Jacksonville, North Carolina HVAC Schools & Certifications

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Named after the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, Jacksonville, North Carolina (NC) is home to the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune training facility and the Marine Corps Air Station New River. Providing services to military personnel is a big part of the local economy. The beaches of the Southern Outer Banks draw thousands of visitors, creating a thriving tourism and hospitality industry. What’s more, the Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development (JOED) organization is continually working to find new employment and economic opportunities for the city.

In addition to a thriving local economy, Jacksonville’s climate makes heating, venting, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) services a necessity for physical comfort. Summer days are hot, with average temperatures reaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Overcast conditions and moisture keep the environment muggy. During the winter months, the climate changes to cold, wet, and windy conditions.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020) reports that 170 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in Jacksonville in 2020. North Carolina chapters of industry organizations provide training and support to the technicians:

  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of North Carolina (PHCCNC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

HVAC/R professionals in Jacksonville, NC install, maintain, service, and repair the systems and equipment that control the temperature, quality, and flow of air. They work in factories, homes, hospitals, offices, restaurants, schools, and warehouses and on a variety of equipment, from small residential units to commercial and industrial boilers, chillers, or rooftop units. Each job has specific requirements, and technicians must be able to use an assortment of fundamental and specialized tools.

Read on to discover accredited HVAC training programs in Jacksonville, NC, as well as the projected local salaries in the industry and credentialing information.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Jacksonville, NC

Demand for HVAC technicians is growing nationwide. According to the BLS (May 2020), openings for HVAC professionals are expected to increase 4 percent nationally between 2019 and 2029. That is as fast as the 4 percent average projected for all occupations in the country. Demand for technicians in North Carolina is also growing at a higher rate. By illustration, Projections Central (2021) predicted a 15.5 percent statewide increase in HVAC positions between 2018 and 2028.

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 also require specialized climate-controlled facilities. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution also contributes to the increased demand for new installations.

Technicians who are computer and electronics literate and have excellent troubleshooting skills will have the best job prospects. Technicians who specialize in new installations may experience seasonal unemployment if construction declines, although that is not anticipated to happen in Jacksonville in the immediate future. Maintenance and repair work can be more stable, as business owners and homeowners depend on their climate-control systems year-round. They need to keep their equipment in good working order regardless of economic conditions.

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 procedures to prevent these occurrences.

Finally, the BLS (May 2020) estimated that 7 percent of HVAC technicians nationwide were self-employed and can dictate their 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 Salaries in Jacksonville, NC

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020), there were 344,020 HVAC workers across the country with an average annual salary(mean wage) of $53,410 and 13,240 HVAC mechanics and installers in North Carolina with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $46,300. Jacksonville had 170 HVAC mechanics and installers with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $51,870. While the mean salary in this profession in North Carolina is somewhat lower than the national average.

It’s important to note that the cost of living in NC is also substantially lower than in many states. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) reported that NC had the 24th lowest cost of living in the United States for 2020. Please keep this fact in mind while considering the following data.

The BLS (May 2020) found the following percentiles among all HVAC technicians and installers around the country:

United States North Carolina Jacksonville, NC
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 344,020 13,240 170
Annual mean wage $53,410 $46,300 $51,870
10th percentile $31,910 $28,420 $33,960
25th percentile $39,320 $36,400 $39,220
50th Percentile (Median) $50,590 $45,640 $47,420
75th percentile $64,350 $54,820 $62,680
90th percentile $80,820 $65,630 $77,640

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (May 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): $48,827
  • 90th percentile: $77,000

HVAC Apprenticeships in Jacksonville, NC

In the past, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians began their careers as helpers and learned the trade through hands-on training. It is still possible to do so, but many workers now attend classes or participate in apprenticeship programs. Formal training and apprenticeships can open up more employment opportunities. Workers also start at higher wages and earn more throughout their careers.

Apprenticeships include specified hours of on-the-job training (usually 2,000 hours) and classroom work (typically 144 hours annually) for three to five years. ApprenticeshipNC is the state agency in North Carolina recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is part of the community college system and aspiring HVAC professionals are encouraged to seek out local opportunities in the industry.

The Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors of North Carolina sponsors an approved apprenticeship program. For four years, apprentices complete 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 146 hours of classwork online. Applicants with two years of HVAC or HVAC/R experience may test out of the first year.

Workers seeking HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs can find several available through national industry associations such as:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

Details are available on their websites.

Featured HVAC Schools in Jacksonville, NC

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

Two organizations currently evaluate HVAC programs. HVAC Excellence awarded accreditation to Guilford Technical Community College. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) approved Pitt Community College. Although neither of these schools is located in Jacksonville, they are profiled below due to their accreditation. All other featured schools have been regionally accredited.

Coastal Carolina Community College

The North Carolina Community College System has 59 campuses throughout the state. Coastal Carolina Community College is the only one located in Jacksonville. The college offers an AAS degree program, a diploma, and the following certificates in HVAC/R: a basic refrigeration certificate (13 credits), heating & cooling systems certificate (14 credits), HVAC designs & installation certificate (17 credits), comfort cooling certificate (15 credit hours), and residential technician certificate (12 credits).

Students can complete HVAC/R coursework for all programs in day or evening classes, part-time or full-time. Technology courses are on-campus because students have to participate in lab work. After consulting with their advisors, students may be able to complete some general education coursework online.

The 12- to 17-credit 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. Several common courses include comfort cooling, HVAC Controls, heat pumps, heating technology, and HVAC servicing.

Coastal Carolina CC’s air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration technology diploma program build on the certificate programs with additional coursework in applied communications, introduction to computers, and critical thinking. Students attend classroom lectures and receive hands-on training in labs. The program requires a total of 44 credits to graduate.

