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. Below we provide details of HVAC schools in Alabama. [Leer en español]
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Alabama
To handle refrigerants, all HVACR technicians must have a refrigeration certificate. Certification and licensing 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 technicians in heating, ventilation and air conditioning 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 HVACR technician. Most certifications or state licenses will require education, work experience or a combination of both as a prerequisite to taking their exam.
HVACR technicians need to have good problem-solving skills to figure out what is wrong with a system and how to fix it. They should also be able to follow instructions, whether they are reading a manual or following the directions of a more experienced technician. They should be physically fit enough to lift heavy objects, such as air conditioners, and to work in small spaces in order to safely install or repair HVAC systems.
HVAC mechanics and installers typically work full time, and their schedules might include evenings and weekends. Many technicians also have to be on call for 24-hour emergency services.
There are two ways that aspiring HVAC techs can enter the profession: through a postsecondary educational program or an apprenticeship.
HVAC program topics may include:
- Heating systems
- Air conditioning systems
- Electrical controls
- Ventilation systems
Apprenticeship training programs for HVAC technicians last three to five years and combine on-the-job experience with classroom instruction. During an apprenticeship, HVAC techs learn safety procedures, blueprint reading, mathematics and the principles of refrigeration.
Licensing requirements for HVAC technicians in Alabama are overseen by the Alabama Board of Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Contractors. The board has determined that all individuals wishing to work as an HVAC contractor in Alabama must pass an examination administered by a nationally recognized testing organization. The board has also determined that all applicants for licensure must have at least four years of experience in the HVAC field.
There is no state licensing requirement to work as an HVAC technician in Alabama. Many technicians, however, choose to become certified through nationally recognized organizations such as HVAC Excellence or the EPA’s Section 608 Certification Program.
Applicants for licensure as an HVAC contractor in Alabama will need to submit the following items to the board:
- A High School Diploma or GED
- A completed application for licensure
- The appropriate application fee
- Documentation of at least four years of experience in the HVAC field
- A passing score on a nationally recognized examination for HVAC contractors
HVAC technicians in Alabama are required to renew their licenses every two years. The renewal fee for an HVAC contractor license is $100
HVAC technicians must have a refrigeration certificate. Certification and licensing is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Other than this certification, there are no other national requirements for certification
HVAC Excellence is a national organization that offers certification for HVAC technicians. There are three levels of certification offered by HVAC Excellence:
- Certified Technician (CT)
- Senior Certified Technician (Sr. CT)
- Master Certified Technician (Mstr. CT)
To become a certified technician, an individual must have at least two years of experience in the HVAC field and must pass a test administered by the organization. To become a senior certified technician, an individual must have at least four years of experience in the HVAC field and must achieve a passing score on an examination given by the firm. To become a master certified technician, an individual must have at least six years of experience in the HVAC field and must demonstrate expertise in an evaluation arranged by the organization.
HVAC Excellence also offer specialty certifications such as Green Awareness, Residential Heat Load Analysis, and Heat Pump Service.
Apprenticeships and HVAC Schools in Alabama
Prior to gaining HVAC certification or becoming licensed as a technician through an HVAC school in Alabama, you must receive proper training. This is usually achieved through completing either an apprenticeship or an educational program at an accredited tech school. 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 training programs offered in Alabama. Students can consider the following HVAC programs:
- 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 Community College. Located in Hanceville, Wallace State also offers certificate and Associate in Applied Science 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.
- Gadsden State Community College. Refrigeration program at Gadsden State Community College is a certificate program that can be completed in one year. This program is accredited by HVAC Excellence. Gadsden State offers an AAS degree in Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration as well. This is a two-year program that is PAHRA accredited.
- Bishop State Community College. Located in Mobile, Bishop State offers a certificate program and an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program in air conditioning technology. The certificate program consists of 30 credit hours, and the AAS degree program consists of 72 credit hours. This is a PAHRA accredited program.
- Remington College. The Mobile campus of Remington College offers a diploma program in welding technology. This is a 36 credit hour program that can be completed in as little as 15 months.
- County Career Technical Center. Some counties in Alabama offer career technical centers that provide HVAC training. These programs typically last one year and lead to a certificate of completion.
Financial aid may be available to students of these schools who qualify. Contact the financial aid office at the school you are interested in attending for more information.
Alabama HVAC training programs are available at many technical colleges, community colleges and vocational schools throughout the state. The following programs have been approved by the Alabama Board of Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Contractors
- Jefferson State Community College
- Lawson State Community College
- Shelton State Community College
- Trenholm State Community College
- Virginia College
Central Alabama Community College does not currently offer a heating, ventilation and air conditioning program.
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.
Alabama Power also offers a four-week HVAC pre-apprenticeship program at it’s HVAC Career Training Center to help prepare students for an apprenticeship.
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 completed training 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.
Online training programs are not currently available in the state of Alabama.
Job Opportunities and Salary Expectations
According to the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP), there were 6,150 HVAC techs working in Alabama in 2018. That number is expected to increase by 12 percent in 2028, meaning there should be approximately 6,870 HVAC techs employed in the state by that time.
Nationally, HVAC techs made an annual average of $48,630 in 2021, 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 $22.57 hourly and $46,940 annually in 2021. The highest earners in the state made as much as $75,100. Salary can also depend on location within the state. HVAC techs in Decatur made an average of $51,010 in 2017.
Entry level employment opportunities for HVAC techs are expected to be good, and experienced technicians should have little trouble finding work. Many job openings will come from the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation. There may also be opportunities for those with experience in other trades, such as electricians or plumbers, to transition into this field.
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.
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 financially rewarding career that generally takes two years or less to complete training for, consider working as an HVAC technician in Alabama.