HVAC Schools in Winston-Salem, NC – Technical Training

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What is now the city of Winston-Salem, NC, began as a Monrovian settlement named Salem in the 1700s. By the 1800s, tobacco magnates, including R.J. Reynolds, had established factories throughout the area. Winston-Salem was incorporated in 1913 and has continued to grow. Today, it’s headquarters for companies that include Blue Rhino, Hanes, Krispy Kreme, Lowes, and Reynolds. The economy is expanding beyond the traditional industries to include healthcare, high tech, finance and insurance, and medical research.

The climate in Winston-Salem is generally humid. Every month receives precipitation of at least three inches, with the summer months receiving more than four inches each. Daytime temperatures in July, July, and August soar into the high 80s F, with the nighttime cooling to the 60s. In December, January, and February, the high temperatures reach the low 50s. The nights generally stay slightly above freezing, although temps have dipped well below that in record years.

Winston-Salem residents frequently spend time indoors to escape the heat and humidity during the summer and the cold winters. They depend on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort at work or home. Manufacturing and industrial facilities, educational institutions, and healthcare complexes add refrigeration (HVAC/R) to their systems. Businesses and the high-tech industries often require specialized climate-control systems and equipment to keep their electronics operating correctly.

According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021), 730 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed in Winston-Salem. The technicians and their employers receive resources and support from national, state, and local industry associations, including:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors Carolinas Chapter (ABC)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Home Builders Association of Winston-Salem (HBAWS)
  • NC Roofing Plumbing and Mechanical Association (PMA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association North Carolina (PHCCA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society

These and similar organizations cooperate with others in the HVAC industry, regulatory agencies, and businesses to establish and maintain educational, licensing, and performance standards for the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Winston-Salem, NC

According to BLS (2021) data, the nationwide demand for trained HVAC and HVAC/R technicians is expected to increase by 5 percent between 2020 and 2030. That’s an expected average of 38,500 job openings each year. Projections Central (2022) statistics predict a nationwide increase of 12.6 percent and an annual average of 42,800 job openings between 2018 and 2028.

The construction of new commercial and residential buildings drives the growth of the HVAC industry. Another factor in continued industry expansion is the renovation and remodeling of existing structures. Aging equipment and systems must be repaired, replaced, or updated to meet growing or changing requirements. On occasion, climate control systems in newer structures are sometimes replaced due to evolving regulations, technological advances, and the demands of new industries. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction is another factor driving industry growth.

Businesses and homeowners often expect new and modernized “smart” buildings to incorporate sophisticated climate-control systems. The systems require technicians who are skilled troubleshooters, proficient with computers, and who understand electronics and high-tech. Their training and expertise give them the best job opportunities.

Technicians who specialize in new construction may occasionally experience unemployment if construction declines. Winston-Salem’s diverse economic base has kept the city growing, and a downturn is not expected. The city “has made big strides when it comes to recovering from the economic toll of the pandemic,” according to a recent report. The analyst adds that “those service sector jobs that were especially hit by the recession are coming back faster here in Winston-Salem,” than in other areas.

Technicians who choose to maintain, service, and repair equipment and systems can expect continuous employment regardless of the economy, as businesses and homeowners depend on year-round climate control.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Winston-Salem, NC

According to BLS (May 2021) data, HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,630. Also, according to the BLS, technicians in Winston-Salem earned an annual median salary of $38,370. The wage difference is more favorable than it appears, as the cost of living in North Carolina is lower than in most other American states.

The table below compares BLS (May 2021) data for national, state, and regional earnings of HVAC professionals:

United States North Carolina Winston-Salem NC
Number of HVAC professionals employed 356,960 15,150 730
Average annual salary $54,690 $47,570 $43,310
10th percentile $34,320 $30,290 $29,310
25th percentile $38,450 $37,360 $37,050
50th percentile $48,630 $47,330 $38,370
75th percentile $62,000 $56,190 $48,120
90th percentile $78,210 $63,740 $60,470

HVAC Apprenticeships in Winston-Salem, NC

In times past, aspiring HVAC technicians could start as helpers and learn their skills through hands-on training. Few opportunities exist now for untrained workers, and most attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship. Training often opens up more employment opportunities for workers. Most apprenticeships average 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom work annually for three to five years.

ApprenticeshipNC, which is part of the North Carolina community college system, is the agency managing state apprenticeships. They maintain a list of apprenticeship opportunities. The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association North Carolina (PHCCA) sponsors an apprenticeship program. Their program includes workforce readiness and pre-apprentice training. Apprentices who complete the training are awarded journey-level status.

Additionally, HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs are available from industry associations such as the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Details regarding available courses, scheduling, and fees are on each organization’s website.

Accredited HVAC and HVAC/R Schools in Winston-Salem, NC

Students choosing to attend a school should select an institution that is accredited. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the program’s quality, including both the curriculum and the instructors.

