HVAC Training Schools in Raleigh and Durham, NC

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Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina (NC) have humid climates with four seasons. The hot and muggy summers bring temperatures into the high 80s and more than four inches of rain each month. Summer nights average about 20 degrees cooler than during the day. Winter daytime temperatures hover in the high 50s and low 60s, with nighttime temps dropping to freezing during December, January, and February. The precipitation continues throughout the winter, with Raleigh receiving a few inches of snow most years. Freezing rain and sleet are the norm for Raleigh winters, and both cities are subject to spring and summer thunderstorms.

Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and the Wake County seat. Durham is the Durham County seat. Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill are combined into a single statistical area by the Census Bureau. The three cities anchor the Research Triangle Park, which is one of the largest American research consortiums. The area is home to the renowned universities located in each city and hundreds of companies engaged in high-tech and biotech research and development.

For businesses and residences alike, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) are essential for comfort in Raleigh and Durham. The universities, medical facilities, and research centers often require the addition of large-scale refrigeration (HVAC/R) as well. The electronic equipment supporting much of the business development usually makes climate-controlled rooms and buildings a necessity.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020), 2,710 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in Raleigh, and 740 were employed in Durham-Chapel Hill in May 2020. State and local chapters of industry organizations provide training and support to the technicians. These include:

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. (ASHRAE) North Piedmont Chapter
  • American Industrial Contractors
  • Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Carolinas Chapter
  • Carolinas Association of General Contractors (CAGC)
  • Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange, and Chatham Counties (HBADOC)
  • Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County (HBAWAKE)
  • National Association of Women in Construction Durham Chapter
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of North Carolina (PHCCNC)
  • United Minority Contractors of North Carolina

Read on to discover the occupational outlook and salary for HVAC professionals in this area and learn about accredited training programs and local credentialing.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Raleigh and Durham, NC

Opportunities for HVAC technicians are growing nationwide. According to the BLS (2021), the demand is expected to increase by 4 percent between 2019 and 2029. That represents growth that is as fast as the 4 percent increase projected for all occupations in the U.S. The demand in North Carolina exceeds the national average, as Projections Central (2021) predicted a 15.5 percent statewide increase for the decade ending 2028.

Several factors contribute to the rapid growth of the HVAC industry in NC. Older equipment and systems must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet industry standards and environmental concerns. The complexity of modern climate-control systems requires trained technicians to install, service, and maintain equipment.

Also, economies based on technology, such as those driving the growth in Raleigh and Durham, require sophisticated installations. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution is another reason for the increased installation of new equipment and systems.

The best job prospects are available to technicians with superior troubleshooting skills as well as those who are computer- and electronics-literate. Those who specialize in new installations may experience seasonal unemployment if construction declines, although that is not anticipated to happen in the foreseeable future in either Raleigh or Durham. The bustling economy, high-tech industry, and growing population are generating ongoing construction of new office buildings, warehouses, hospitality venues, and residences.

HVAC Salaries in Raleigh and Durham, NC

The BLS (May 2020) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $50,590 annually. Technicians in Raleigh received an annual median salary of $49,870, and those in Durham-Chapel Hill received $48,490 annual median salaries. The wages are competitive given the low cost of living in North Carolina as compared to some other states. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) reported that NC had the 23rd lowest cost of living in the United States for 2021.

Below is a comparison of national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals (BLS May 2020):

United States North Carolina Raleigh, NC Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 344,020 1,470 2,710 740
Average Annual Salary $53,410 $61,730 $51,550 $48,410
10th Percentile $31,910 $33,470 $35,950 $31,910
25th Percentile $39,320 $42,190 $42,970 $39,920
50th Percentile (Median) $50,590 $57,410 $49,870 $48,490
75th Percentile $64,350 $75,900 $60,350 $57,830
90th Percentile $80,820 $97,300 $69,680 $64,170

HVAC Apprenticeships in Raleigh and Durham, NC

In the past, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians could start as helpers and learn their skills through hands-on training. Some still do so, but most workers now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Formal training and apprenticeships can open up more employment opportunities.

Apprenticeships include around 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and at least 144 hours of classroom work annually for three to five years. Apprenticeship programs in North Carolina are managed by ApprenticeshipNC, which is part of the community college system.

The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of North Carolina sponsors an approved apprenticeship program. Apprentices receive 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and complete 146 hours of classwork online each year for four years. Applicants with two years of HVAC experience may “test out” of the first year. Graduates are awarded journey-level status.

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 (PHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Check their websites for details.

Accredited HVAC Programs in Raleigh and Durham, NC

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.

HVAC programs are evaluated by two industry organizations. HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to Guilford Technical Community College (Greensboro Campus) and Johnston Community College in Smithfield. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has accredited Pitt Community College. Although attending either school would require Raleigh and Durham students to commute, they are included in the profiles provided below due to their accreditation status. All other schools profiled have regional accreditation.

