offers a distance-learning bachelor’s degree in HVAC/R engineering technology and energy management. While most of the coursework can be completed online, students must attend week-long on-campus labs. Applicants must already have an associate’s degree in HVAC/R technology or equivalent, have taken algebra, English, and lab science, and maintain a GPA of 2.5 in their undergraduate classes.

Coursework is designed to prepare students to advance beyond servicing equipment to designing, retrofitting, and balancing systems. Students learn how to evaluate the efficiency of different types of HVAC/R systems and adjust computerized control systems. Upon completion, students are qualified to seek employment as project engineers, in-plant engineer, systems control, and similar occupations.

  • Location: Big Rapids, MI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
  • Format: Online with on-campus requirement
  • Program length: Two years

To learn more about distance-based training programs, check out the online HVAC schools page.

HVAC Certification & Licenses in Charlotte, North Carolina

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expects technicians who work with refrigerants to be EPA Section 608 certified. The certification involves passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. There are four types of certifications according to the systems on which technicians work:

  • For servicing small appliances (Type I)
  • For servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning (Type II)
  • For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances (Type III)
  • For servicing all types of equipment (Type IV or Universal)

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations offering Section 608 testing and certification. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES): Their mission is to provide opportunities for enhanced technical competence by offering comprehensive, cutting-edge education and certification to the HVAC/R industry.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE): Their certification tests represent real-world working knowledge of HVAC/R systems.
  • HVAC Excellence: Their exams and certifications are intended to validate that an individual has retained knowledge in a specific area of the HVAC/R industry.

As a final note, HVAC technicians in NC are regulated by the North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors. The three types of licenses are:

  • Heating Group 1 – Water-based climate control systems
  • Heating Group 2 – Forced air heating and cooling systems bigger than 15 tons
  • Heating Group 3 – Forced air heating and cooling systems smaller than 15 tons

Applicants must pass an exam, submit a background report, complete an application form, and pay a fee.

To qualify for a contractor’s license, applicants must have two years (4,000 hours) of full-time experience in the license category sought. Up to 2,000 of those hours can be from technical or academic training.

Applicants seeking a technician’s license must have 18 months (3,000 hours) of full-time experience in the category of license requested. All licenses expire on the last day of December each year and must be renewed. Continuing education is encouraged but not required.

Anyone contracting to provide construction services (including HVAC installations) costing $30,000 or greater must apply for a license from the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors. Obtaining a license requires completing an application form, paying a fee, and submitting any required documents, such as evidence of financial responsibility. Licenses expire on December 31 of each year.

In addition, anyone who installs, repairs, or maintains any refrigeration equipment must be licensed or supervised by a licensed person by the North Carolina State Board of Refrigeration Contractors. The requirements were updated effective January 1, 2018, to include systems using ammonia as a refrigerant and the servicing of refrigeration equipment.

Applicants must have 4,000 hours of experience working under a licensed contractor or engineer on refrigeration equipment (2,000 hours of which can be from education), pass an exam, and pay a fee. Licenses expire on December 31 of each year.

The City of Charlotte does not require additional licensure, but may have permit requirements depending on the type of job.

Overall, HVAC professionals are advised to contact their local government offices to ensure they have all necessary credentials before beginning work.

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith was introduced to the HVAC industry when she worked as a bookkeeper and secretary for a small air-conditioning contractor. She eventually became a CPA and started her own practice specializing in small business taxes and accounting. After retiring from business, she began writing articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. She also authored four books. Sandra makes her home in the mountains with a rescue dog that naps on her lap as she writes.