HVAC Programs in Sioux Falls, SD – Training Schools

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Sioux Falls, South Dakota (SD) long relied on agriculture to sustain growth. It’s home to extensive stockyards and the Morell meat-packing company. The economy started changing in the 1980s when Citibank established their credit card center there. The favorable laws led other banks to establish centers in Sioux Falls, and it’s become a financial hub. Groundbreaking medical research, insurance, professional services, retail trade, and tourism now contribute to a booming economy. The population has more than doubled in the past quarter-century, driving a thriving construction industry.

Summers in Sioux Falls are hot and humid, and the winters are very cold. June isn’t the hottest month, at an average high of 79 degrees F, but it’s the wettest with nearly four inches of rain. Temperatures soar into the 80s during July and August, and those months receive just over three inches of rain each. By November, the weather is significantly cooler, and the rainfall has decreased. Average highs from December through February are below freezing, and the lows are in the teens and tens. Snowfall is scant in October but averages seven to eight inches each month from November through March, before tapering off in April.

The freezing winters and summer humidity frequently keep Sioux Falls residents indoors, where they rely on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort in their homes and workplaces. Facilities, such as those conducting research, processing meat and other agricultural products, and tourist venues, require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R).

Businesses that encompass technology, like the financial and insurance industries, require specialized climate-control systems and equipment. As more companies and services expand their high-tech operations, the demand will increase for equipment and systems designed to keep electronic components operating correctly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020) reports that 430 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed in Sioux Falls as of May 2019. The technicians and their employers received support and resources from national, state, and local industry associations that included:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), South Dakota Chapter
  • Association of General Contractors, South Dakota Building Chapter
  • Home Builders Association of the Sioux Empire
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association Local Union 10
  • South Dakota Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors, Inc
  • UA Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 330

Organizations such as these cooperate with other industry groups and with government agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards for the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Sioux Falls, SD

According to the BLS (2019), the demand for trained HVAC and HVAC/R technicians will increase by 4 percent nationwide between 2019 and 2029. The outlook for South Dakota technicians is much brighter, as Projections Central (2020) anticipates an increase of 11.9 percent in new positions between 2018 and 2028.

The construction of new commercial structures and residences, especially in booming cities like Sioux Falls, drives the growth in the HVAC industry. Existing buildings are often remodeled to accommodate the expanding business needs. Renovations and remodeling typically necessitate repairing, replacing, or updating aging climate-control equipment and systems.

On occasion, climate control systems in newer structures are replaced or upgraded due to changing regulations, technological advances, and new industries. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction is yet another factor driving industry growth.

Whether new or modernized, most structures now incorporate sophisticated climate-control systems to meet the demands of “smart” buildings. Technicians must be trained to install, maintain, and service a variety of systems and equipment. The best job opportunities will go to technicians who are skilled troubleshooters, have gained an understanding of electronics and high-tech, and have achieved proficiency with computers.

Technicians who specialize in new construction may occasionally experience unemployment if construction declines. The continued growth and increasing diversity of businesses in Sioux Falls have created a robust and stable economy. The City’s expansion is expected to continue, making a decline in construction unlikely in the foreseeable future. Technicians who maintain, service, and repair equipment and systems can expect continuous employment regardless of the economy, as businesses and homeowners depend on climate control year-round.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Sioux Falls, SD

Workforce data collected by the BLS (May 2019) shows that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730. Technicians in Sioux Falls earned an annual median salary of $51,900, as per the BLS. The difference in income is greater than it appears, as the cost of living in South Dakota is significantly lower than in other American states.

The BLS data shows the following national, state, and regional salaries for HVAC professionals:

United States South Dakota Sioux Falls
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 1,080 430
Average annual salary $51,420 $47,660 $52,110
10th percentile $30,610 $30,290 $32,950
25th percentile $37,660 $38,020 $40,000
50th percentile $48,730 $46,220 $51,900
75th percentile $62,070 $57,020 $62,670
90th percentile $77,920 $60,080 $74,970

HVAC Apprenticeships in Sioux Falls, SD

In years past, HVAC technicians began their career in entry-level positions and learned their skills via on-the-job training. Opportunities for doing so have decreased, and most workers now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Their formal coursework or apprenticeship opens up more employment opportunities, and they often start at higher wages and earn more throughout their career.

Apprenticeships typically encompass specified hours of on-the-job training, usually 2,000, combined with classroom work, usually 144 hours, annually for three to five years. The StartTodaySD program, administered by the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, provides resources and information for registered apprenticeships for workers and employers.