HVAC programs are accredited by HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). HVAC Excellence has accredited Guilford Technical Community College, Jamestown and Johnston Community College, Smithfield. PAHRA has accredited Pitt Community College, Winterville.

Although attending either Johnston or Pitt entails a commute for Winston-Salem students, they are included in the profiles below due to their accreditation.

Note: The information in this article was compiled in April 2022, when pandemic restrictions were in a state of flux. The profiled schools may have temporarily suspended classes or are offering online options. Please direct questions about timing and format to the school administration.

North Carolina Community College System

Fifty-eight campuses are included in the system. Forsyth Technical Community College is located in Winston-Salem. Other nearby campuses that offer the HVAC technology curriculum are:

Not all programs are available at all colleges at all times.

Several types of certificates are available. The types offered and curriculum details vary from school to school and are available as demand warrants. The diploma program builds on the certificate program, and the degree program continues with additional technical and general education requirements.

  • Location: As noted above
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for all colleges in the system; HVAC Excellence at Guilford Technical Community College and Johnston Community College only; PAHRA at Pitt Community College only
  • Tuition: $76 per credit
  • Program length: Certificate, six to 12 months; diploma, 12 to 18 months; degree, two years

Davidson-Davie Community College

Students at Davidson-Davie can earn certificates that emphasize HVAC training in the following areas:

  • Heat pumps – 13 credits
  • Residential heating and cooling – 12 credits
  • Residential system design – 13 credits
  • Modern HVAC/R comfort systems – 13 credits

The curriculum for each certificate is designed to prepare students for entry-level positions. The curriculum varies with the course title.

Students may also enroll in the HVAC diploma program, which takes 37 credits to complete. Their curriculum includes refrigerant certification, refrigeration, heating, indoor air quality, electricity, comfort cooling, duct systems, building code, heat pumps, residential system design, customer relations, writing and inquiry, and mathematical measurement and literacy.

  • Location: Thomasville, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $76 per credit
  • Program length: Certificate, six to 12 months; diploma, one year

Forsyth Technical Community College

Forsyth offers an HVAC comfort systems certificate and an HVAC diploma program. The curriculum is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the lab.

The certificate program curriculum encompasses HVAC/R electricity, comfort cooling, refrigerant certification, heating, and heat pumps. Students earn their certificate after 16 credits.

Students in the diploma program complete the same curriculum as the students in the certificate program. In addition, they complete coursework in refrigeration, HVAC/R electronics, indoor air quality, building code, HVAC/R maintenance, refrigeration design, customer relations, applied communications, oral communication, work-based learning, and mathematical measurement and literacy. They are awarded their diploma after 36 credits.

  • Location: Winston-Salem, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $76 per credit
  • Program length: Certificate, six to 12 months; diploma, one year

Guilford Technical Community College

Guilford offers three HVAC/R technology programs:

  • Basic air conditioning certificate – 17 credits
  • Diploma – 46 credits
  • Degree – 67 credits

The certificate program curriculum includes an introduction to refrigeration, electricity, comfort cooling, heat pumps, and refrigerant certification. The diploma program includes the certificate curriculum, heating, building code, HVAC/R electronics, residential system design, HVAC controls, advanced comfort systems, introduction to computers, writing and inquiry, customer relations, and a mathematics elective.

Students enrolled in the degree program complete all of the above curriculum. In addition, they complete coursework in hydronic heating, indoor air quality, a technical elective, and an elective from each of social/behavioral science, communications, humanities/fine arts, and mathematics. Graduates will gain an understanding of system selection and balance and advanced systems.

  • Location: Jamestown, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); HVAC Excellence
  • Tuition: $76 per credit
  • Program length: Certificate, six to 12 months; diploma, one year; degree, two years

Johnston Community College

Johnston offers an HVAC degree program, an HVAC diploma program, and the following certificate programs:

  • All year systems – 12 credits
  • Comfort cooling – 13 credits
  • Commercial building automation – 13 credits
  • Controls – 13 credits
  • Heat pumps – 13 credits
  • Servicing – 17 credits

The curriculum for each certificate depends on the title of the program. The certificates qualify students for entry-level positions.

The HVAC diploma program includes the curricula from the certificate programs. Students also complete coursework in customer relations, industrial safety, interpersonal communication, and mathematical measurement and literacy. They are awarded their diploma after 37 credits.

The curriculum for the students enrolled in the HVAC degree program includes all the above coursework. In addition, the curriculum includes building code, residential system design, introduction to computers, writing and inquiry, critical thinking, introduction to ethics, hydronic heating, HVAC diagnostics, advanced comfort systems, introduction to business, motors and drives, and psychology. Students earn their degree after 34 credits. They may transfer their credits to the East Carolina University for a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology.

