HVAC Schools in South Dakota

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Home to the majestic Mount Rushmore, South Dakota (SD) boasts four distinct seasons. Summers are hot with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, and winter lows can dip below zero. The temperature extremes mean that residents require heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems for comfort, which in turn means opportunities for HVAC professionals around the state.

Fortunately, there’s a wealth of professional organizations in SD with networking opportunities, educational publications and seminars, and other resources for HVAC technician. For example, training and support for the HVAC industry are provided by the South Dakota chapter of the Association of General Contractors, which also sponsors workplace health and safety training and legislative initiatives relevant to the industry. Additionally, the South Dakota Association Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors, Inc. (PHCC) offers continuing education opportunities as well as an apprenticeship program to HVAC workers.

HVAC workers in South Dakota use their skills to install, maintain, and repair equipment and systems, while refrigeration technicians (i.e., HVAC-R professionals) work on commercial refrigeration systems. Whatever their specialization, these professionals have a wealth of responsibilities. On one day, workers may put wiring and piping in place for an installation. The next day, they may travel to another job site to test components and circuitry. Technicians need to be familiar with how components such as motors, belts, fans, filters, and valves function as part of a complete system. They install and service equipment including boilers, compressors, heat pumps, humidifiers, economizers, and water pumps. Skills include reading blueprints, computing heat load and loss calculations, and calibrating controls. All HVAC workers are responsible for keeping their credentials current, traveling to job sites, and making sure customers receive detailed service records. An important part of HVAC and HVAC-R service is helping customers understand and practice energy conservation.

This guide explores the employment outlook for HVAC workers in South Dakota, including discussions of accredited training programs and salary prospects.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Workers in South Dakota

The demand for HVAC technicians nationwide and within the Mount Rushmore State continues to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), the number of openings in HVAC is expected to grow 15 percent nationwide between 2016 and 2026, which is significantly faster than the expected average growth among all U.S. occupations during that time period (just seven percent). And South Dakota is no exception. Projections Central anticipated a 10.4 percent increase in SD-based HVAC openings between 2016 and 2026, which amounts to 120 additional openings.

The growth of the HVAC industry in South Dakota and beyond is fueled by several factors: new buildings require the installation of climate control systems; new equipment and systems are more complex than before; and homeowners and building managers are focused on energy efficiency and reducing pollution, requiring the replacement, retrofitting, or repair of older systems.

HVAC and HVAC-R technicians work in a variety of job sites. Some sites, such as hospitals or other medical facilities, have stringent temperature and humidity guidelines. Factories, offices, schools, stores, and homes all have different needs. Some sensitive components (e.g., heat exchangers) are located outdoors. That said, adverse weather conditions don’t stop the need for repairs or maintenance. Sometimes indoor work is uncomfortable when the system has stopped working, creating either a very hot or freezing environment until the job is completed. Technicians may also find themselves working in small or cramped areas. It’s worth adding that HVAC workers have a higher-than-average rate of injury, including electrical shocks, burns, and other injuries related to moving heavy equipment. These risks can be mitigated by proper safety training and precautions.

The BLS (2017) reported that approximately nine percent of HVAC-R technicians were self-employed whereas 64 percent were employed by plumbing, heating, and air conditioning contractors. The remaining workers were employed by schools or retail and wholesale organizations. Most of the technicians worked full-time. Depending on peak seasons, technicians may work evenings, weekends, and other overtime hours.

There is perhaps no better indicator of industry growth than the availability of openings in the industry. By illustration, Indeed (Dec. 2018) listed over 100 openings for HVAC-R workers in South Dakota. Most were for workers in the Sioux Falls and Rapid City areas, with a scattering in other locations. Organizations looking for HVAC technicians in SD included One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, Equipment Service Professionals, Smithfield Foods, Avera Health, and Ingersoll Rand.

Most of the listings on Monster (Dec. 2018) were also in the Sioux Falls and Rapid City areas. Postings came from organizations like the US Army, Pepsi Beverages Company, Honeywell, and Source Refrigeration & HVAC Inc.

HVAC Professional Salary in South Dakota

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), HVAC mechanics and installers enjoy comfortable wages, especially considering that many workers begin their careers with less than 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. In South Dakota, the 930 HVAC professionals employed there earned less, with the BLS reporting an average salary of $41,850. In more detailed terms, here were the salary percentiles in this occupation in the US as compared to South Dakota:

Annual salary Hourly salary
United States South Dakota United States South Dakota
Average $49,530 $41,850 $23.81 $20.12
10th percentile $29,120 $28,450 $14.00 $13.66
25th percentile $36,150 $32,720 $17.38 $15.73
50th percentile $47,080 $40,470 $22.64 $19.46
75th percentile $60,270 $49,400 $28.98 $23.75
90th percentile $75,330 $58,850 $36.22 $28.29

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 Dakota is quite a bit lower than that of the rest of the country. As with any salary projections, considering the cost of living in a specific area is also important. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2018) found that SD was the 26th most affordable state, ranking it almost right in the middle, with some savings noted particularly in utilities and transportation. For HVAC technicians this means lower than average salaries will not go as far than they would in some more affordable nearby states like Wyoming or Nebraska.