The South Dakota Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors, Inc offers a four-year HVAC apprenticeship. The coursework is completed online with approved materials supplied by the organization. Apprentices combine their studies with 8,000 hours of on-the-job training.

The Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association Local Union 10 offers pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs in Mitchell and Rapid City. Applicants must take the pre-apprenticeship program if they don’t have 1,000 hours of work in the HVAC industry or school or a background in the construction industry.

Aspiring technicians may also attend HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs sponsored by industry associations such as the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

Details of programs available, scheduling, and fees are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Sioux Falls, SD

It’s essential that individuals choosing to attend a school select an institution that has been accredited. Accreditation means that an independent agency has evaluated the curriculum and instructors of the institution. HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) are responsible for accrediting HVAC programs. To date, PAHRA has not accredited a South Dakota school.

HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to Mitchell Technical Institute, Mitchell, and Southeast Technical College, Sioux Falls. The remaining school in the profiles below has received accreditation from another agency.

Note: The information in this article was compiled in January 2021 during the “shelter-in-place” and “social distancing” restrictions. The profiled schools have temporarily suspended classes or are transitioning to online options to comply with the restrictions. Questions as to timing and format should be directed to the school administration.

Mitchell Technical Institute

Mitchell offers both a diploma and a degree in heating and cooling technology. The program instructors are NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certified. Students in both programs learn through classroom lectures combined with hands-on practice in the lab.

The diploma program curriculum includes the fundamentals of electricity and HVAC/R, heating and refrigeration theory, sheet metal, heat pumps, controls, OSHA 10, student success, and a math elective. The degree program continues with an internship, planning/estimating, solar heating theory, schematics, commercial air conditioning and refrigeration, DDC temperature controls, introduction to computers, and electives in social science and behavioral science.

Students in the diploma program complete 34 credits to graduate, and those in the degree program complete 75 credits. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as HVAC, service, and environmental technicians.

  • Location: Mitchell, SD
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $217 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Diploma one year; degree two years

Southeast Technical College

The college offers an HVAC/R Technology degree program. Coursework is presented in classroom lectures followed by hands-on practice in the lab. Students complete 64 credits to earn their degree. The technical curriculum includes basic electricity, basic heating and refrigeration, troubleshooting HVAC, air conditioning installation, service and repair procedures, design and installation, special equipment, heat reclaim and outdoor equipment, split and unitized equipment, high-pressure chillers, troubleshooting and maintenance, and heat pumps.

The non-technical coursework encompasses student success, college math, computers, English communications, speech, and social science. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Sioux Falls, SD
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $249 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Two years

Western Dakota Technical Institute

The school offers an HVAC/R Technology degree program. Students learn via classroom lectures and hands-on practice in a lab. They may also complete an optional internship. The technical coursework includes electricity, HVAC installation, electrical applications, HVAC/R, refrigeration, and specialized HVAC/R equipment. General education requirements include microcomputer software applications, macroeconomics, composition or workplace communication, algebra, technical math, and general psychology or human relations.

Students complete 61 to 64 credits to earn their degree. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as residential HVAC technicians and commercial HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Rapid City, SD
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $283 per credit-hour on-campus; $333 per credit-hour online
  • Program Length: 18 months

Workers in Sioux Falls who cannot attend an on-campus school may find that online institutions can better meet their needs. More information on accredited programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in Sioux Falls, SD

All HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who handle refrigerants are required by Federal law to obtain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. Four certification levels are available based on the type and size of equipment on which a technician works. Technicians must pass an exam for each level, which are:

  • Type I – for servicing small appliances
  • Type II – for servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and automotive air conditioning
  • Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances
  • Universal – for servicing all types of equipment

Details of the criteria for each certification are available on the EPA website.

Various industry organizations provide training and certifications that increase a technician’s employability. Technicians may also obtain their Section 608 certification through these organizations. These include, but are not limited to:

  • HVAC Excellence
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

Further information as to the availability, scheduling, and fees may be found on each website. There is also more information on the HVAC certifications page.

The State of South Dakota does not require HVAC technicians or contractors to be licensed. The City of Sioux Falls requires refrigeration contractors to obtain a license. Applicants must pass an exam based on the International Mechanical Code, submit a $10,000 compliance bond, and pay the required fees. Licenses are valid for two years.

As licensing regulations are always subject to change, HVAC professionals are encouraged to confirm that they comply with current guidelines before starting a project.

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.