How to Become an HVAC Technician in Minnesota
Becoming an HVAC technician means learning the skills necessary to repair, maintain and install HVAC heating and cooling equipment plus supporting infrastructure, including ductwork, vents, gas or refrigeration lines and thermostats. [Leer en español]
HVAC technicians combine electrical and mechanical skills with detailed knowledge of the inner workings of HVAC equipment, giving them advanced abilities to diagnose all types of malfunctions. In addition to their repair work, they must be creative enough to solve any challenges that might complicate installation of new systems in homes, businesses or other locations.
In Minnesota, where dramatic seasonal changes in temperature are an inevitable fact of life, trained HVAC technicians will always be needed, and the demand for their services is expected to grow in the years ahead.
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Minnesota
The state of Minnesota has no official licensing requirements for HVAC technicians. However, most municipalities in Minnesota do have certification requirements, and these must be met before you can seek employment.
You will be assessed based on your working experience, educational background and your scores on exams that covers topics related to your specialty. If and when you receive certification, that should allow you to work in other cities as well as your current home base.
Extensive training and on-the-job experience are necessary for entry-level employment in the HVAC field in Minnesota, and these can be gained through apprenticeship and/or education. Most aspiring HVAC technicians try to combine classroom learning with direct hands-on experience, and in fact you will need both to be granted journeyman’s status during the certification process
HVAC Apprenticeships and Educational Programs in Minnesota
Serving an apprenticeship is an excellent way to gain practical experience in the HVAC/R field, and plenty of opportunities are available with private HVAC contractors in Minnesota. You should be able to find openings by approaching companies directly, or in response to online ads; apprenticeships are especially common in the Twin Cities area, where 60 percent of the state’s residents live.
One reliable source of HVAC apprenticeships in Minnesota is through a program sponsored by the Pipefitters Local Union 539. Their five-year apprenticeships provide more than 8,000 hours of on-the-job experience plus an additional 1,000 hours of classroom instruction, and those who complete their assignments will be supremely prepared for employment in the HVAC/R field.
Educational opportunities for aspiring HVAC technicians abound in Minnesota. Three of its technical schools have been accredited by the prestigious HVAC Excellence, which guarantees thorough preparation for those who enroll in HVAC degree programs.
These schools are:
- Hennepin Technical College. On both its Brooklyn Park and Eden Prairie campuses, Hennepin Technical College offers a two-year Associate of Arts degree in Heating, Ventilation, Cooling and Refrigeration.
- Dunwoody College of Technology. This Minneapolis-based school boasts a 100 percent placement rate for graduates of their HVAC/R program, which offers two-year Associate of Applied Science degrees in HVAC Installation and Residential Service and HVAC/R Systems Servicing, plus a one-year certificate program in HVAC Installation.
- Minneapolis Community and Technical College. At MCTC, students can obtain a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree or an 18-month diploma in HVAC/R systems and technology.
Overall, there are at least 15 technical schools in every region of Minnesota that offer one-year and/or two-year degree programs in HVAC/R studies, all of which produce graduates who go on to obtain employment in the profession.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Minnesota
There are no state-level licensing or certification requirements or standards for working in the HVAC/R field in Minnesota. Instead, municipalities must assume responsibility for assuring that HVAC technicians are qualified before giving them permission to carry out certain duties related to their profession.
Some entry-level work can be carried out without being certified, but the lack of certification would place limits on your potential for advancement.
Nearly 60 percent of HVAC technicians in the state are employed in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, and these two cities issue certificates of competence, or competency cards, to people working for HVAC contractors. Through the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development and the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspection, certification is available in categories such as:
- Warm Air
- Fuel Gas Fitter
- Steam and Hot Water
- Oil Burner
To be certified at the journeyman’s level, in addition to passing the relevant exam (with a score of 70 percent or higher) you must have at least four years of working experience (apprenticeship or entry-level employment) and have completed at least one year of instruction in a technical school with a formal HVAC program. Alternatively, you can apply to take the competency exam if you’ve been employed in the HVAC industry for seven years or more, regardless of your educational or apprenticeship experience.
Before gaining permission to work with refrigerants anywhere in the United States, you must obtain EPA section 608 Certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. You’ll need to pass a special examination to receive this important designation, and depending on your duties you’ll have four 608 certification options to choose from: type 1 (to service small appliances), type 2 (to service high-pressure appliances), type 3 (to service low-pressure appliances) or type 4 (universal, to service all appliances).
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state employed 3,440 people in the HVAC/R industry in 2017. Projections Managing Partnership has predicted a 10 percent growth rate in HVAC jobs in Minnesota by the year 2026, which means as many as 3,800 jobs may be available in the field by that time.
Thanks to Minnesota’s dynamic economy, annual mean wages for HVAC workers in the state are approximately $6,000 higher than the national average, at $55,160 per year. In every region of the state, mean wages are above the $50,000 mark, topping $58,000 in Duluth and $57,500 annually in the Twin Cities metro area, where the majority of the state’s workers are employed.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Minnesota
In Minnesota, winter is heating season, summer is air conditioning season, and spring and fall both have days where temperatures rise high or low enough to justify the use of heating or cooling equipment. Consequently, the call for trained and experienced HVAC technicians in Minnesota will inevitably remain strong, putting you in an advantageous position if you choose this intriguing career path.
Opportunities in the HVAC field are widely available in Minnesota, and in this region they represent good jobs at excellent wages. With ample training opportunities available, you should be able to gain the skills and expertise you need to successfully compete for a position.