How to Become an HVAC Technician in Arizona
People who choose careers in heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration (HVAC/R) technology receive extensive training that allows them to service, repair and install air conditioners, furnaces, heat pumps, space heaters, evaporative coolers and boilers of all makes and models. They become experts at monitoring and maintaining the complex gas, electrical and refrigeration systems that keep HVAC equipment functioning in the most challenging weather conditions—which are often experienced in Arizona. [Leer en español]
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Arizona
Initial employment as an HVAC technician in Arizona will require completion of an approved apprenticeship or educational program, or some combination of both. This involves several thousand hours of detailed instruction that will give you the background you need to find work in this field.
Your odds of success will increase dramatically if you pursue professional licensure through the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. Four years of experience working as an HVAC technician is required before you can apply for such a license, which will allow you to work in more specialized areas, or become an independent HVAC contractor if you so desire.
HVAC Apprenticeship and Educational Programs in Arizona
Apprenticeship opportunities for aspiring HVAC technicians can be found in all areas of the state and may be offered by labor unions, established HVAC companies or municipal authorities. The Arizona Apprenticeship Office, which is affiliated with the Arizona Department of Economic Security, keeps an active listing of the HVAC apprenticeships that are currently available, but you can also find apprenticeship opportunities on your own by approaching individual contractors or companies.
You also have the option of pursuing a degree in HVAC studies from a community college or technical school, either alone or in addition to serving an apprenticeship. Programs of study accredited by either HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) are especially popular with students seeking approved HVAC training.
Your educational choices in Arizona include:
- GateWay Community College. At its Central City Campus in Phoenix, GateWay’s PAHRA-accredited program offers three options for those interested in pursuing a career as an HVAC/R professional: an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Air Conditioning/Refrigeration/Facilities, a Certificate of Completion in Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Facilities, and a Certificate of Completion in Residential and Light Air Conditioning. The two-year AAS degree requires 65-71 hours for completion, while the certificate programs require from 22 to 47 credit-hours to complete.
- Arizona Western College. This school in Yuma offers two one-year certificates in two specialties relevant to aspiring HVAC technicians—Air Conditioning and Refrigeration and Basic Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Service. Arizona Western also offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Air Conditioning with a STEM emphasis, for those who want more extensive preparation before seeking employment.
- Mohave Community College. With campuses in four cities, Mohave Community College serves a multitude of Arizona residents, including those who plan to pursue careers in heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration. At Mohave, HVAC students can choose from two 18-credit HVAC certificate programs with Residential or Commercial concentrations, or they can pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree in HVAC and Refrigeration Technology.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Arizona
There is no licensing or certification required for entry-level jobs in the HVAC/R field in Arizona. However, your chances for advancement might be limited if you don’t eventually acquire a specialized license.
The minimum experience required to apply for an HVAC license in Arizona is four years on the job, and there are three licensure options to choose from:
- C-39: Air Conditioning and Refrigeration. This license is primarily for residential work, for those who plan to specialize in the installation, modification and repair of refrigeration and evaporative cooling systems. Having a C-license also qualifies a person to work with solar energy technology.
- C-49: Commercial and Industrial Refrigeration. This license covers the installation, modification and repair of refrigeration systems used to process, store or display food or other perishable items in commercial/industrial settings.
- C-58: Comfort Heating, Ventilating and Evaporative Cooling. Having this license allows a person to install, modify and repair gas furnaces, space heaters, warm-air heating systems, ventilation systems and evaporative cooling units.
In addition to having at least four years of experience with HVAC/R technology, you’ll need to pass a specific exam tailored for each license. You must possess one or more of these licenses to work on any project with a cost higher than $750 (which covers all installations and a significant percentage of repairs).
One other stipulation is that you must carry official Environmental Protection Agency certification to work with refrigerants, such as those used as coolants in air conditioners. This is known as EPA 608 certification, and to receive it you’ll have to pass an exam for one of four categories: Type 1 (for servicing small appliances), Type 2 (for servicing high-pressure appliances), Type 3 (for servicing low-pressure appliances) or Type 4(for servicing all appliances that use refrigerants)
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
The demand for HVAC technicians in Arizona is going through a period of rapid expansion, with growth rates that are three to four times greater than in most other states. Projections Management Partnership estimates that available jobs for HVAC/R workers will surpass the 11,000 mark by 2026, which represents an astounding 41.6 percent increase from 2016. This will make Arizona a prime employer for HVAC technicians in the region and one of the most dynamic markets for the industry in the country.
As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017 there were 8,020 HVAC workers in Arizona, earning an annual mean wage of $46,440. Mean wages are highest in the Phoenix metropolitan area, at $47,440 annually—with Tucson not far behind at $46,450—and these urban areas feature the highest concentration of jobs.
While wages for HVAC technicians in Arizona are currently below the national average, they should rise appreciably in the coming years, thanks to the rising demand for HVAC labor for highly-qualified job applicants.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Arizona
Extreme summertime heat combined with cold desert nights (especially during the winter) are a reality that all Arizonans must face, and consequently their need for the services of trained HVAC repair and installation experts will never decline.
It takes time to become an HVAC technician, but with the right preparation and the motivation to work hard it is an achievable ambition. Few states are experiencing more dynamic job growth in the HVAC field than Arizona, and if you would like to become an HVAC technician in Arizona a wealth of opportunities await.