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]
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. 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 Apprenticeship and Educational Programs 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.
For aspiring HVAC technicians who want to boost their academic credentials, the state has three technical schools that offer degree or certificate programs:
- 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 section 608 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).
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
Reflecting the state’s relatively small population base, there are currently less than 1,000 HVAC professionals working in South Dakota. But the number of HVAC technicians is projected to rise by 10.4 percent by the year 2026, according to estimates by Projections Managing Partnership, an affiliate of the U.S. Employment and Training Administration.
At the present time, annual mean wages in the HVAC industry in South Dakota are below the national average, at $41,850 per year. But most people employed in the industry work in and around the state’s two largest cities, and here mean wages are higher, peaking at $44, 500 annually in Sioux City.
South Dakota will need more HVAC technicians in the years to come, and that should lead to inevitable increases in wages for those who have skills that put them in demand.
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.