How to Become an HVAC Technician in Georgia
Are you interested in a stable, well-paying trade career in Georgia? You may want to consider becoming an HVAC technician. An HVAC technician (or tech) is a skilled professional who is responsible for the installation, repair and upkeep of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems found in residential, commercial or industrial spaces. They also work on the components (fans, pipes, wiring, etc.) of HVAC systems and make sure that systems are up to code and running efficiently. This is a profession that is high in demand nationally, but especially in Georgia with the current boom in the construction industry. [Leer en español]
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Georgia
There is no national certification required to work as an HVAC technician; however, many states do require that HVAC techs be certified or licensed on a statewide level. In Georgia, HVAC technicians performing work that totals $2,500 or more must apply for an HVAC contractor state license through the Georgia Board of Conditioned Air Contractors.
As in most states, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or equivalent to seek work as an HVAC technician. Many employers will prefer to hire someone who has work experience, and this is also a requirement for licensure. Attending an educational program is optional but can also count toward the work experience needed for state licensure.
HVAC Programs in Georgia
HVAC technicians must have at least four years of work experience under their belt before applying for a Georgia HVAC contractor license. This can be done by completing either an apprenticeship program or an accredited educational training program.
If you have chosen to gain your experience through apprenticeship, consider checking with trade organizations and unions within the state. Some of them, like the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) of Georgia, offer apprenticeship programs. A PHCC apprenticeship consists of 2,000 hands-on training hours and 160 lecture hours, which can be completed in four years.
If you have chosen the traditional educational route, Georgia has a few colleges that offer accredited HVAC training programs. The two main accreditation agencies for the HVAC field are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). It is not mandatory that the program you complete be accredited. But, completing an accredited program will guarantee that you receive the proper training needed for this career. Additionally, most accredited HVAC programs include EPA Section 608 certification training.
- West Georgia Technical College. West Central Technical College has several options for those seeking training in the HVAC field, including four certificate programs (Air Conditioning Electrical Technician, Air Conditioning Repair, Air Conditioning Technician Assistant and Heat and Air Conditioning Installation Technician) and a diploma program in Air Conditioning Technology. The certificate programs can be completed in approximately six months (one semester), and the diploma program can be completed in two years. These programs are accredited by PAHRA.
- Georgia Piedmont Technical College. Georgia Piedmont Technical College has several career path options in air conditioning technology. You can choose from an Air Conditioning Technician Assistant or Air Conditioning Electrical Technician technical certificate, both of which are six-month programs. Georgia Piedmont also offers a diploma and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Commercial Refrigeration, as well as a diploma and AAS degree in Air Conditioning Technology. The diploma and AAS degree programs can generally be completed in 18-24 months. These programs are accredited by PAHRA.
- Gwinnett Technical College. Gwinnett Technical College has four Air Conditioning Technology programs to choose from. These include a diploma in Air Conditioning Technology and technical certificates for the following: Air Conditioning Electrical Technician, Air Conditioning System Maintenance Technician and Refrigeration System Service Technician. The diploma program can be completed in two years, and the certificate programs can be completed in one year. If you are interested in getting the Refrigeration System Service Technician certification, you must complete the diploma program first. All programs are accredited by PAHRA.
- Coastal Pines Technical College. Coastal Pines Technical College offers a variety of HVAC Excellence programs that prepare students to work in the air conditioning field. They have a two-year diploma program in Air Conditioning Technology and a one-year certificate program in Air Conditioning Repair. They also offer the following certificate programs: Air Conditioning Electrical Technician, Air Conditioning Technician Assistant, Advance Commercial Refrigeration and Residential Air Conditioning Technician. Each of these programs can be completed in one to two semesters (less than a year). You must earn your diploma in Air Conditioning Technology before you can enroll in the Advanced Commercial Refrigeration certificate program.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Georgia
The Clean Air Act states that all HVAC technicians who purchase, handle or even dispose of refrigerant materials must be certified. This certification is known as EPA Section 608 certification and is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. You must take an exam to get this certification, which never expires.
There are four categories to this certification and which one you acquire is contingent upon what type of appliances you will be working on. They are:
- Type 1—for small appliances that contain less than five pounds of refrigerant
- Type 2—for high pressure appliances, including split systems
- Type 3—for low pressure appliances
- Type 4—universal, allowing you to work on all appliances
To get your Georgia HVAC contractor’s license, you must have Type 2 certification or higher.
There are two levels of state licensing available to HVAC technicians in Georgia, Class 1 and Class 2. Class 1 is a restricted license, and you must have four years of experience. Class 2 is unrestricted, and five or more years of work experience is required. Working as an apprentice qualifies as work experience.
Additionally, if you have completed a certificate or diploma program, that will count toward up to two years of work experience. You must also pass the open book exam and pay the exam and license fees. Georgia has a reciprocal agreement with Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas, meaning that if you have an HVAC license in one of these states you may be exempt from taking the Georgia exam. This license must be renewed biannually, and eight hours of continued education credits are required for renewal.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
As new buildings and homes continue to be built and because HVAC systems need ongoing maintenance and updates, and generally need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years, the job outlook for HVAC technicians is positive. The Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) predicts that there will be a 14.9 increase in the number of HVAC workers in the state of Georgia between 2016 and 2026.
Data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that HVAC workers in the state were making an average of $20.62 an hour and $42,890 annually. Some parts of the state have higher pay rates for HVAC technicians than others. HVAC techs in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell region, as well as in Gainesville, Rome and Savannah, had salaries higher than the statewide average in 2017.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Georgia
HVAC technicians in Georgia may find work in residences, businesses, schools and hospitals. They may find work through a contracting company; however, those with a contractor’s license may choose to run their own business. The climate in Georgia is hot and humid especially in the summer, therefore HVAC technicians should have no problem finding work throughout the state. However, the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell region is where the highest number of openings can be found.
Becoming an HVAC technician or contractor in Georgia is a wise career move, as it is a financially rewarding career and the growth rate for workers in this job field continues to remain high.