Rhode Island HVAC Training Schools

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Residents of Rhode Island (RI) can depend on variable weather conditions. The Ocean State is often humid and subject to tropical storms and powerful hurricanes. Winters are cold and snowy, while summers are hot but short. Not surprisingly, Rhode Island’s residents and workers generally depend on indoor climate control, especially during seasonal weather extremes. This is fueling the rapid growth of the heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) and commercial refrigeration (HVAC-R) industries across the state.

One factor leading to robust demand for HVAC services is the booming construction industry. Large businesses that have recently set up shop in Rhode Island include Agota (Priceline), GE Digital Division, Johnson & Johnson, and United Natural Foods, Inc. as well as several other Fortune 500 companies that have expanded their facilities to include Rhode Island or have committed to do so. At least 19 real estate companies are currently building apartments, offices, and shopping malls—all of which depend on the skills of HVAC professionals.

HVAC and HVAC-R contractors and technicians in the state are served by several professional organizations, including the New England Mechanical Contractors Association (NEMCA), as well as regional chapters of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA), the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA), the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). The associations set work-related standards and guidelines, as well as provide education, networking opportunities, and other local resources.

HVAC and HVAC-R technicians in RI perform a variety of jobs. Their job description includes installing, servicing, and repairing systems that control air quality and airflow in buildings. They travel from one work site to another, sometimes daily. Worksites include residences, offices, warehouses, factories, hospitals, and stores. Each job has specific requirements. The technicians must be able to read blueprints and have familiarity with building codes. They install electrical and water lines for new equipment. They connect systems to supply lines, air ducts, controls, and other components. They then test and calibrate all equipment. When equipment needs repair, technicians troubleshoot and test components to find the problem. They may have to remove and replace defective parts. Repairs can require knowing how to weld or braze parts.

Workers use a variety of tools in their jobs. Some are basic hand tools, such as wrenches or pipe cutters. Other jobs require specialized tools, such as monoxide testers, voltmeters, or combustion analyzers. They must be proficient in trade math to do calculations such as heat loads and losses. Rhode Island’s skilled technicians also have a role in educating consumers on how to conserve energy and reduce pollution. Each customer is provided with a complete written record of all work performed and recommendations. Furthermore, all technicians are responsible for keeping their licenses and certifications in good standing.

This guide explores the growing industry and abundance of HVAC training programs in Rhode Island.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Rhode Island

The demand for HVAC technicians nationwide continues to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020), the number of HVAC positions is expected to grow 4 percent across the country between 2019 and 2029. That’s as fast as the national average for all occupations (four percent). The demand for technicians in Rhode Island is only slightly slower, but still stronger than the national average. Projections Central (2021) predicted a 10.7 percent statewide increase in RI-based HVAC openings for the decade ending in 2028.

Commercial and residential construction is expected to drive employment growth, especially in the boom that Rhode Island is currently experiencing. The growing number of sophisticated climate-control systems is also expected to increase the demand for qualified HVAC and HVAC-R technicians. Many of the older systems will need to be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded. Technicians who understand computers and electronics, and those with good troubleshooting skills, are expected to enjoy the best job prospects.

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics, and installers held 344,020 jobs nationwide in 2020, according to the BLS. Contractors were the largest employers of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers, and seven percent of technicians were self-employed. The remaining technicians worked for schools and retail or wholesale companies.

It’s important to note that Rhode Island technicians may have to work on outdoor equipment in adverse weather conditions. Working inside isn’t a guarantee of comfort, as buildings may be excessively hot or cold when climate control systems malfunction. Technicians may also be required to work in awkward positions or cramped spaces. Technicians usually work full time, with overtime hours during peak seasons. HVAC and HVAC-R technicians have a higher-than-average rate of injuries and illnesses. They may suffer electrical shock, burns, or muscle strains, and injuries from handling heavy equipment. They also are exposed to toxic chemicals. Safety procedures are an integral part of all training.

To illustrate the thriving demand for HVAC workers in the state, one need not look further than online job boards. Indeed (April 2021), for example, included 59 listings for experienced HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics in Rhode Island, including listings for jobs at organizations such as Brown University, Johnson Controls, Lifespan, and General Growth Properties.

Monster (April 2021) also had 134 listings for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians in RI, including positions at Emcor, Brookfield Properties, and Randstad.

In sum, the demand for HVAC workers is thriving in the Ocean State.

HVAC Worker Salary in Rhode Island

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), HVAC mechanics and installers enjoy comfortable wages, particularly in an occupation that generally requires only six months to two years of postsecondary education. Among the 344,020 HVAC workers around the US, the BLS (May 2020) found an average annual salary of $53,410.

