How to Become an HVAC Technician in North Dakota
HVAC technicians may be called on at any time, day or night, to check or repair malfunctioning air conditioners, furnaces, heat pumps, radiant heaters and other climate modification equipment. They are trained to diagnose problems that might indicate heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration (HVAC/R) systems are near breakdown and in need of partial or complete replacement. HVAC technicians are also trained in the art of installation, and they can design installation plans for heating and cooling systems that are customized for any size or style of home or commercial or industrial building. [Leer en español]
Extreme temperatures and sudden weather events are the rule rather than the exception in North Dakota, creating a steady and consistent need for the services of highly skilled HVAC technicians.
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in North Dakota
To secure employment as an HVAC technician in North Dakota, you’ll need thorough training and preparation. Most HVAC technicians learn how to service, repair and install HVAC equipment through a combination of education and practical, hands-on experience, the latter of which can be gained by serving an apprenticeship with an HVAC contractor.
While licenses are not required for many entry-level positions in the HVAC field in North Dakota, your chances of finding a job in the industry will be maximized if you seek licensing as a journeyman in the community where you plan to work. If you have four years or more of apprenticeship or educational experience, you’ll be eligible to take an exam to gain journeyman’s status, which will allow you to perform most if not all duties normally associated with heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration work.
HVAC Apprenticeships and Educational Programs in North Dakota
HVAC contractors in North Dakota frequently take on apprentices, and you may be able to find opportunities by contacting these potential employers directly. You can also search for openings on online job sites, where such positions are frequently advertised. If you pursue a degree in HVAC/R studies, the technical school you attend can put you in touch with HVAC contractors who have been known to offer apprenticeships.
One organization that connects potential apprentices with HVAC contractors is the Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local Union 10, which is active in Minnesota and both Dakotas. These apprenticeships are four years long and include more than 8,000 hours of work and 180 hours of classroom instruction each year, and this type of intensive program of learning will prepare you well for any career path within the HVAC/R field.
Educational programs in HVAC studies are another way to gain invaluable knowledge and experience, and it is common for aspiring HVAC technicians to combine education with shorter-term apprenticeships.
There are two institutions of higher learning in North Dakota that offer degree programs in HVAC/R studies. Both are highly regarded and have produced many working professionals employed by HVAC contractors in North Dakota and elsewhere. These schools are:
- North Dakota State College of Science. Providing comprehensive classroom instruction on two campuses in Wahpeton and Fargo, NDSCS offers both a 36-credit, one-year certificate option and a 73-credit, two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in HVAC/R Technology.
- Bismarck State College. Located in the city of Bismarck, the college has diploma, certificate and Associate of Applied Science degree programs in HVAC studies, to fit the needs of a variety of aspiring HVAC technicians. To graduate, you must complete 60 credits in two years if you choose the diploma or AAS options, and 44 credits in a year-and-a-half if you’d like to obtain a certificate.
Technical schools accredited by either HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) are in high demand in many states, but in North Dakota there are no educational institutions that carry such accreditation.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in North Dakota
There is no statewide licensing procedure for HVAC technicians in North Dakota. Once you’ve been trained, you are encouraged to apply for entry-level positions anywhere in the state, and assuming your record is good that should get you started in the field.
However, if you want to advance in your career and take on more than basic responsibilities, you should take the initiative to upgrade to journeyman status as an HVAC installer or mechanic. To qualify for this designation in the city where you work, you must have either four years of experience as an apprentice or two years of experience plus an Associate of Applied Science degree from a school with an accredited HVAC/R program. You must also pass an examination that establishes your readiness to assume the duties required of the position you seek.
In the city of Fargo, which is the largest employer of HVAC technicians in the state, you can take an exam to gain journeyman status as a gas installer or heating mechanic, assuming you have the prerequisite experiences in the field. It is possible to become licensed as a master mechanic or installer once you gain further experience, and this will be necessary if you plan to strike out on your own as an HVAC contractor.
In addition to meeting local requirements, EPA section 608 certification is mandated for any HVAC technicians in North Dakota who plan to work with refrigerants (which includes most, since refrigerants are used in air conditioners). Four types of certification are available, depending on your previous experience and planned specialty: Type 1, for small appliances; Type 2, for high-pressure appliances; Type 3, for low-pressure appliances; and Type 4, for all appliances that use refrigerants.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
North Dakota employed 830 workers in HVAC-related positions in 2017, and compensating for population size this actually makes the state fertile ground for prospective HVAC technicians. With a projected job growth rate of 12.6 percent between 2016 and 2026 (as estimated by Projections Managing Partnership), qualified applicants will be in great demand in North Dakota over the next several years.
And here’s some more good news for job-seekers who plan to enter the HVAC field: annual mean wages in the state for HVAC workers are significantly higher than the national average, at $57,860 (compared to $49,530 for HVAC workers across the United States). Wages are especially high in Fargo, the state’s largest city, where more than 50 percent of North Dakota’s HVAC technicians are employed. Here annual mean wages are $63,940, making the Fargo area a prime destination for aspiring HVAC workers in the region.
Working as an HVAC Technician in North Dakota
In the northern United States, weather conditions can be severe, especially in winter when temperatures often plunge to absurd depths. In North Dakota, HVAC technicians perform a vital and necessary service, keeping homes comfortable and safe year-round, and if you choose a career as an HVAC technician here your work will be highly appreciated (not to mention well-compensated in most locations).
North Dakota needs more highly-trained HVAC experts, and that could be your ticket to personal success and a financially rewarding career.