HVAC Training Schools in South Carolina (SC)

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Few residents of South Carolina (SC) would be willing to face the hot, humid summers without the protection of an air conditioner. A majority of homes and other buildings throughout the Palmetto State are equipped with climate-control systems to help keep residents comfortable throughout the year. As a result, the state is home to a growing number of jobs in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry.

In addition to a relatively robust job market in South Carolina, HVAC technicians are able to enjoy the support of many unions and professional organizations statewide, including the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 421, which has offices in Charleston, Concord, Wendell, and Laurens. HVAC workers also have the option of joining the Mechanical Contractors Association of South Carolina, which supports HVAC technicians, as well as numerous other professionals in the mechanical trades. This organization offers a calendar of events throughout the year, a scholarship for HVAC training programs, and other benefits to help members succeed in the industry.

In reality, a job as an HVAC technician in South Carolina can be truly rewarding for those interested in this type of work. However, before starting any new career, it is important to understand the scope of the profession. Here is an overview of an HVAC mechanic or installer’s typical daily responsibilities in SC:

  • Ensure HVAC equipment is properly calibrated
  • Conduct calculations on equipment
  • Keep proper records
  • Interpret blueprints
  • Ensure equipment and work is in compliance with the law
  • Move between various work sites
  • Offer education to customers on energy use and conservation
  • Maintain appropriate licensure and permits

Furthermore, anyone who works with refrigerants in South Carolina must maintain active EPA Section 608 Certification.

Ultimately, an expanding HVAC industry in South Carolina is an invitation for those who have are interested in this line of work. This guide includes an overview of the HVAC industry in SC, as well as the salary expectations, various training programs, and the licensure requirements for technicians in the state.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in South Carolina

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017) reported that there were 307,060 HVAC technicians working across the country. Between 2016 and 2026, there will be an expected addition of 48,800 fresh openings in this field—a 15 percent increase. Notably, this figure is more than double the average growth projected across all U.S. occupations during that same decade (seven percent).

And fortunately for aspiring HVAC technicians in South Carolina, opportunities are expected to swell in that state, as well. Projections Central predicted that the HVAC industry in South Carolina would experience a 17.4 percent increase in the same ten-year timeframe, an addition of 750 SC-based jobs altogether.

Although there is no single driving factor behind this rapid growth in opportunities, a number of reasons should be highlighted. For one, HVAC systems require routine maintenance by skilled technicians, and must generally be replaced entirely every 10 to 15 years. In addition, the laws and regulations governing the HVAC industry are constantly in flux; this means that customers must utilize the services of HVAC professionals to ensure their systems remain in compliance with the law. And finally, nearly all new buildings in South Carolina will likely be erected with some type of climate-control system; here, skilled HVAC installers will be needed for the original planning and implementation.

There is perhaps no greater proof of the thriving demand for HVAC technicians in South Carolina than online job boards. For example, searching for available HVAC positions in South Carolina on Indeed (Dec. 2018) brought up 1,356 results, with companies including Fogel Services Inc., Total Air Care, Inc., Horry County Schools, and Honeywell.

A similar search on Monster (Dec. 2018) provided over 640 results with organizations including Compass Group USA Inc, CBRE, Emcor, and Johnson Controls.

HVAC Worker Salary in South Carolina

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), HVAC mechanics and installers enjoy fairly comfortable wages, particularly considering that the occupation generally requires only six months to two years of postsecondary education. Among the 307,060 HVAC workers around the US, the BLS (2017) found an average annual salary of $49,530. Wages for HVAC professionals in South Carolina were a bit lower, with the average worker earning just $42,620. In more detailed terms, here were the salary percentiles in this occupation in the US as compared to South Carolina:

Annual salary Hourly salary
United States South Carolina United States South Carolina
Average $49,530 $42,620 $23.81 $20.49
10th percentile $29,120 $27,830 $14.00 $13.38
25th percentile $36,150 $33,540 $17.38 $16.12
50th percentile $47,080 $41,500 $22.64 $19.95
75th percentile $60,270 $50,210 $28.98 $24.14
90th percentile $75,330 $60,620 $36.22 $29.14

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (Dec. 2018), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States: 881 HVAC workers responding

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,606
  • 90th percentile: $72,000

An additional 4,892 HVAC workers gave Payscale their hourly salary figures, resulting in these percentile wages:

  • 10th percentile: $12.94/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.33/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.55/hr.

