Heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) is a growing job market. In fact, with an expected increase of 13% in the next 10 years, career potential in HVAC is much higher than average. And it’s no surprise, with equally increasing demand of multi-family building units, residents rely on well-trained HVAC technicians to keep their homes comfortable and safe all year round.
Becoming an HVAC technician can mean a stable occupation as an essential worker in a growing industry. The first step is to gain expertise in the HVAC field which can only be acquired from education and training.
A Typical Career Path For HVAC Technicians
Like technicians in other fields, HVAC technicians are required to master complex processes, and more importantly, the skills necessary in order to make a positive impact on the job. While the minimum requirement for beginning a career as an HVAC technician is a high school diploma or GED, most employers prefer applicants to have further education and/or an apprenticeship under their belts.
An example training path for an HVAC technician could look something like this:
- High School: Earn a high school diploma or GED certificate.
- College or Vocational School: Receive postsecondary instruction from technical and trade schools or community colleges. Programs generally last from six months to two years and lead to an associate’s degree.
- Apprenticeship: Learn the trade alongside a highly qualified mentor. An apprenticeship is an on-the-job training program that can sometimes bypass college or vocational training.
- Continued ‘on the job’ training: As the industry continues to evolve, so should HVAC technicians. Continued education is always something to strive for.
The Cost of HVAC Education
Similar to most technical positions, HVAC techs must undergo intensive training to obtain certification. This includes learning the fundamentals of HVAC and how to apply those principles to real-life situations.
A major benefit of choosing this line of work is that you have options for training and education with a wide range of initial costs depending on the level at which you choose to pursue a degree or certificate.
Certificate programs are generally offered by technical schools or community colleges and are shorter than a standard college enrollment, running between 6 and 12 months.
These condensed programs churn out competent, entry-level technicians at a significantly lower investment. Depending on the length of the program and the number of courses included, certificate programs can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $15,000.
Associate’s degrees are offered by colleges and require a two-year commitment. These programs often include a greater number of courses that expand past the HVAC basics. Associate’s degrees typically cost $15,000 to $35,000 with additional fees required for textbooks, software, and other necessary supplies.
Though the expected pay is similar to those who obtained a certificate, an associate’s degree in HVAC gives you a broader understanding of the industry and is especially useful to those who want to advance their career.
HVAC apprenticeships offer hands-on experience under the eye of a master technician. They cost between $500 and $2,000 and take place over the course of 3-5 years.
Many apprenticeships also offer the ability to earn wages once you begin on-site work. Some are accompanied by self-study coursework, which apprentices are required to complete on their own time.
The biggest benefit of an HVAC apprenticeship is that you gain hands-on experience from a mentor in the field and you still have the option to take educational courses on the side.
HVAC Training Cost Across Top States
Just like any training or education program, costs for HVAC training will likely vary depending on the state it takes place in. Let’s take a look at the training costs and job outlook across the five US states that have the highest demand for HVAC technicians:
As the population increases, so does the demand for residential & commercial climate-control systems. Maintenance and repair workers usually remain relatively stable regardless of economic conditions. In California, the number of HVAC technicians is expected to grow faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.
The average salary for an HVAC technician in California is $62,334/year which is 8% above the national salary average ($57,660/year). For those that are looking for HVAC training programs in California, the average in-state tuition is around $7,500.
With NYC being one of the most populated cities in America, there are many employment opportunities, especially in HVAC. Because of the extreme weather conditions throughout the year, the New York State Department of Labor has predicted a 27% increase in HVAC-R jobs.
The average salary for an HVAC technician in New York State is $61,242/year with New York City showing an average of $65,831/year, the highest pay in the state as a whole. New York City is reported to be 15% above the national salary average.
During the summers in Texas, temperatures hit the upper 90s every single day for months at a time. People who live there need cooling equipment installed and cared for now more than ever, meaning HVAC technicians will always be in incredibly high demand.
The average salary for an HVAC technician in Texas is $57,322/year. This salary is neutral to the national average.
According to the State of Michigan DTMP, Bureau of Labor Marketing Information and Strategic Initiatives, employment for heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 8% by 2028. Technicians in Michigan serve an essential role because of the extreme temperature changes that vary by season.
The average salary for an HVAC technician in Michigan is $55,572/year which is neutral to the national salary average. The average cost of going through post-secondary education or an apprenticeship is $5,600 for anyone living in the state of Michigan.
Like Texas, Louisiana also has very hot summers, with an average of around 90 degrees. The need for properly installed air conditioning units and continued maintenance is important to the people that live there.
The average salary for an HVAC technician in Louisiana is $53,736/year which is 7% below the national salary average.
Below you will find an additional breakdown of training costs + facilities by State.
|State||HVAC Tech Average Salary (annually)||HVAC Tech Average Training Cost|
The Cost of HVAC Licensing and Exams
Once you’ve completed the necessary HVAC education, there are required exams and licensing to obtain before you can work in the field independently.
HVAC certification and licensing exams are administered on a state level. This means that factors such as cost, testing location, and the number of tests per year may vary so it’s important to check your state’s requirements.
Licenses for HVAC technicians are determined by various state-level organizations, including Departments of Labor, Licensing/Regulation and Public Health. Most licenses must be renewed on a yearly basis for the following cost:
- $100 to $300 for the first year’s annual fee
- $50 to $150 for every year following the first year
HVAC exam fees vary by state and range from $50 to $150. Some states choose to split this cost into two amounts:
- Application fee: due when you sign up for the exam
- Exam fee: due on the day of the test
It’s important to be aware of rules for licensing in your state as some require retesting every few years due to the evolving nature of HVAC technology.
The Cost of HVAC Certification
The EPA 608 certification is the last step of the initial training process. This certification was made a requirement as part of the passing of the Federal Clean Air Act.
To prove their qualification, HVAC technicians must demonstrate knowledge of regulated refrigerants. These substances – particularly R-22/chlorofluoromethane and R-410A/Puron – can permanently damage HVAC systems and cause significant harm to the environment if they aren’t handled properly.
Obtaining this certification requires passing an exam administered by the EPA. The exam comes in multiple parts, each with an associated fee of between $40 and $240. They include:
- Type I, which certifies you to work with small appliances
- Type III, which certifies you to work with high-pressure systems
- Type III, which certifies you to work with low-pressure systems
- Universal Certification, which applies to any HVAC system, but can only be taken if you have completed the previous three Types
Luckily, the EPA 608 certification does not expire. Once you have passed there is no need to retake it.
Minimize HVAC Training Costs with Interplay Learning
Preparing for your HVAC licensing, exams and education can be a long, expensive process. Luckily, online HVAC training courses are a cost-effective way to boost your knowledge and continue your ongoing training.
SkillMill™ allows you to learn in the way that works best for you, choosing between informative videos, online courses, and hands-on VR-based simulations and practice scenarios that give you real-life experience completely risk-free. With the help of SkillMill™, passing your licensing and certification exams with flying colors can become a reality.