How to Become an HVAC Technician in Alaska
Heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems are more commonly known as HVAC or HVACR systems. These systems maintain a comfortable, climate-controlled atmosphere in buildings and homes. The mechanics who install, maintain and repair these systems are called HVAC technicians or HVAC techs. HVAC techs may do routine maintenance on systems, diagnose and repair problems or install new systems. Performance checks are done on systems during their off-season to ensure they are ready for the upcoming season. These systems frequently need to be serviced, sometimes need repairs and eventually need to be upgraded. Therefore, the profession of an HVAC technician remains high in demand. [Leer en español]
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Alaska
All HVAC technicians are required to have EPA Section 608 certification to purchase and handle refrigerants. This is the only certification that is required nationally to work as an HVAC technician. However, many states require certification or licensing to work as an HVAC tech and Alaska is one of those states. In Alaska, the profession of HVAC technician falls under the division of mechanical administration and is regulated by the Alaska Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing.
It varies by state, but many states do require either completion of a formal educational training program or an apprenticeship prior to taking the statewide certification exam. Work experience is preferred by many employers as well, so completing an apprenticeship or training program is a good idea.
HVAC Apprenticeship and Educational Programs in Alaska
Before applying for statewide certification in Alaska, you must first complete an apprenticeship or an accredited HVAC training program. Apprenticeships generally last about five years, but you receive work experience and classroom instruction while getting paid to work. Most HVAC educational programs can be completed in one to two years, but some are as short as six months.
If you are considering an apprenticeship, Alaska has a few options for you. The Local 367 Training Center in Anchorage has a very successful apprenticeship program. Before you can apply to the program you must pass a reading test, a locating information test and a math test. You must also be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. This program consists of 10,000 hours of on-the-job training, which is equivalent to at least five years. A minimum of six weeks of classroom training is required each year as well. The training costs are covered by the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee, and students are responsible for book and licensing fees.
The Local 23 area union has chapters in Anchorage and Fairbanks that offer apprenticeship and journeyman upgrade training programs. In the past five years, this program has doubled the number of apprentices trained. This is a four-year program. If neither of these unions are near you, consider looking for local unions in your area and see if they have apprenticeship programs available.
For those who would like to complete an educational program instead, Alaska has one program that is accredited by the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). This program is offered by the Alaska Vocational Technical Center in Seward. This full-time certificate program runs from January to May, annually. You can choose a focus in Refrigeration Technician, Refrigeration Repair or Refrigeration Assistant Repair. While in this program, students will also receive 10 hours in OSHA construction safety certification, training for EPA 608 certification and first aid and CPR training.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Alaska
EPA Section 608 certification is mandatory for HVAC technicians and is provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This certification has four subtypes, which determine what appliances you will be working on. Type 1 certification is for small appliances; Type 2 is for high pressure appliances; Type 3 is for low pressure appliances; and Type 4 is universal.
To apply for statewide certification, you must meet one of the following requirements:
- Have at least four years’ work experience as a journeyman in HVAC and sheet metal work
- Have a degree from an accredited college or university plus at least one-year of work experience in HVAC and sheet metal work
- Be registered in the state as a mechanical engineer
Additionally, applicants must pay a $50 application fee and show proof of completing an HVAC training and adequate work experience. They must then take and pass the mechanical administrator exam. This exam will test the applicant’s ability, knowledge and skill as well as their familiarity of statewide codes. A passing score is 70 percent. The license fee is $250 and must be renewed biannually.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
The Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) reported that 370 HVAC technicians were employed in Alaska in 2016. By 2026, the PMP predicts there will be 380 HVAC techs working in the state, which is a 3 percent increase.
Alaska is the second highest paying state for HVAC technicians in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), HVAC techs in Alaska made an average of $30.79 hourly and $64,040 annually in 2017. The highest earners in the state made as much as $81,580.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Alaska
Alaska is known for its cold and dark winters and humid and warm summers, making a climate-controlled system highly popular in buildings and homes throughout the state. These systems will need to be maintained and updated in the coming years, creating a continued need for HVAC technicians in the state.
In Alaska, the highest numbers of HVAC workers can be found in Anchorage. The top-paying areas in the state are Anchorage and Fairbanks. While the growth rate for HVAC technicians in Alaska is not as high as it is most states, the need for HVAC techs in the state is there and will continue to be there in the future.