The BLS designated four regions within South Dakota for which employment data is available. The 370 HVAC workers in the Sioux Falls area earned the highest average salary in the state at $44,500 while the 120 HVAC workers in West South Dakota nonmetropolitan area had the lowest average salary at $36,590. Following are the detailed salary data for the state of South Dakota:

East South Dakota nonmetropolitan area (200 HVAC workers): $43,420 annual average salary

East South Dakota nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $43,420 $20.88
10th percentile $30,270 $14.55
25th percentile $35,340 $16.99
50th percentile $43,410 $20.87
75th percentile $51,580 $24.80
90th percentile $58,800 $28.27

Rapid City, SD (250 HVAC workers): $39,330 annual average salary

Rapid City, SD
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $39,330 $18.91
10th percentile $27,310 $13.13
25th percentile $30,200 $14.52
50th percentile $37,050 $17.81
75th percentile $47,070 $22.63
90th percentile $56,930 $27.37

Sioux Falls, SD (370 HVAC workers): $44,500 annual average salary

Bloomsburg-Berwick, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $44,500 $21.39
10th percentile $29,900 $14.37
25th percentile $35,410 $17.02
50th percentile $43,900 $21.11
75th percentile $51,160 $24.59
90th percentile $62,110 $29.86

West South Dakota nonmetropolitan area (120 HVAC workers): $36,590 annual average salary

West South Dakota nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $36,590 $17.59
10th percentile $27,570 $13.25
25th percentile $30,930 $14.87
50th percentile $35,070 $16.86
75th percentile $39,450 $18.97
90th percentile $48,370 $23.25

Accredited HVAC Programs in South Dakota

Although some firms in South Dakota provide on-the-job training to new employees, individuals who have completed an apprenticeship or another formal educational program may stand a much better chance of being hired. HVAC-R equipment has become increasingly complex, and technicians need formal coursework combined with hands-on experience to give themselves the best chance of landing an entry-level position.

PHCC is one place to start as the organization offers grants to fund plumbing and HVAC apprenticeships. Coursework for PHCC training is completed online and is supplied by PHCC national headquarters. Apprentices completely their on-the-job training with various employers around the state.

Other industry associations offering apprenticeship programs nationwide include:

It’s worth noting that the accreditation of schools or training programs ensures that the curriculum meets industry standards. There are two bodies that offer accreditation in the HVAC industry: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). As of December 2018, there are two programs in SD that have earned accreditation from HVAC Excellence (detailed below) and no PAHRA-accredited programs in the state.

There are various institutions in South Dakota which offer formal coursework and training in HVAC-R. Located in Mitchell, SD, the Mitchell Technical Institute (MTI) offers a one-year diploma and two-year associate of applied science (AAS) in heating and cooling technology. The courses are taught by North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certified instructors and are accredited by HVAC Excellence.

The one-year program includes classes and labs covering:

  • The fundamentals of electricity, heating, and air conditioning
  • Computer concepts
  • Sheet metal technology
  • Heating and refrigeration theory
  • HVAC controls
  • Heat pumps

Students must complete 36 credit-hours and are awarded a diploma.

MTI’s two-year program curriculum builds on the first year with more time spent in labs and includes an internship. Classes include planning and estimating, wiring, commercial refrigeration and air conditioning, and electronic temperature control. At the completion of 72 credit hours, students are awarded an associate of applied science (AAS) degree. As of 2018, tuition for both programs came to $116 per credit, with additional fees bringing the total cost to between $210 and $225 per credit.

The Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls offers a two-year HVAC-R program, which has been accredited by HVAC Excellence.

Graduates of the two-year program receive an AAS degree at the completion of 72 credit hours. As well as the basics, students receive training in:

  • Design and installation
  • Heat pump systems
  • High-pressure chillers
  • Split and unitized equipment
  • Water cooled equipment
  • Other special equipment

Graduates are adept in installation, troubleshooting, service, maintenance, and repair of equipment. As of 2018, students could expect to pay $76 per credit in tuition, with the total cost coming out to $240 per credit when other fees are added.

Finally, Western Dakota Tech of Rapid City has provided hands-on learning, industry partnerships, and internships since 1968. The HVAC-R program teaches professional skills such as troubleshooting and problem-solving, as well as technical skills. Students practice with the tools and equipment they’ll use on the job. The 18-month program requires 61-64 credit hours, and an AAS degree is awarded on completion. The 2018 tuition was $247 per-credit-hour for on-campus classes and $265 for online classes. Books, laptops, tools, and other fees are additional. Western Dakota Tech HVAC students may be eligible for the Build Dakota Scholarship, which covers all tuition and fees for some students pursuing training in high demand fields.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in South Dakota

Federal law requires all HVAC technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Section 608 certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants.

The Section 608 certifications is available in the following types:

  • Type I – technicians may work on small appliances
  • Type II – technicians may service high-pressure and very high-pressure appliances
  • Type III – technicians may service low-pressure appliances
  • Universal – technicians may service all types of equipment

Also, technicians can obtain certifications that are recognized nationwide from industry organizations such as:

  • HVAC Excellence – established in 1994 to improve the competency of HVAC-R technicians. They offer several certifications including Master Specialist for the best of the best
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE) – certifies knowledge and competency of HVAC-R technicians in specific areas of installation and service
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) – offers training and testing designed to certify the competency HVAC-R technicians

Each organization determines requirements, fees, and expiration dates of certifications. For a detailed look at national credentials, check out the main HVAC certifications page.

The state of South Dakota does not require HVAC technicians to be licensed, but cities have their own licensing, permitting, and certification requirements. The requirements primarily pertain to HVAC contractors, rather than employees. For example, an HVAC contractor in Sioux Falls must take the Master Mechanic exam and post a $10,000 compliance bond.

HVAC professionals in the state are encouraged to contact their municipal agency to ensure they have all necessary credentials prior to beginning work.

Jocelyn Blore

Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.