The AAS degree program covers the same topics as the certificate and diploma programs with the addition of public speaking, math measurement & literacy, HVAC/R building code, indoor air quality, and introduction to sociology. The degree program requires the completion of 65 credits. Graduates are prepared to take the EPA Section 608 exam and other industry exams.

  • Location: Jacksonville, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (six to 12 months); diploma (12 to 18 months); AAS degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($76 per credit); out-of-state ($268 per credit)

Guilford Technical Community College

Guilford Technical Community College offers an associate of applied science (AAS) degree program, a diploma, and a basic air conditioning certificate in HVAC/R technology.

The certificate comprises 17 credits including courses such as introduction to refrigeration, comfort cooling, HVAC/R electricity, refrigerant certification, and heat pump technology.

The diploma includes all the above-mentioned courses with the addition of HVAC/R building code, heating technology, writing & inquiry, HVAC/R customer relations, HVAC/R electronics, residential system design, advanced comfort systems, introduction to computers, and HVAC controls. The diploma requires successful completion of 46 credits.

The AAS degree program includes all courses from the diploma. Also, students have to complete coursework in hydronic heating, indoor air quality, refrigeration design, and commercial system design.

All programs offered at Guilford prepare students for the EPA section 608 certification examination and train them in performing preventive maintenance on HVAC systems, repairing electrical components and controls, and applying refrigeration principles and practices to HVAC/R systems.

  • Location: Jamestown, NC
  • Accreditation: Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (two semesters); diploma (three semesters); AAS degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($76 per credit); out-of-state ($268 per credit)

Wake Tech Community College

Wake Tech Community College offers several certificates and degree programs in HVAC technology. The following programs are offered by the college:

  • AAS degree in HVAC/R technology (72 credits)
  • Building automation certificate in HVAC/R (15 credits)
  • HVAC/R technology certificate (18 credits)
  • HVAC/R technology design certificate (13 credits)
  • Commercial refrigeration certificate (14 credits)

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as HVACR electricity, introduction to refrigeration, heating technology, interpersonal psychology, HVAC/R building code, comfort cooling, refrigeration systems, heat pump technology, residential system design, building automation systems, commercial HVAC controls, advanced comfort systems, HVAC/R customer relations, HVAC system diagnostics, and commercial system design.

Graduates of these programs will be well prepared to install and design HVAC equipment in residential as well as commercial areas.

  • Location: Raleigh, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificates (six to 12 months); AAS degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($76 per credit); non-resident ($268 per credit)

Pitt Community College

Pitt Community College – the only PAHRA-accredited program in NC, offers an AAS degree, a heating and refrigeration service diploma, an efficiency and performance diagnostics diploma, and an HVAC/R service certificate. In comparison to the certificate, the AAS and diploma programs offer more in terms of hands-on experience and general education courses.

The certificate program comprises 16 credits including courses such as HVAC/R electricity, introduction to refrigeration, comfort cooling, and heating technology.

The HVAC/R services diploma builds on the certificate with additional coursework in heat pump technology, HVAC servicing, HVAC controls, construction safety, and refrigerant certification. It requires the completion of 36 credits.

The diagnostics diploma comprises 44 credits exploring topics such as residential system design, advanced comfort systems, basic PC literacy, HVAC/R building code, energy use analysis, and introduction to sustainability.

The AAS degree program is made up of 68 credits and includes all courses from the certificate and diploma programs. Additional courses in this program include refrigeration systems, all-weather systems, HVAC duct systems, commercial HVAC controls, and schematics & diagrams.

Graduates of these programs can pursue roles such as refrigeration technician, HVAC/R control technician, air conditioning technician, and many more.

  • Location: Greenville, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges; PAHRA
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (6 to 12 months); Diploma (12 to 18 months); Certificate (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: North Carolina residents ($76 per credit); non-resident ($268 per credit)

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Jacksonville, NC

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain EPA Section 608 Certification. Professionals can gain certification by passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. There are four types of certifications according to the systems on which technicians work:

  • Small appliances (Type I)
  • High-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning (Type II)
  • Low-pressure appliances (Type III)
  • All types of equipment (Universal of Type IV)

Practice exams are available online.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations, which also offer Section 608 testing and certification. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) provides opportunities for enhanced technical competence by offering comprehensive, cutting-edge education and certification to the HVAC/R industry. The North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification tests represent real-world working knowledge of HVAC/R systems, and HVAC Excellence offers exams and certifications intended to validate that an individual has retained knowledge in a specific area of the HVAC/R industry.

As a final note, the North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors categorizes HVAC technician licenses into three types:

  • Heating Group 1 (water-based climate control systems)
  • Heating Group 2 (forced air heating and cooling systems weighing more than 15 tons)
  • Heating Group 3 (forced air heating and cooling systems weighing less than 15 tons)

Applicants will need to 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 category of license 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. All licenses expire on the last day of December each year and professionals must renew them. Continuing education is encouraged.

Anyone contracting to provide construction services, including HVAC installations, costing more than $30,000 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. Licenses expire on December 31 of each year.

Anyone who installs, repairs, or maintains any refrigeration equipment must be licensed, or supervised by an authorized person, by the North Carolina State Board of Refrigeration Contractors. Applicants must have 4,000 hours of experience working on refrigeration equipment (2,000 of which can be from education), pass an exam, and pay a fee. Licenses expire on December 31 of each year.

Additionally, Onslow County and the City of Jacksonville do not require an HVAC business license or additional contractor licensing. However, the city does ask contractors to submit proof of the following insurance coverage:

  • Automobile liability
  • Commercial general liability
  • Umbrella/excess liability
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Builders risk
  • Professional liability (errors and omissions)
  • Pollution liability
  • Cancellation/non-renewal

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.