How to Become an HVAC Technician in Alabama
HVAC technicians, also called HVAC techs, are responsible for performing maintenance, inspecting, repairing and installing many types of heating, ventilation and cooling systems. They might install new systems or diagnose problems in existing systems. Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) systems are more complex than they used to be, so most HVAC techs either complete a postsecondary educational program or work as apprentices. [Leer en español]
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Alabama
To handle refrigerants, all HVAC technicians must be certified in refrigerant handling. This certification is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Other than this certification, there are no other national requirements for certification or licensure to work as an HVAC technician. However, the profession is regulated at a state level, with many states requiring licensure. Alabama is one of the states that does require that HVAC technicians be licensed. This licensure is regulated by the Alabama Board of Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Contractors.
Postsecondary education or on-the-job training through apprenticeship is recommended to work as an HVAC technician. Most certifications or state licenses will require education, work experience or a combination of both as a prerequisite to taking their exam.
HVAC Apprenticeship and Educational Programs in Alabama
Prior to gaining certification or becoming licensed as an HVAC technician in Alabama, you must receive proper training. This is usually achieved through completing either an apprenticeship or an accredited educational training program. Apprenticeships generally last from three to five years, and educational programs can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete. Educational programs can be accredited through either HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). There are several accredited HVAC educational programs offered in Alabama. Here are a few options to consider:
- J.F. Drake State Community & Technical College. Drake State in Huntsville offers both a certificate program and an Associate of Applied Technology (AAT) degree program in heating and air conditioning technology. The certificate program consists of 29 credit hours, and the AAT degree program consists of 72 credit hours. Most associate degree programs can be completed in two years. This program is accredited by HVAC Excellence.
- Wallace State Community College. Located in Hanceville, Wallace State also offers certificate and Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree programs in HVAC/R. Both are accredited by HVAC Excellence. The associate degree program is a two-year program, while the certificate program can usually be completed in a year or less.
- Bevill State Community College. Bevill State in Sumiton offers an AAS degree program that is PAHRA accredited. This is a two-year program. Bevill State also offers a long-term and short-term certificate program. The long-term program consists of 33 credit hours, and the short-term program consists of 28 credit hours.
If you are interested in going the apprenticeship path, Le Croy Career and Technology Center in Clanton offers a two-year HVACR training program that is not accredited but includes an internship. You can also check with licensed HVAC technicians in your area to see if they are willing to take on an apprentice or check for local job postings online.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Alabama
All HVAC techs who will be handling refrigerants are required to hold Section 608 EPA certification. There are four subtypes to this certification, which determine what types of appliances HVAC techs can work on: type I (small appliances), type II (high pressure appliances), type III (low pressure appliances) and type IV (universal). Most HVAC educational training programs offer Section 608 EPA exam preparation.
To become licensed as an HVAC technician in Alabama, you must pay an exam fee of $150.00, as well as provide proof of apprenticeship or completion of an HVAC education program. If you do not have an apprentice certificate you must show proof of at least 3000 work hours under a licensed HVAC technician. The exam is given in the cities of Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery. A passing score is at least 66.25 percent. Once you have passed the exam, you will be licensed in the state of Alabama.
Alabama accepts applications by reciprocity from HVAC techs who are licensed in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia. To apply for a reciprocate license, you must pay $165.00 if you have an active license or $82.50 if you have an inactive one. To maintain licensure, you must complete four continued education credits annually.Alabama Power offers HVAC training courses that can be completed in two to four days and can be used as continued education hours.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
According to the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP), there were 5,700 HVAC techs working in Alabama in 2016. That number is expected to increase by 13.6 percent in 2026, meaning there should be approximately 6,470 HVAC techs employed in the state by that time.
Nationally, HVAC technicians made an annual average of $49,350 in 2017, according to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). HVAC techs in Alabama have lower salaries than the national average, but the cost of living in Alabama is lower than most states as well. HVAC techs in Alabama made an average of $19.70 hourly and $40,970 annually in 2017. The highest earners in the state made as much as $60,760. Salary can also depend on location within the state. HVAC techs in Decatur made an average of $51,010 in 2017.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Alabama
You will most often find HVAC techs working for HVACR residential or commercial companies. You may also work under an independent contractor who has started their own business. After gaining many years of work experience, you may wish to run your own business as well.
In Alabama, Birmingham employs the most HVAC technicians, and Decatur is the highest paying city. Other cities that employ high volumes of HVAC techs include Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa. High-paying cities in Alabama include: Decatur, Dothan, Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa.
If you are interested in a career that is financially rewarding and generally takes two years or less to complete training for, consider working as an HVAC technician in Alabama.