How to Become an HVAC Technician in New Mexico
HVAC technicians in New Mexico have a wide range of responsibilities. They install, repair and maintain furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, humidifiers, space heaters, ventilation systems, refrigeration equipment and other indoor climate control technology. Homeowners, business owners, public building managers and landlords all have need of their services, and they may be called on at any time of the day or night when temperatures are extreme and heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration equipment breakdowns occur. [Leer en español]
To be successful in their chosen profession, HVAC technicians must be ready to meet a variety of unique challenges, dealing with complex technology that needs regular service to continue functioning at peak efficiency.
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in New Mexico
New Mexico has no specific training, licensing or certification requirements for those who want to enter the heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration (HVAC/R) profession in the state. Entry-level positions are competitive, however, which gives those who obtain an HVAC degree or certificate first a significant advantage.
Most HVAC technicians have goals higher than just entry-level positions, and to achieve journeyman certification they must have at least 4,000 hours of employment or apprenticeship experience (in most cases). They must also pass subject-specific exams administered by the state
HVAC Apprenticeships and Educational Programs in New Mexico
If you’re interested in entering the HVAC profession in New Mexico, you have three initial options to help launch your career: apprenticeships, entry-level/training positions or educational programs at accredited technical schools.
HVAC apprenticeships in New Mexico are highly competitive due to their relative scarcity. There are several unions that can serve as contact points for those interested in taking the apprenticeship route; most notable is the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 412, which offers up to 10,000 hours of training over a five-year period to applicants who are accepted to their training program. These paid apprenticeships are complemented by 246 hours of classroom instruction, giving aspiring HVAC technicians ample preparation for moving beyond entry-level employment.
Meanwhile, excellent opportunities abound if you’d like to begin your quest for full-time employment by enrolling in a formal training program. New Mexico residents can find multiple sources of HVAC training in various population centers, where one-year certificates and two-year Associate of Applied Science degrees in heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration technology are offered. In HVAC education, schools accredited by either HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) are highly esteemed, and New Mexico has one school accredited by both organizations and another approved by HVAC Excellence.
The schools that carry these prestigious designations are:
- Central New Mexico Community College. Located in Albuquerque, this school offers a 67-credit-hour Associate of Applied Science degree in HVAC Technology that has been approved by both HVAC Excellence and PAHRA, giving it unique standing not just in New Mexico, but across the country.
- Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. On its Roswell campus, ENMU meets the educational needs of aspiring HVAC technicians by offering certificates in Occupational Training in HVAC/R Technology and Commercial Refrigeration, along with a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in HVAC/R Technology.
Other New Mexico institutions that offer high-quality training in the HVAC/R field include:
- Santa Fe Community College (Santa Fe)
- Clovis Community College (Clovis)
- Dona Ana Branch Community College (Las Cruces)
- New Mexico Junior College (Hobbs)
- San Juan College (Farmington)
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in New Mexico
State licensing is required before you advance beyond entry-level HVAC jobs in New Mexico. Licensing procedures are managed by the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, which issues journeyman certificates of competence in various HVAC/R-related disciplines to qualified applicants.
Aspiring HVAC technicians can seek HVAC/R certificates of competence confirming their status as:
- 1. Journeyman gas fitters
- 2. Journeyman refrigeration specialists
- 3. Journeyman plumber and natural gas fitters
- 4. Journeyman boiler operators (low-pressure)
- 5. Journeyman boiler operators (high- and low-pressure)
The first three positions require 4,000 hours of previous experience before you’re eligible to take the journeyman’s exam, while the last two require 1,000 of work in the applicable discipline. Unlike many states, New Mexico does not require aspiring HVAC technicians to serve a four- to five-year apprenticeship to qualify for the journeyman’s exam, although experience on entry-level jobs and apprenticeships can both be used to meet the work requirements.
Testing procedures for these certificates are administered by a third-party contractor called PSI Exams, which schedules exams at five locations: Albuquerque, Farmington, Santa Fe, Roswell and Las Cruces. Applicants must submit notarized proof of work experience plus a $75 fee as a part of their application package. Each certificate obtained is good for three years and must be renewed every three years at the same $75 price (16 hours of continuing education classes are mandatory between each renewal).
As a final requirement, any HVAC technician who plans to work with refrigerants (as the majority will at some point) must obtain Section 608 Certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. HVAC technicians can take an EPA-approved exam to achieve this certification, which may be granted in one or more classifications: type 1 (for servicing small appliances), type 2 (for servicing high-pressure appliances), type 3 (for servicing low-pressure appliances) or type 4 (a universal category that sanctions the servicing of all appliances).
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
Projections Managing Partnership is forecasting a 10.7 percent increase in demand for trained HVAC professionals by the year 2026, which means good opportunities will be available for first-time job seekers with an education, and for more experienced workers who’ve achieved journeyman certification.
In comparison to the rest of the country, salaries for HVAC technicians in New Mexico are below average. The annual mean salary for HVAC workers in the state is $41,820, which is about $8,000 lower than the national figure. Salaries are relatively equal throughout the state, with HVAC technicians in Albuquerque (where half the state’s HVAC workers are employed) earning $42,830 in annual mean wages.
Fortunately, New Mexico also has a lower-than-average cost of living, which helps make it an attractive destination for HVAC job seekers.
Working as an HVAC Technician in New Mexico
New Mexico’s hot summer days and frigid winter nights make heating and cooling systems indispensable to its residents, who have a strong need for the services of trained HVAC technicians and contractors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, available jobs in the United States will increase seven percent between 2016 and 2026, which means the demand for HVAC technicians in New Mexico during that time will be 50 percent higher than the demand for workers in the U.S. economy as a whole.
New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment, and prospective HVAC technicians who complete their degree programs, work for a few years in entry-level jobs and pass all their exams for certification when the time is right should find enchanting opportunities for steady and rewarding employment.