  • Location: Smithfield, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); HVAC Excellence
  • Tuition: $76 per credit
  • Program length: Certificate, six to 12 months; diploma, 12 to 18 months; degree, two years

Pitt Community College

Pitt offers a heating and refrigeration service certificate program and diploma program, an efficiency and performance diagnostics diploma program, and an HVAC technology degree. Coursework in all programs is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the lab.

The certificate program curriculum includes an introduction to refrigeration, electricity, heating, and comfort cooling. Students complete 16 credits to earn their certificates. The related diploma program adds heat pumps, HVAC controls, servicing, refrigerant certification, basic PC literacy, interpersonal communication, construction safety, mathematical measurement and literacy, and work-based learning. The coursework may be completed in 40 credit hours.

The efficiency and performance diagnostics diploma includes the certificate coursework with the addition of heat pumps, refrigerant certification, residential system design, building code, system diagnostics, advanced comfort systems, indoor air quality, basic PC literacy, interpersonal communication, construction safety, mathematical measurement and literacy, introduction to sustainability, and energy use analysis. Students earn their diplomas after 48 credits.

The degree program includes all the above technical curriculum and adds all-weather systems, duct systems, commercial HVAC controls, schematics and diagrams, and two electives for 52 technical credits. Students also complete an additional 16 credits of general education for 68 credits to earn their degree. They may transfer their credits to Ferris State University toward a bachelor degree in HVACR Engineering Technology.

  • Location: Winterville, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); PAHRA
  • Tuition: $76 per credit
  • Program length: Certificate, six to 12 months; diploma, 12 to 18 months; degree, two years

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

Students at Rowan-Cabarrus may choose from nine certificate programs, a diploma program, or an HVAC technology degree. All programs feature classroom learning and hands-on experience. Students acquire the skills needed to seek positions as HVAC technicians.

The certificate programs include:

  • Basic – 15 credits
  • Comfort Cooling – 18 credits
  • Commercial – 18 credits
  • Heat Pump – 18 credits
  • Heating – 17 credits
  • HVAC Design – 16 credits
  • MTC I – 15 credits
  • MTC II – 16 credits
  • Refrigeration – 17 credits

The basic certificate includes introduction to refrigeration, heating, OSHA/safety certification, and electricity. The other certificates build on the basics with coursework relevant to the title.

The diploma program includes the basic curriculum and technical coursework including HVAC controls, duct systems, building code, refrigerant certification, software for technicians, comfort cooling, and residential system design. Students are required to take writing and inquiry and one general education elective. They earn their diploma at the completion of 42 credits.

Students enrolled in the degree program complete all the diploma curriculum and commercial system design, chiller systems, and electives from technical coursework. They are also required to take writing and inquiry, mathematical measurement and literacy, conceptual physics, communication, and at least two general education electives, for 67 credits to receive their degree.

  • Location: Salisbury, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $76 per credit
  • Program length: Certificate, six to 12 months; diploma, 12 to 18 months; degree, two years

Winston-Salem students who cannot attend one of the above schools may find that online institutions can better meet their needs. More information on accredited programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in Winston-Salem, NC

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who handle refrigerants to obtain Section 608 certification. Four certification levels are available based on the type and size of equipment on which a technician works. Each level described below requires technicians to pass an exam on refrigerant safety:

  • Type I – for servicing small appliances
  • Type II – for servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and automotive air conditioning
  • Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances
  • Universal – for servicing all types of equipment

Details of the criteria for each certification are available on the EPA website.

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

  • HVAC Excellence
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

Each organization includes details of availability, scheduling, and fees on its website. There is also more information on the HVAC certifications page.

The North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinkler Contractors is the regulatory agency for HVAC technicians. The three types of licenses are:

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

Technicians seeking a license need to pass an exam, submit a background report, complete an application form, and pay a fee. Applicants must have 3,000 hours of on-site full-time experience in the installation, maintenance, service or repair of systems in the category for which they are seeking the license.

Applicants seeking a contractor’s license must have 4,000 hours of full-time experience in the installation, maintenance, service or repair of systems in the category for which they are seeking the license. Up to 2,000 hours may be in academic or technical training. Contractors providing installations in excess of $30,000 must be licensed by the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors. Applicants must complete an application form, be of good moral character, provide evidence of financial responsibility, pass an exam, and pay a fee.

Additionally, anyone who installs, maintains, services, or repairs refrigeration equipment or systems must have a Refrigeration Contractor License from the North Carolina State Board of Refrigeration Contractors. Applicants must have at least 4,000 hours of relevant experience obtained while working under the supervision of a person who holds a valid refrigeration contractor’s license, is a registered professional engineer, or has equivalent industry experience. Up to one-half of the experience may be in academic or technical training directly related to the field. Applicants must also submit an application, pass an exam, and pay a fee.

The City of Winston-Salem does not require a business license for HVAC technicians or contractors.

As licensing regulations may change, HVAC professionals are encouraged to confirm that they comply with current state and local guidelines before starting a project.

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.