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 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 (May 2019) reported that there were 342,040 HVAC technicians working across the country. Between 2019 and 2029, the BLS (May 2019) anticipated that the industry would grow 4 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is as fast as the average for all occupations (4 percent).

And fortunately for aspiring HVAC technicians in South Carolina, there’s evidence that SC is predicted to need new technicians at an even faster rate. Projections Central (2021)—a data organization partnered with the US Department of Labor—reported that there would be a 16 percent increase in HVAC positions across SC between 2018 and 2028.

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 (2021) brought up 594 results, with companies including ARS-Rescue Rooter, Thompson Construction, C&W Services, and Lennox International.

A similar search on Monster (2021) provided over 540 results with organizations including Penske, The Carlstar Group LLC, Finkle Associates, and EMCOR Group.

HVAC Worker Salary in South Carolina

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019), 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 342,040 HVAC workers around the US, the BLS found an average annual salary of $51,420. Wages for HVAC professionals in South Carolina were a bit lower, with the average worker earning just $45,160. In more detailed terms, here were the salary percentiles in this occupation in the US as compared to South Carolina:

United States South Carolina
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 5,530
Annual mean wage $51,420 $45,160
10th percentile $30,610 $29,980
25th percentile $37,660 $36,610
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $44,770
75th percentile $62,070 $52,750
90th percentile $77,920 $61,950

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (2021), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $31,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,948
  • 90th percentile: $75,000

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 2021) found that SC was the 22nd most affordable state, ranking it almost right in the middle. For HVAC technicians this means lower than average salaries will not go as far as they would in some lower-cost states nearby.

HVAC Apprenticeships 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.

Accredited HVAC Schools in South Carolina

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). The Central Carolina Technical College (profiled below) has earned accreditation from HVAC Excellence. As of early 2021, there are no PAHRA-accredited programs in this state.

Midlands Technical College

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. The college also offers an academic certificate in HVAC/R and a diploma in HVAC/R technician. These programs prepare students for careers in commercial and residential HVAC/R, and equipment maintenance and installation. They will receive classroom instruction as well as hands-on instruction.

The certificate consists of 35 credit-hours and includes courses such as fundamentals of refrigeration, tools and service techniques, basic electricity for HVAC/R, heating fundamentals, basic air conditioning, heat pumps, duct fabrication, and domestic and commercial refrigeration.

The diploma comprises 45 credit-hours including all courses from the certificate. Additional coursework includes college orientation, contemporary mathematics, technical communications, and introduction to computers.

The associate’s degree program includes all the above-mentioned courses. Students in this AAS degree program must take 71 credit-hours of courses, including additional units in advanced electricity for HVAC/R, advanced air conditioning, residential load calculations, codes and ordinances, advanced refrigeration electricity, advanced refrigeration, general psychology, refrigeration, calculation & equip selection, and American history.

At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities at mechanical contracting firms, HVAC installation and repair corporations, refrigeration installation and repair companies, food preparation organizations, and more. The college also offers an HVAC entry-level training certificate.

  • Location: Columbia, SC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate and diploma (three semesters each); AAS (five semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: Certificate ($6,230); diploma ($8,010); AAS ($12,638)

Central Carolina Technical College

The Central Carolina Technical College in Sumter has HVAC Excellence-accredited certificate programs in both basic and advanced air conditioning and heating. These programs prepare students for various careers in the HVAC/R field. Including both practical as well as theory work in HVAC/R, these programs have both days as well as evening classes available.

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.

The advanced HVAC/R certificate requires 22 semester-hours of topics such as gas heating principles, service customer relations, advanced electricity for HVAC/R, commercial refrigeration, industrial air conditioning, troubleshooting and maintenance, and advanced air conditioning.

The program opens up HVAC/R opportunities in sales, service technician, installation, operations, repair and maintenance, and more for graduates.

  • Location: Sumter, SC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($194 to $227 per credit-hour); out-of-state ($331 per credit-hour)

Greenville Technical College

Greenville Technical College also offers several HVAC Excellence-recognized programs, including a diploma in applied science (AC/refrigeration technology), and two certificates in applied science (AC/refrigeration technician or basic electricity/refrigeration).

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. Graduates of these programs will be ready to install and service every type of HVAC/R equipment.

The diploma program is made up of 45 credit-hours, while the HVAC/R technician certificate in the applied science program is made up of 36 credit-hours. Beginning electricity & refrigeration certificate in applied science consists of 12 credit-hours. The curriculum includes courses such as fundamentals of refrigeration, tools and service techniques, basic electricity for HVAC/R, heating fundamentals, basic air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, automatic controls, and basic sheet metal, among others.

Students in these programs will learn about the basics of installing, servicing, and maintaining residential, industrial, and HVAC/R systems. They will be prepared for the EPA section 608 certification and other competency exams.

  • Location: Greenville, SC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma and HVAC/R technician certificate (three semesters); basic electricity refrigeration certificate (one semester)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-county ($277 per credit-hour); out-of-county ($294 per credit-hour); out-of-state ($470 per credit-hour)

Spartanburg Community College

Spartanburg Community College offers an associate in applied science and a certificate in HVAC/R technology. These HVAC/R programs help students in developing the knowledge and skills for repairing, installing, and maintaining industrial, domestic, and commercial HVAC controls and equipment. They learn to design, service, and repair these systems and also learn to read blueprints.

The certificate comprises 40 credit-hours. As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as HVAC/R fundamentals, basic electricity and airconditioning, domestic refrigeration, heat pumps, residential load calculations, advanced automatic controls, and codes and ordinances. All courses earned in this certificate will be applied towards the AAS degree.

The AAS degree program consists of 67 credit-hours. Additional courses include Professional Communications, Contemporary Mathematics, Industrial Computer Techniques, and Economic Concepts, among others.

On successful completion of the program, graduates can take up roles such as service technician, energy management technician, preventative maintenance technician, service manager, installer, and many more.

  • Location: Spartanburg, SC
  • Accreditation: Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (42 weeks); AAS (74 weeks)
  • Estimated Tuition: Spartanburg and Cherokee County residents ($198 per credit-hour); Union county residents ($226 per credit-hour); out-of-county residents ($245 per credit-hour); out-of-state residents ($403 per credit-hour)

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 another qualifying form of identification
  • Copy of Social Security card
  • Completed and notarized the “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 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.

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.