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in South Carolina is somewhat lower 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 2018) found that PA was the 24th most affordable state, ranking it almost right in the middle, with some savings noted particularly in housing. For HVAC technicians this means lower than average salaries will not go as far as they would in some lower cost states nearby like Georgia or North Carolina.

The BLS designated 12 regions within South Carolina for which employment data is available. The 300 HVAC workers in the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC earned the highest average salary in the state at $49,010 while HVAC workers in the Low Country South Carolina nonmetropolitan area had the lowest average salary at $34,830. Following are the detailed salary data for the state of South Carolina:

Charleston-North Charleston, SC (980 HVAC workers): $45,900 annual average salary

Charleston-North Charleston, SC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $45,900 $22.07
10th percentile $33,150 $15.94
25th percentile $38,840 $18.67
50th percentile $45,310 $21.78
75th percentile $51,360 $24.69
90th percentile $61,340 $29.49

Columbia, SC (1280 HVAC workers): $40,460 annual average salary

Columbia, SC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $40,460 $19.45
10th percentile $26,640 $12.81
25th percentile $30,960 $14.88
50th percentile $37,750 $18.15
75th percentile $48,620 $23.37
90th percentile $61,620 $29.63

Florence, SC (200 HVAC workers): $48,720 annual average salary

Florence, SC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $48,720 $23.42
10th percentile $26,790 $12.88
25th percentile $32,280 $15.52
50th percentile $41,920 $20.15
75th percentile $59,880 $28.79
90th percentile $88,590 $42.59

Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC (900 HVAC workers): $46,380 annual average salary

Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $46,380 $22.30
10th percentile $33,320 $16.02
25th percentile $37,370 $17.97
50th percentile $45,650 $21.95
75th percentile $55,560 $26.71
90th percentile $62,090 $29.85

Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC (300 HVAC workers): $49,010 annual average salary

Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $49,010 $23.56
10th percentile $33,680 $16.19
25th percentile $41,480 $19.94
50th percentile $49,110 $23.61
75th percentile $57,460 $27.63
90th percentile $63,730 $30.64

Low Country South Carolina nonmetropolitan area (130 HVAC workers): $34,830 annual average salary

Low Country South Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $34,830 $16.75
10th percentile $25,930 $12.47
25th percentile $27,870 $13.40
50th percentile $31,120 $14.96
75th percentile $41,080 $19.75
90th percentile $48,380 $23.26

Lower Savannah South Carolina nonmetropolitan area (150 HVAC workers): $37,140 annual average salary

Lower Savannah South Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $37,140 $17.86
10th percentile $22,450 $10.79
25th percentile $28,230 $13.57
50th percentile $35,720 $17.18
75th percentile $44,840 $21.56
90th percentile $53,250 $25.60

Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC (770 HVAC workers): $38,200 annual average salary

Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $38,200 $18.36
10th percentile $26,770 $12.87
25th percentile $31,430 $15.11
50th percentile $37,850 $18.20
75th percentile $45,420 $21.84
90th percentile $50,550 $24.30

Pee Dee South Carolina nonmetropolitan area (120 HVAC workers): $36,720 annual average salary

Pee Dee South Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $36,720 $17.65
10th percentile $18,350 $8.82
25th percentile $23,000 $11.06
50th percentile $35,900 $17.26
75th percentile $51,750 $24.88
90th percentile $58,640 $28.19

Spartanburg, SC (360 HVAC workers): $38,120 annual average salary

Spartanburg, SC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $38,120 $18.33
10th percentile $27,130 $13.05
25th percentile $30,010 $14.43
50th percentile $37,910 $18.22
75th percentile $45,780 $22.01
90th percentile $50,240 $24.15

Sumter, SC (130 HVAC workers): $38,700 annual average salary

Sumter, SC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $38,700 $18.61
10th percentile $27,450 $13.20
25th percentile $32,260 $15.51
50th percentile $37,870 $18.21
75th percentile $45,580 $21.91
90th percentile $50,620 $24.34

Upper Savannah South Carolina nonmetropolitan area (220 HVAC workers): $37,330 annual average salary

Upper Savannah South Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $37,330 $17.95
10th percentile $23,830 $11.45
25th percentile $28,200 $13.56
50th percentile $35,410 $17.02
75th percentile $46,230 $22.23
90th percentile $56,340 $27.09

Accredited HVAC Schools in South Carolina

Before searching for work in the field, many aspiring HVAC technicians choose to complete a training program in order to obtain the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed. In general, this takes the form of an apprenticeship, formal degree, or certificate program, although other options are available.

