How to Become an HVAC Technician in South Dakota

With one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, South Dakota is a destination that holds much promise for job seekers in the heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration (HVAC or HVAC/R) industry. [Leer en español]

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HVAC technicians learn to service, repair and install a full range of indoor climate control equipment, including furnaces, air conditioners, space heaters, humidifiers, heat pumps and other such appliances. With the proper education they will become expert troubleshooters, able to diagnose and repair breakdowns, malfunctions and failures of all types in HVAC systems. As their skills develop, they will become installation experts as well, learning how to customize installation procedures to fit any client’s needs and any building’s architectural characteristics.

Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in South Dakota

Entrance into the HVAC field in South Dakota is unconstrained by state licensing or certification prerequisites. Municipal authorities may require licensing in some instances, but their requirements are usually far more stringent for prospective contractors than for employees.

Nevertheless, you should have some type of advanced training in the HVAC field before you apply for a full-time job. Apprenticeships can give you the experience you need, as can HVAC degree or certification programs that mix hands-on learning with classroom preparation.

HVAC program topics may include:

  • Climate control systems
  • Cooling technology
  • Commercial, Industrial and residential heating
  • Energy efficiency

Most aspiring HVAC technicians in South Dakota prefer a combination of both, since that helps them develop a well-rounded knowledge base and skill set.

HVAC Schools in South Dakota

HVAC apprenticeships can provide you with several thousand hours of direct experience in HVAC/R service and technology, and they are a standard way of learning in the field.

The South Dakota Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors should be your first stop in your search for HVAC apprenticeship opportunities. They keep an active list of available openings and can provide you with contact information for their member companies if you’d like to approach them directly.

Under the auspices of a SDAPHCC apprenticeship, you can take an exam to achieve journeyman status after completing 8,000 hours of work, which is a way to upgrade your status and improve your prospects for promotion. Shorter apprenticeships may be available, if you’d like to combine this experience with educational pursuits.

South Dakota HVAC schools that offer degree or certificate programs include:

  • Mitchell Technical Institute (MTI). Located in the city of Mitchell, MTI enrolls HVAC students in one-year (diploma) and two-year (Associate of Applied Science) programs that combine classroom study and lab experience in all aspects of heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration work.
  • Southeast Technical Institute (STI). On its Sioux Falls campus, Southeast Technical Institute offers a one-year diploma program that introduces students to the essentials of HVAC/R service and repair, while their two-year Associate of Applied Science degree features instruction in the installation and design of HVAC systems.
  • Western Dakota Tech. This Higher Learning Commission-accredited institution in Rapid City gives HVAC students ample opportunity to gain hands-on experience with HVAC/R technology, and they supplement this training in their 18-month AAS degree program with targeted and comprehensive classroom instruction.

The most prestigious HVAC programs are often accredited by either HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), and in South Dakota the HVAC programs at MTI and STI have been approved by the former.

Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in South Dakota

The licensing requirements for HVAC employers and employees in South Dakota are administered at the local level, and there may be some variation between municipalities.

In Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s largest city (and home to about 40 percent of the HVAC workers in the state), entrance into the field as a technician requires no special certification. However, if you plan to transition from HVAC technician to contractor, you will need to pass a Master Mechanic’s exam first, and you’ll need at least 8,000 hours of working experience spread out over four years before you become eligible to apply for Master Mechanic status.

In Rapid City, which is home to nearly 30 percent of South Dakota’s HVAC contractors and employees, the Building Inspection Division issues licenses in three categories—mechanical apprentice, mechanical installer and mechanical contractor. Before you can transition from apprentice to installer, or from installer to contractor, you’ll have to pass a special examination, in addition to meeting the work requirements (which prescribe four years of previous experience in the field).

Licenses must be renewed every two years, and to make sure you remain up-to-date on the latest developments in HVAC technology you’ll need to take six hours of continuing education classes during each two-year period.

In addition to meeting local requirements, you will have to qualify for EPA Certification before you can handle refrigerants used in HVAC/R systems. Exams prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can be administered in one of four categories: type 1 (servicing small appliances), type 2 (servicing high-pressure appliances), type 3 (servicing low-pressure appliances) or type 4 (universal, for servicing all appliances).

See EPA section 608 certification for more information.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

The salary data for Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers (49-9021.00) in South Dakota, as compared to the national average, reveals that the state offers competitive wages for this occupation. In South Dakota, these professionals earn an average annual salary of $50,520, slightly below the national average of $51,390. The salary range in South Dakota extends from $37,860 at the 10th percentile to $85,860 at the 90th percentile, indicating a broad range of earning potential based on experience, specialization, and other factors.

National vs. South Dakota Salaries for HVAC Technicians

Location Annual Low (10%) Annual Median Annual High (90%)
United States $36,170 $51,390 $82,630
South Dakota $37,860 $50,520 $85,860

Salaries by Region in South Dakota for HVAC Technicians

Region Annual Low (10%) Annual Median Annual High (90%)
East South Dakota nonmetropolitan area $37,250 $49,550 $84,240
Rapid City, SD $38,020 $51,230 $86,650
Sioux City, IA-NE-SD $36,660 $53,910 $79,200
Sioux Falls, SD $38,710 $54,030 $85,860
West South Dakota nonmetropolitan area $35,640 $48,920 $91,870

HVAC Trends in South Dakota

In South Dakota, the employment outlook for Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers (49-9021.00) is positive, with a projected growth of 10% from 2020 to 2030. The number of employees in this occupation is expected to increase from 1,280 in 2020 to 1,410 by 2030. Annually, there are projected to be 140 job openings in South Dakota for this occupation during this period, which includes openings due to both industry growth and replacements. This growth rate is higher than the national average growth rate of 6% for the same period, indicating a strong demand for HVAC technicians within the state.

Employement Trends

Aspect South Dakota United States
Employment (2020 for SD, 2022 for US) 1,280 employees 415,800 employees
Projected Employment (2030 for SD, 2032 for US) 1,410 employees 438,800 employees
Projected Growth 10% 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings (2020-2030 for SD, 2022-2032 for US) 140 37,700

Sources of data:

  • For employment trends and projections: Projections Central’s 2020-2030 long-term projections.
  • For national employment and wage data: The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 2022-2032 employment projections.

Working as an HVAC Technician in South Dakota

South Dakota’s low unemployment levels are helping to draw more people to the state, which is good news for aspiring HVAC technicians interested in putting down roots in Sioux City, Rapid City and all parts in between.

Wherever people live in South Dakota, HVAC services are required, by homeowners, business owners and industrial employers alike, because of the extremes in temperature and weather conditions experienced by those who reside in the Upper Midwest. Wintertime heating and summertime air conditioning are mandatory for survival in South Dakota, and that substantially increases your chances of finding employment in the state’s heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration industry, once you take the time to acquire the skills you need to thrive.

Search HVACR Certified Technician Programs

Get information on HVACR Certified Technician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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How do I become an HVAC technician in South Dakota?

  • 1. Check with local authorities on relevant requirements.
  • 2. Gain HVAC knowledge through career training and/or an apprenticeship.
  • 3. Take an exam to meet requirements for handling refrigerants, if applicable.
  • 4. Gain entry-level HVAC technician employment.

How much do heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earn in the state of South Dakota?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers in the state of South Dakota made an average of $47,660 per year in 2019. Entry-level heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earned around $30,290 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $68,080.

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