How to Become an HVAC Technician in Montana
HVAC technicians are the workers who make our homes and other buildings warm in winter and comfortably cool in summer. If you’re interested in a new career and don’t want to earn a four-year degree, consider training to become an HVAC tech. Demand is high for qualified technicians in Montana, and training includes a year or less of classwork and paid, on-the-job work experience. [Leer en español]
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Montana
There is no statewide license or specific requirements for working as an HVAC technician in Montana. You will only need to be licensed through the state if you become a contractor and hire other workers. Some local areas in the state have their own requirements and licensing, so it is important to check with the city or county where you hope to work to make sure your training will meet those local requirements.
In general, the way to become an HVAC tech in Montana is to enroll in an apprenticeship program or a post-secondary HVAC program at a college. In either case you will need to have a combination of classroom hours in HVAC topics and hands-on training in order to be hirable for an entry-level HVAC position.
HVAC Programs in Montana
Montana has one program accredited by HVAC Excellence. It’s an online program, so it is accessible to students throughout the state, even in remote and rural areas. HVACRedu.net offers several accredited online programs including commercial refrigeration, NATE-certified HVAC technician and building automation. NATE is North American Technician Excellence, an organization that certifies HVAC workers. NATE certification is not usually required, but it can make you more employable. The online programs offered by HVACRedu.net include the option of spending 10 days at the school’s hands-on training center.
There are also campus-based programs that are not accredited. Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell and Libby offers an apprenticeship program with classes for HVAC and refrigeration. Students take classes in the evening and work and earn in an apprenticeship role during the day. The University of Montana in Missoula offers a certificate program with 12 credits of classes that can be used along with an apprenticeship to learn the trade.
You can find an apprenticeship through Montana’s Department of Labor and Industry. The department will help match you with a local union apprenticeship program, a non-union position or an independent contractor willing to sponsor and train an apprentice
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Montana
The only statewide licensing requirement for HVAC workers in Montana is for contractors. If you work independently or for a contractor you do not need to be licensed. Contractors are licensed when they begin hiring other technicians to work for them. The requirements for this license include purchasing workers’ compensation insurance for each employee and an application fee. The application can be accessed through the Department of Labor and Industry.
Some cities in Montana also require separate licenses for business owners, contractors or both. For instance, Billings requires that all businesses are licensed in the city to ensure business taxes are paid. Construction contractors in Missoula must have a city business license and a contractor license that includes passing a background check.
Any HVAC workers employed to work with refrigeration units and to handle refrigerant materials must be Environmental Protection Agency Section 608 certified. This is required through the Clean Air Act and applies throughout the U.S. You need to pass a test to achieve certification.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
You can expect a great job outlook if you get into the HVAC industry. Jobs in this field are growing at an impressive rate of 15 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The salaries are also highly competitive for HVAC workers due to the skilled nature of the job. Across the country, the average salary is $47,080, but in Montana it is $49,160 per year.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Montana
Look for the greatest job opportunities in the higher population centers in the state: Billings, Missoula, Great Falls and Bozeman. Even in the rural areas of Montana there will be a need for HVAC techs, but these areas will have fewer jobs available.
You can expect to work for a contractor as you start out on your HVAC career, but you may also have opportunities to be employed by the government, by construction companies or by industrial companies. For young people in Montana, this is a great career choice, and jobs are expected to keep growing.