HVAC Training Schools in South Carolina (SC)

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Few residents of South Carolina 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 state are equipped with climate-control systems to help residents of the Palmetto State keep 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 (October 2017) reported that there were 332,900 HVAC technicians working across the country. Between 2016 and 2026, there will be an expected addition of 49,100 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 14.9 percent increase in the same ten-year timeframe, an addition of 660 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 (November 2017) brought up 1,046 results, with companies including Ingersoll Rand, Carrier Enterprise, LLC, Providence Health, Richland County Government, Milliken & Company, and Johnson Controls. A similar search on Monster (November 2017) provided over 1,000 results with organizations including GCA Services, Inc., Aircond Corporation, Service Expert, Charleston County School District, Cameron Craig Group, and Blythewood Heating A/C and Refrigeration, among many others.

HVAC Worker Salary in South Carolina

The BLS (May 2016) reported that HVAC technicians can make a relatively generous salary throughout their career, particularly in a job requiring minimal formal postsecondary education. In fact, the median salary for HVAC workers nationwide was $45,910 per year, or $22.07 per hour, with these percentiles:

United States (332,900 HVAC workers): $48,320 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,440
  • 25th percentile: $35,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,910
  • 75th percentile: $58,960
  • 90th percentile: $73,350

In hourly figures, these salaries amounted to:

United States: $23.23/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.67/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.04/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.07/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.35/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $35.26/hr.

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (Nov. 2017), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States: 497 HVAC workers responding

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $35,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,226
  • 75th percentile: $56,000
  • 90th percentile: $69,000

An additional 2,6,13 HVAC workers gave Payscale their hourly salary figures, resulting in these figures:

  • 10th percentile: $13.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.33/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.00/hr.

Although the annual wage for HVAC technicians in South Carolina was slightly lower than the national average, it still remains competitive. Specifically, BLS data shows that there were 5,530 technicians working statewide, earning an average annual salary of $42,110 and these detailed wage percentiles:

South Carolina (5,330 HVAC workers): $42,110 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,200
  • 25th percentile: $33,050
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,340
  • 75th percentile: $49,400
  • 90th percentile: $59,710

In hourly figures, these equated to:

South Carolina: $20.25/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.08/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.89/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.40/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $23.75/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $28.71/hr.

The BLS also provided salary statistics on 12 different geographic regions throughout the state of South Carolina:

Charleston-North Charleston (800 HVAC workers): $45,670 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,510
  • 25th percentile: $40,210
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,530
  • 75th percentile: $51,260
  • 90th percentile: $59,790

Columbia (1,310 HVAC workers): $42,110 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,620
  • 25th percentile: $31,130
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,560
  • 75th percentile: $49,580
  • 90th percentile: $61,330

Florence (220 HVAC workers): $49,140 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,320
  • 25th percentile: $34,650
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,610
  • 75th percentile: $58,480
  • 90th percentile: $88,450

Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin (840 HVAC workers): $46,360 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,830
  • 25th percentile: $38,150
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,120
  • 75th percentile: $54,540
  • 90th percentile: $61,520

Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort (180 HVAC workers): $46,880 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,400
  • 25th percentile: $39,610
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,970
  • 75th percentile: $54,590
  • 90th percentile: $61,500

Low Country South Carolina Nonmetropolitan Area (50 HVAC workers): $34,870 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,880
  • 25th percentile: $32,330
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,780
  • 75th percentile: $37,220
  • 90th percentile: $38,690

Lower Savannah South Carolina Nonmetropolitan Area (200 HVAC workers): $35,290 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,540
  • 25th percentile: $27,500
  • 50th percentile (median): $32,660
  • 75th percentile: $40,340
  • 90th percentile: $52,430

Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach (770 HVAC workers): $37,500 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,300
  • 25th percentile: $32,090
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,070
  • 75th percentile: $43,640
  • 90th percentile: $49,000

Pee Dee South Carolina Nonmetropolitan Area (220 HVAC workers): $32,380 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $17,910
  • 25th percentile: $22,350
  • 50th percentile (median): $33,250
  • 75th percentile: $38,550
  • 90th percentile: $49,700

Spartanburg (360 HVAC workers): $35,640 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,000
  • 25th percentile: $28,090
  • 50th percentile (median): $32,690
  • 75th percentile: $42,780
  • 90th percentile: $49,710

Sumter (Number of HVAC workers not released): $38,300 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,030
  • 25th percentile: $30,730
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,800
  • 75th percentile: $45,660
  • 90th percentile: $49,740

Upper Savannah South Carolina Nonmetropolitan Area (220 HVAC workers): $36,720 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,050
  • 25th percentile: $27,500
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,620
  • 75th percentile: $46,230
  • 90th percentile: $52,200

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 often eligible for raises on a periodic basis.

Those interested in pursuing a formal degree in HVAC may consider the associate of applied science (A.A.S.) 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 $12,000 total, although this does not include applicable fees, as well as an additional $1,050 for hand tools and personal safety equipment.

The Central Carolina Technical College of 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. Please 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 A.A.S. in general technology. Please note that 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 are choosing to enroll in accredited programs, which often last between six months and two years. As of this writing, two main organizations offer accreditation for HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). As of November 2017, 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 additional 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.

As a final note, 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).