Currently, the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 421 in multiple cities offers an apprenticeship for those interested in a new career in HVAC. This program lasts for five years, and requires participants to complete a significant number of hours of on-the-job training and classroom education. During the course of the program, apprentices earn a wage that is calculated based on the compensation of the supervising journeyman, and are also eligible for raises on a periodic basis.

Those interested in pursuing a formal degree in HVAC may consider the associate of applied science (AAS) in HVAC and refrigeration offered by Midlands Technical College located in Columbia. Students in this program must take 75 credit-hours of courses, including units in the heating fundamentals, commercial and domestic refrigeration, heat pumps, codes and ordinances, duct fabrication, and a number of others. Tuition is estimated to be approximately $13,350 total, although this does not include all applicable fees.

The Central Carolina Technical College in Sumter has HVAC Excellence-accredited certificate programs in both basic and advanced air conditioning and heating. In the basic program, students study 39 semester-hours of subjects such as basic electricity for HVAC-R, tools and service techniques, heating fundamentals, domestic refrigeration, basic air conditioning, codes and ordinances, duct fabrication, and EPA 608 certification preparation. Interested applicants can contact the school’s bursar office for a customized tuition assessment.

Greenville Technical College also offers several HVAC Excellence-recognized programs, including a diploma in applied science (AC/refrigeration technology), two certificates in applied science (AC/refrigeration technician or basic electricity/refrigeration), and an AAS in general technology. The majority of these programs require candidates to take specific competency exams in areas such as residential air conditioning and heating in order to qualify for graduation. Tuition varies greatly depending on many factors. Check out the school’s tuition table to determine an assessment.

Alternatively, aspiring technicians may also choose to pursue a certificate or diploma, which often takes even less time. For example, Spartanburg Community College offers a certificate in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technology, which requires students to take 40 credit-hours over 42 weeks. It features courses such as automatic controls, heat pumps, basic electricity, fundamentals of refrigeration, and basic air conditioning, among others. Tuition for Spartanburg residents is set at $181 per-credit-hour, bringing the total cost of the program to $7,240.

Anyone looking to complete HVAC education in South Carolina should also understand that many aspiring technicians choose to enroll in accredited programs, which often last between six months and two years. These programs have been evaluated by independent organizations for faculty, facilities, curriculum and learning outcomes. As of this writing, two main organizations offer accreditation for HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). Both Central Carolina Technical College and Greenville Technical College, as noted above, have earned accreditation from HVAC Excellence. As of December 2018, there are no PAHRA-accredited programs currently exist in this state.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in South Carolina

As mentioned above, all HVAC technicians in South Carolina who work with refrigerants must maintain active EPA Section 608 Certification, which has four specific categories:

  • Type 1 (small appliances)
  • Type 2 (high-pressure appliances)
  • Type 3 (low-pressure appliances)
  • Type 4 (universal)

Furthermore, it is important to note that skill-specific certifications are available, as well, and are offered by the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator); North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams or ICE); HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus); and a number of other organizations. Obtaining additional certifications can be highly beneficial when searching for a job or negotiating for higher pay. To learn more about credentialing, please visit the HVAC national certifications page.

All aspiring HVAC technicians must become licensed through the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission before beginning any work related to their profession. To do so, the technician must submit an application, along with the following:

  • $100 application processing fee
  • Copy of driver’s license or other qualifying form of identification
  • Copy of Social Security card
  • Completed and notarized “Verification of Lawful Presence” form

Once the application has been approved, the applicant will be deemed eligible to sit for an examination within the following 12 months. The applicant must then pass both the HVAC exam and the business management and law exam in order to be eligible for a license.

Finally, once the applicant has successfully passed these examinations, they must submit this information to the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission, along with a $160 fee for the license and a surety bond in the amount of $10,000 (if the applicant intends on doing work with a cost of over $5,000).

As in any state, licensing requirements in South Carolina can vary by municipality so any HVAC technician should be sure to verify the requirements in the city where they plan to work.