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 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Overcast conditions and moisture keep the environment muggy. During winter months, the climate changes to cold, wet, and windy conditions.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 180 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in Jacksonville in 2017. North Carolina chapters of industry organizations provide training and support to the technicians:
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.
Demand for HVAC technicians is growing nationwide. According to the BLS (2018), openings for HVAC professionals are expected to increase 15 percent nationally between 2016 and 2026. That is much faster than the 7 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 predicted a 16.4 percent statewide increase in HVAC positions for the same decade.
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.
The BLS (2017) reports that HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics and installers nationally receive a median salary of $47,080 annually. Technicians in Jacksonville receive an annual median wage of $34,950, but North Carolinians also have a lower-than-average cost of living compared to most U.S. states. In fact, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center reported that NC is the 20th most affordable state in the country, boasting particular savings in housing compared to the rest of the country.
Below are the hourly and annual pay comparisons as calculated by the BLS in May 2017:
|United States||North Carolina||Jacksonville|
|Number of workers||307,060||13,890||180|
|Average annual salary||$49,530||$42,580||$36,240|
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 career.
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. Tuition is $1,395 per year. Graduates obtain journey-level status.
Workers seeking HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs can find several available through national industry associations such as:
Details are available on their websites.
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.
The North Carolina Community College System has 58 campuses throughout the state. Coastal Carolina Community College is the only one located in Jacksonville. The HVAC and HVAC/R programs closest to Jacksonville are at the following schools:
Not all programs are available at all colleges at all times. Students can apply certain credits from a certificate program to a diploma or degree program, and vice versa.
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.
Several types of certificates are available. Certificates and their curriculum details vary from school to school and are available depending on demand. However, several common courses include comfort cooling, commercial building automation, heat pumps, HVAC design and installation, residential technician, and servicing.
The 12- to 18-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. Coursework covers classroom lectures and hands-on training in labs.
Coastal Carolina CC’s air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration 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 a total of 36 to 48 credits to graduate.
General education courses in the school’s air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration technology associate degree program include oral and written communication, electives from the humanities, such as workplace values and ethics, electives from behavioral sciences, such as psychology, and electives from the natural sciences, such as physics. The technical component covers the same topics as 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.
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:
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:
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. The requirements were updated on January 1, 2018 to include systems using ammonia as the refrigerant and the serving of refrigeration equipment. Applicants must have 4,000 hours 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: