How to Become an HVAC Technician in Oregon
HVAC technicians are the skilled trade workers that install, maintain and repair ventilation, air conditioning and heating systems in homes and commercial buildings. To become an HVAC worker in Oregon, you need to take courses to learn the foundational knowledge of HVAC systems and work as an apprentice to get on-the-job training for a few years. There are multiple paths you can choose to take to become licensed in the state, but all can result in a great career with a stable and good income. [Leer en español]
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Oregon
Oregon requires that HVAC technicians have a license through the state. To be eligible for a license, and therefore to begin working and earning in HVAC, you have to take classes and receive hands-on training. The state does not outline exactly how you have to meet these requirements. You can choose to complete a certificate or degree program at a community college, for instance, and then train with a contractor. Alternatively, you can skip college and enroll directly in an apprenticeship program that includes both hands-on training and coursework.
HVAC Programs in Oregon
Oregon has no programs that are accredited by HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation. These are the standard accrediting agencies, but Oregon is home to several non-accredited programs that can help you meet your goal of becoming an HVAC technician:
- Portland Community College, Portland. Portland offers a Facilities Maintenance Technician degree, which teaches students how to work on HVAC systems and refrigeration. The school also has a certificate program in the same subject, which takes less time to complete, and a certificate for installing HVAC and refrigeration systems. Any of these programs can be followed by apprenticeship training for a career in HVAC.
- Chemeketa Community College, Salem. Students at Chemeketa can choose to complete a program that provides on-campus classes as well as an apprenticeship through the Mid-Valley HVAC/R JAT Committee, a local union training committee. This program provides everything needed to be licensed upon completion.
- Lane Community College, Eugene. This program also prepares students to become licensed HVAC workers when complete. Lane offers classes on campus and an apprenticeship with a local contractor.
Another way to get the classroom hours and on-the-job work experience needed to work in HVAC is to find an apprenticeship through unions and non-union organizations throughout the state. Oregon’s Apprenticeship and Training Division lists the apprenticeship committees that offer HVAC programs. Requirements for all of these programs are that you are 18 years of age when training begins, that you have a high school diploma or GED, and a C grade or better in one year of algebra.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Oregon
Licensing of HVAC technicians and contractors in Oregon is conducted through the Construction Contractors Board. There are two levels of licensing. The first is the Limited Maintenance Specialty Contractor license. This is for any qualified HVAC worker who has completed the appropriate hours of classroom time and at least 8,000 hours of work experience. There is no test to pass, only a fee and application to complete to get licensed.
The next level is the contractor license, which allows you to hire other HVAC workers. Getting this license requires passing an exam and also taking an additional 16 hours of coursework related to construction contracting. You will also need to have liability insurance and workers’ compensation for any employees.
Most HVAC programs in Oregon include training in refrigeration. To work with refrigerants, you must be licensed through the Environmental Protection Agency. Called section 608 certification, this license requires passing an exam.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
Expect to find work easily as a qualified HVAC technician. Growth in this field is much stronger than average job growth across the U.S. Jobs in HVAC are growing at a rate of 15 percent. Salaries are strong, too, and for HVAC workers in Oregon the average annual income is greater than the national average at $50,980. With experience or as a business owner you have the potential to earn even more than this.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Oregon
The working environment for HVAC techs can be pretty physically demanding and even dangerous. There are risks for accidents and injuries, but these are minimal if you know and follow safety guidelines.
Most HVAC technicians work for building or HVAC contractors, but some may be hired by government or public agencies or private companies. In Oregon, your greatest opportunities for employment will be in Portland, Salem and Eugene, but jobs are available throughout the state.