In Rhode Island specifically, HVAC professionals earned an average of $61,790. In more detailed terms, here are the salary percentiles in this occupation in the US and RI specifically:

United States Rhode Island
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 344,020 1,250
Annual mean wage $53,410 $61,790
10th percentile $31,910 $37,930
25th percentile $39,320 $47,720
50th percentile (median) $50,590 $61,240
75th percentile $64,350 $75,640
90th percentile $80,820 $88,020

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (April 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): $48,615
  • 90th percentile: $76,000

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in Rhode Island is somewhat higher than that of the rest of the nation. As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) found that RI was the 10th most expensive state in the US. For HVAC technicians this means higher than average salaries will not go as far as they might in other, more affordable states.

HVAC Apprenticeships in Rhode Island

Although companies in RI may hire untrained workers, job prospects are much better for workers who have served an apprenticeship or completed a course of study at an accredited institution. Those workers typically start at higher wages and can earn more throughout their careers.

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training provides registered apprenticeship programs, including options for refrigeration mechanics. Additionally, the Rhode Island Builders Association (RIBA) has an HVAC apprenticeship program. The programs combine on-the-job training with relevant classroom instruction. Local chapters of the industry associations mentioned in the introduction are another source of regional apprenticeship programs. These include:

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

Accredited HVAC Schools in Rhode Island

When choosing a school to attend, it can be helpful to evaluate the program’s accreditation status. The goal of accreditation is to ensure that the education provided by institutions of higher education meets a certain level of quality. Various independent organizations grant accreditation for institutions but only two organizations currently evaluate and accredit HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

As of April 2021, neither organization has accredited a Rhode Island HVAC program, but there are other training options available. For example:

New England Institute of Technology

New England Institute of Technology offers an associate in science (AS) degree in refrigeration/air conditioning/heating (RACH) at their East Greenwich campus. The program is a joint effort between the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Department and the Heating Department. It combines related courses from both areas and is designed to give students the training needed to enter the industry as entry-level technicians. Graduates understand domestic and commercial HVAC and HVAC-R systems, as well as the fundamentals of geothermal technology.

Comprising 98 credits the curriculum includes the following units: Basic refrigeration, Basic refrigeration lab, basic electricity, basic refrigeration electricity, basic refrigeration electricity lab, commercial refrigeration, commercial refrigeration lab, air conditioning, air conditioning lab, refrigeration technician certification, basic heating, basic heating lab, heating systems theory, heating systems lab, gas technology, and gas technology lab.

Upon completion, graduates will be prepared for competitive positions such as supervisors, coordinators, or maintenance technicians in the HVAC/R field. They will be prepared to work for manufacturers, contracting companies, and installation and repair businesses, and perform both commercial and residential HVAC services. Also, they will be eligible to continue for a BS degree in business management.

  • Location: East Greenwich, RI
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 18 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $15,750 per academic year

Rhode Islanders also may apply to schools and programs in surrounding states.

For example:

MotoRing Technical Training Institute (MTTI)

MotoRing Technical Training Institute (MTTI) in Seekonk, MA offers an HVAC/R program that is recognized in Rhode Island. This program includes a 120-hour internship with a trades-related company providing students with valuable experience in an actual work atmosphere. The faculty of the program includes highly experienced instructors who have extensive experience in commercial and residential HVAC/R.

The MTTI intensive program includes 900 hours of instruction that is intended to be completed within seven months. As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as tools of the trade, introduction to the industry, air conditioning & heat pumps, fundamentals of electrical circuits, refrigeration systems, oil heating systems, and gas heating systems.

Students learn how to install, troubleshoot, repair, and service residential and commercial HVAC and HVAC-R systems. Throughout this HVAC/R program, students will study and gain hands-on experience that will prepare them for entry-level positions in the HVAC industry workforce.

  • Location: Seekonk, MA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Seven months
  • Estimated Tuition: $18,200

Rhode Island students who are unable to take courses on campus may want to consider an online training program. A listing of these types of programs is available on the online HVAC training page.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Rhode Island

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 HVAC certification (Type IV)

Practice exams are available.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations. These include, but aren’t 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.

HVAC apprentices in Rhode Island must be registered. Further information, forms, and fee schedule are available at the state’s Workforce site.

Also, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training requires all technicians and contractors to obtain licenses. Licensing requires a test and a fee. Before testing, applicants must complete an approved apprenticeship program. Reciprocity allows applicants licensed in other states to waive the apprenticeship requirement, but applicants must still take the test and pay the fee. Forms and further information are available in the “Mechanical” classification of the state website.

Finally, different municipalities may have different requirements for HVAC professionals, so any new technicians must investigate local requirements before proceeding to work.

Farheen Gani

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).