The North Carolina Community College System has 58 campuses throughout the state. Wake Technical College is located in Raleigh, and Durham is the home of Durham Technical College. The community colleges offering HVAC and HVAC/R programs that are the closest to Raleigh and Durham are:

Wake Tech Community College

Wake Tech Community College offers several degrees and certificates in air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration (AHR) technology:

  • AAS degree in AHR Technology (Building Automation Track) – 70 credits
  • AAS degree in AHR Technology (Commercial A/C Track) – 69 credits
  • AAS degree in AHR Technology (Commercial Refrigeration Track) – 70 credits
  • Diploma in AHR Technology – 40 credits
  • Basic certificate in AHR Technology – 15 credits
  • AHR Technology Building Automation Certificate – 15 credits
  • AHR Technology Commercial A/C Certificate – 17 credits
  • AHR Technology Commercial Refrigeration Certificate – 14 credits
  • AHR Technology Residential Advanced Certificate – 15 credits

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

Graduates of the program will be well-equipped and ready for designing and installing HVAC equipment, in residential complexes as well as some commercial areas.

  • Location: Raleigh, NC
  • Accreditation: Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Estimated Time to Completion: AAS (24 months); diploma (12 to 18 months); certificates (within a year)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($76 per credit); non-resident ($268 per credit)

Guilford Technical Community College

Guilford Technical Community College offers the following HVAC programs for North Carolina students:

  • AAS degree in HVAC/R technology – 67 credits
  • HVAC/R diploma – 46 credits
  • Basic air conditioning certificate in HVAC/R technology – 17 credits

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

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

Finally, the degree program includes all courses from the diploma and certificate with additional coursework in hydronic heating, indoor air quality, refrigeration design, and commercial system design.

Students in all these programs will be prepared for the EPA certification examinations and will be trained to repair electrical controls and components in HVAC systems, perform preventive maintenance on HVAC/R systems, and demonstrate knowledge of basic hydronic heating principles.

  • Location: Jamestown, NC
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (24 months); diploma (12 to 18 months); certificate (less than a year)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($76 per credit); non-resident ($268 per credit)

Pitt Community College

Pitt Community College offers three HVAC programs: an HVAC/R service diploma, an efficiency & performance diagnostics diploma, and an HVAC/R service certificate.

The HVAC/R service diploma comprises 36 credits, including courses such as HVACR electricity, introduction to refrigeration, comfort cooling, heating technology, heat pump technology, HVAC servicing, HVAC controls, construction safety, and refrigerant certification.

The efficiency and performance diagnostics diploma requires completion of 44 credits including coursework in residential system design, advanced comfort systems, basic PC literacy, HVAC/R building code, energy use analysis, and introduction to sustainability. Students will also have to complete all courses from the 36 credit diploma program.

The certificate comprises 16 credits and includes courses in introduction to refrigeration, heating technology, HVAC/R electricity, and comfort cooling.

Students in this program receive the required training necessary for servicing and repairing HVAC systems and troubleshooting and diagraming electrical systems. They also learn about energy audits, sheet metal fabrication, and conservation. Graduates can take up roles such as refrigeration technician, air conditioning technician, HVAC/R control technician, and many more such roles.

  • Location: Greenville, North Carolina
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges, PAHRA
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($76 per credit); non-resident ($268 per credit)

Students who are unable to 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. For details on programs available, visit the online HVAC training page on this site.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Raleigh and Durham, NC

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain EPA Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. The four certifications are:

  • Type 1: small appliances
  • Type II: high-pressure refrigerants
  • Type III: low-pressure refrigerants
  • Technicians who will be working on all types of equipment are required to obtain Universal (Type IV) HVAC certification.

Practice exams are available on the website.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations. These include the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence. These organizations and others offer Section 608 testing and certification. Details are available on their websites or on the HVAC certification guide.

HVAC technicians 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 with capacity over 15 tons)
  • Heating Group 3 (forced air heating and cooling systems with capacity of fewer than 15 tons)

Technicians must obtain the appropriate license before starting work. Applicants need to pass an exam, submit a background report, complete an application form, and pay a fee. To qualify to take the exam, technicians must have 18 months (3,000 hours) of full-time on-site experience.

Technicians seeking a contractor’s license 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. Technician and contractor 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) over $30,000 per project must also be licensed by the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors. Applicants must complete an application, pay a fee, and submit other required documents. Licenses expire on December 31 of each year.

In addition, anyone who installs, repairs, services, or maintains any refrigeration equipment must be licensed, or supervised by a licensed person, by the North Carolina State Board of Refrigeration Contractors. The licensing requirement also applies to systems using ammonia. 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.

As a final note, Wake County does not require HVAC technicians or contractors to obtain a license. However, a contractor must establish a tax account with the county. The City of Raleigh Mechanical Examining Board “examines all those seeking mechanical engineering, heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, and ventilation journeyman’s licenses.” Details are not provided on their website. And the County of Durham and the City of Durham do not require HVAC technicians or contractors to obtain a license.

All HVAC professionals are encouraged to ensure that they have all the necessary credentialing before beginning any projects.

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.