How to Become an HVAC Technician in Wisconsin
HVAC technicians are trained specialists who repair, install and maintain heating and cooling equipment, ventilation systems and refrigeration systems, in residential, commercial and industrial settings. Their work requires detailed knowledge about the function and design of HVAC and refrigeration technology and supporting infrastructure, and they are often summoned to perform emergency repair services in extreme weather conditions. [Leer en español]
Before seeking employment, aspiring HVAC technicians must go through formal training programs that combine direct field experience with classroom learning.
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Wisconsin
Before launching a career as an HVAC technician in Wisconsin, you must complete a formal training or educational program, the latter of which is likely to last for up to two years and will include the awarding of a certificate, diploma or associate degree. Alternatively, you may complete an extensive apprenticeship program, which will provide you with several thousand hours of on-the-job training.
Outside of initial registration, there are no statewide requirements for securing employment as an HVAC technician in Wisconsin. However, county and municipal authorities often have individual licensing and qualification requirements that must be met to work in those jurisdictions.
HVAC Apprenticeship and Educational Programs in Wisconsin
Apprenticeship programs offer thorough and in-depth training in heating, air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration repair, service and installation. Local HVAC employers often have apprenticeship options, but that is not the only possibility—the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development sponsors an expansive an Environmental Systems Technician/HVAC Installation Technician apprenticeship program, organizing placements through individual contractors, private companies, trade associations and local unions in every region of the state.
These apprenticeships last for five years and involve a minimum of 9,000 hours of field work, combined with 730 hours of classroom instruction. To qualify for an Environmental Systems Technician/HVAC Installation Technician apprenticeship in Wisconsin, you must be at least 17 years old, have a high school diploma or the equivalent and possess the physical capacity to perform all duties associated with HVAC and refrigeration work.
As an alternative to serving a long-term apprenticeship, you can qualify for employment by completing an academic program through a community college or technical school that features intensive HVAC training. Programs that have been accredited by either HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) are highly recommended, although Wisconsin does not currently have any programs accredited by the former.
Its PAHRA-accredited programs are offered at four institutions:
- Blackhawk Technical College. Located in Janesville, Blackhawk Technical College offers a two-year technical diploma certifying competence in the installation and services of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R) technology.
- Moraine Park Technical College. On its West Bend campus, Moraine Park Technical College awards a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree to aspiring HVAC/R professionals who complete all assigned coursework.
- Chippewa Valley Technical College. Located in Eau Claire, CVTC offers a two-year associate degree in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration.
- Western Technical College. At WTC in La Crosse, aspiring HVAC professionals can obtain a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration.
Other options include two comprehensive training programs offered by two technical schools:
- Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. This technical school in Green Bay offers a Technology Associate Degree in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration to those who successfully complete 65 credit-hours of approved study over a two-year period.
- Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. Located in Shell Lake, WITC offers a two-year, 55-credit-hour technical diploma program to qualified applicants.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services requires prospective HVAC employees and independent contractors to register with the state, through the submission of an application accompanied by a $160 fee. While further application procedures can be required by city or county governments, aspiring HVAC technicians can be certified to work anywhere in the state by seeking approval from Wisconsin’s HVAC qualifier program.
To be officially certified as an HVAC qualifier, you will need four prior years of apprenticeship, employment or educational experience, or some combination of the above. After submitting your application plus $100 in fees, you must successfully pass an examination administered by the Department of Safety and Professional Services to receive an HVAC qualifier designation.
Before handling refrigerants, HVAC technicians must pass a credentialing exam developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to receive EPA Section 608 certification through that organization. Four subtypes of certification are available, for those who plan to work with small appliances (Type 1), high-pressure appliances (Type 2), low-pressure appliances (Type 3) or with all appliances that use refrigerants (Type 4).
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
The demand for HVAC technicians in Wisconsin is expected to rise approximately 11 percent by the year 2026, when nearly 6,000 jobs will need to be filled by trained workers (5,320 people were employed in the industry in 2016). While concentrations of workers are higher in urban areas, the need for HVAC and refrigeration services is universal in the state, and consequently employment opportunities are available in all regions and municipalities.
According to figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average mean annual salary for HVAC technicians in Wisconsin is $50,520, which is slightly above the national average. The highest wages are paid to those who work in the Milwaukee metropolitan area, where the annual mean salary is $59,010.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Wisconsin
The climate in Wisconsin features sharp contrasts in temperature between the hottest days of summer and the extreme cold of winter. Wisconsin residents must rely on their heating and cooling systems to moderate indoor temperatures for more than half the year, which ensures that employment opportunities for newly-trained HVAC technicians will remain robust for the foreseeable future.
While jobs are most plentiful in the metropolitan areas of Wisconsin’s two largest cities, Madison and Milwaukee, every community and rural location in the state is served by HVAC contractors and technicians If you are interested in a career that offers steady, reliable employment options and relatively easy entrance into the field, you should strongly consider becoming an HVAC technician in Wisconsin.