How to Become an HVAC Technician in North Carolina
HVAC technicians are trained experts in heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration (HVAC/R) systems and technology. They can install, repair or service all types of indoor climate control equipment—plus supporting infrastructure—in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. In their role as customer service agents, they can help clients choose the right HVAC/R products for their particular needs, and they are available to provide assistance at any hour of the day or night when emergency services are required. [Leer en español]
The need for quality HVAC technicians in North Carolina is growing, and options for training are extensive and widely available.
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in North Carolina
Entering the HVAC/R field in North Carolina is a progressive process. You’ll begin your training in an educational program, formal apprenticeship or entry-level position, and work your way up by gaining experience and passing exams to obtain licenses in various specialties.
North Carolina has many technical schools and community colleges that offer HVAC/R instruction, and most job seekers will combine academic work with direct experience for a period of four years or more before testing for more advanced licensing.
HVAC Apprenticeship and Educational Programs in North Carolina
The path to licensure for most prospective HVAC technicians in North Carolina frequently includes apprenticeships, either alone or in combination with academic study in the field.
The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association sponsors HVAC apprenticeships through an organization called the PHCC Academy of North Carolina. These apprenticeships are four years long and require 2,000 of work experience and 146 hours of complementary online instruction annually.
Other sources that may offer apprenticeships in North Carolina include Associated Builders and Contractors—Carolinas Chapter and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. Individual HVAC contractors or companies often list apprenticeship opportunities on Internet job sites, giving you even more chances to gain essential experience in the field.
Most people who choose to enter the HVAC profession in North Carolina include academic training in the preparation plans. In HCAC/R education, carrying accreditation from HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) is universally recognized as a sign of quality, and two schools in North Carolina have gained this recognition:
- Guilford Technical Community College. Located in Jamestown, GTCC has the only HVAC/R program in the state accredited by HVAC Excellence. Its 66-credit Associate of Applied Science degree takes five semesters to complete, and Guilford also has a 46-credit diploma program suitable for those who plan to transition to an apprenticeship after graduation.
- Pitt Community College. This school in Winterville has been recognized by PAHRA for the quality of its HVAC/R training program. PCC offers a comprehensive two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in air conditioning, heating and refrigeration technology.
North Carolina has approximately three dozen schools throughout the state that offer one-year and two-year HVAC degree programs. Some of the more notable include:
- Asheville-Buncombe Technical College (Asheville)
- Blue Ridge Community College (Flat Rock)
- Cape Fear Community College (Wilmington)
- Coastal Carolina Community College (Jacksonville)
- Central Piedmont Community College (Charlotte)
- Fayetteville Technical Community College (Fayetteville)
- Forsyth Technical Community College (Winston-Salem)
- Wake Technical College (Raleigh)
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in North Carolina
State licensure is desirable for aspiring HVAC technicians in North Carolina, since failing to acquire it will likely limit you to entry-level positions with low pay and restricted job responsibilities.
Most HVAC-related licenses are awarded by the North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinkler Contractors. The specific licenses issued by the Board are separated into three work categories:
- Heating Group 1: Water-based climate control equipment and systems
- Heating Group 2: Heating and cooling equipment and systems with a capacity of more than 15 tons
- Heating Group 3: Heating and cooling equipment and systems with a capacity of less than 15 tons
To qualify for a technician’s license, you’ll need to demonstrate that you’ve completed at least 3,000 hours of an apprenticeship or entry-level work in the related field. However, if you’ve earned an Associate of Applied Science degree, your work/apprenticeship requirements may be reduced to 1,500 hours. You’ll also have to pass an exam prepared for Heating Group 1, 2 or 3, depending on the license you’ve decided to pursue. These licenses must be renewed annually, but there are no continuing education requirements connected to the renewal process.
Before you can start working with any type of refrigerants, you’ll have to qualify for EPA section 608 certification. Sanctioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), section 608 certification is awarded after you pass an exam in one of four categories, depending on the types of appliances you plan to service: type 1 (for small appliances), type 2 (for high-pressure appliances), type 3 (for low-pressure appliances) or type 4 (for all appliances that use refrigerants).
If your work involves commercial refrigeration installation, repair and maintenance, you’ll also have to obtain a refrigeration contractor license through the North Carolina State Board of Refrigeration Examiners. To qualify you’ll need at least 4,000 hours of previous commercial refrigeration experience, and you’ll also have to pass an associated exam.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
The number of available jobs in the HVAC/R field in North Carolina is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years. Projections Managing Partnership, an affiliate of the U.S. Employment and Training Administration, has predicted job growth of 16.4 percent between 2016 and 2026, with the current job total of 13,890 (as of 2017) rising to more than 15,000 by the latter year.
According to numbers compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVAC jobs in North Carolina pay less than the national average. The mean annual salary for an HVAC technician in the state is $42,580, which is about $7,000 less per year than the annual mean salary across the country.
Wages are somewhat better in the Charlotte and Raleigh metropolitan areas, however, where nearly 40 percent of the state’s HVAC workers are employed. In Charlotte, the annual mean salary as of 2017 was $44,140, while in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area annual mean wages are even higher, at $46,600.
Given the rapidly accelerating need for HVAC technicians in North Carolina, wages will likely rise across the state and move closer to the national average as time passes.
Working as an HVAC Technician in North Carolina
Summers in North Carolina are hot and humid, making air conditioners indispensable, while winters are cold enough in most locations to require regular use of furnaces or heat pumps. Consequently, the services of trained HVAC technicians will always be required, in cities, small towns and rural communities throughout the state.
North Carolina is one of the five fastest-growing states, meaning its population will continue to expand and the need for HVAC technicians will continue to increase right along with it. The time has never been better to enter the HVAC/R field in North Carolina, and if you choose this career path your odds of finding high-quality employment should be excellent.