The demand for HVAC technicians is rapidly growing, especially in Florida, where just about everyone has air conditioning. Project Central predicts that Florida will see an increased need for HVAC professionals by almost 27% between 2016 and 2026 creating an additional 8,700 job positions across the state. This means that Florida is an ideal place to get training and enter the expanding field of HVAC because HVAC worker salary is increasing.
HVAC/R stands for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration. HVAC techs work on cooling and heating systems for large and small companies, in commercial and residential settings. Some HVAC techs choose to become self-employed and start their own companies.
An HVAC/R technician may choose to work in all aspects of the industry including installing new equipment, diagnosing problems and repairing the equipment, and working with refrigerants. Others may opt to specialize in one aspect, such as boilers or solar.
Once you decide to enter the field and decide to apply to accredited HVAC schools in FL, there are some things you should consider before you begin your search. This article will provide you with information that will help you find the right path and the best training school to reach your goals.
- Demand for HVAC Technicians in Florida is High
- Accredited HVAC Schools in Florida
- What Are HVAC Certificates?
Demand for HVAC Technicians in Florida is High
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for HVAC technicians will grow by 13% from 2018 through 2028 and Florida has more HVAC workers than any other state in the country. Becoming an HVAC tech in Florida will provide you with high demand, stable, employment. And HVAC worker salary is at an all-time high.
HVAC Worker Salary in Florida
HVAC techs in Florida make an average of $43k annually with a range of about $30k for entry level workers to over $75k for experienced workers. With HVAC techs in short supply, you can expect some overtime which will increase your annual earnings. Some cities in Florida have higher or lower average annual salaries for HVAC techs. Here’s a link providing average HVAC workers income in Florida cities.
How to Become an HVAC Tech in Florida
Your first step is to earn a high school degree or an equivalent, such as a GED. The next step is to apply to accredited HVAC schools in Florida and earn an Associate’s Degree in HVAC/R. These schools will provide you with the proper training and preparation you will need to work in the industry.
You can find HVAC training programs at community colleges, trade or vocational schools, universities, and even through on-line programs. It will take about 2 years to earn an Associate’s Degree, although some schools offer accelerated programs which allow you to complete your education sooner.
Another option is to apply for an apprenticeship through a union or trade association. Apprenticeships can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years to complete. In many cases, employers who are offering the apprentice program will pay for your education to accredited HVAC schools in FL.
Accredited HVAC Schools in Florida
The best advice is to select an accredited HVAC training school. Further in the article we will cover a number of things to consider when making your selection which will help you find the HVAC training school that works best for you.
If you’re ready to find accredited HVAC schools now, use our handy Pick HVAC school finder tool. Use your zip code to find the best HVAC schools near you.
Cost of HVAC Training Schools in Florida
The tuition cost for a 2 year Associate’s Degree in HVAC will range between about $5,500 at a community college to about $17,000 at a university or vocational trade school. However, because HVAC tech salary in Florida is growing, your education is really a great investment in a good-paying career.
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The most common degree is the Associate’s Degree which usually takes 2 years to complete, although some schools offer accelerated programs allowing you to complete the degree in less time. An accelerated schedule means you will be doing the same amount of work in a shorter period of time, so it can be intense, and probably not the best choice if you plan to have a job while attending school.
Later in the article we will cover some of the basic subject matter you will learn during your Associate’s Degree training in the section titled “HVAC Training School Curriculum”.
You can also continue your education and attain a Bachelor’s Degree, which is the highest degree available in HVAC. A Bachelor’s Degree generally takes 4 years, or 2 additional years after attaining your Associate’s Degree. Bachelor’s Degree classes will expand on what you’ve already learned, as well as, covering more advanced topics like environmental impacts, energy audits, and alternative heating and cooling sources. Prospective employers will be impressed with a job candidate who holds a Bachelor’s Degree, as only 5% of HVAC technicians earn it so it will definitely help you land a well paying job.
What is an HVAC Engineer?
An HVAC engineer is someone who has a Master’s Degree in engineering with a course concentration in HVAC. This degree will teach you how to find solutions to today’s energy concerns, to actually design and develop new heating, cooling, and refrigeration systems, and oversee their installation.
How Necessary or Helpful is a Degree?
A degree is certainly helpful, and more often than not, necessary, to get you to stand out in the job pool. The world of HVAC/R is becoming more complex and high-tech with new innovations emerging regularly, including smart technology, geothermal technology, energy storage systems, and new refrigerants.
Employers want technicians that have shown an ability to study, learn, and apply their knowledge. A degree will show an employer that you have the desired skill set to fill the job.
Companies and unions that offer apprenticeships are beginning to consider applicants with degrees before those without degrees. They want employees with the proven capacity to understand the basics, quickly learn, and use their knowledge, and having an Associate’s Degree will let them know you can accomplish what’s required.
Keep in mind that an apprenticeship can take 3-5 years to complete and an Associate’s Degree only takes 2 years. An HVAC tech with a degree can expect to earn about 25% more than one without a degree and many states allow some of the HVAC training school hours to apply toward your journeyman certification.
During our education you will also learn skills which will help you in real-world situations like how to create and sustain good customer relations, managing priorities, how to use valid and reliable research strategies, and the basics of self-employment, if you choose that direction.
What Are the Advantages to Earning an HVAC Degree?
One of the advantages of earning your degree at an HVAC training school is that you will have a choice of job opportunities. A degree will put up at the top of a prospective employers applicant list. A degree will make you more eligible, for more and better jobs, and will help you earn a higher salary than those without degrees.
An HVAC degree will give you the opportunity to work in just about any city in the country. Earning an EPA 608 certificate, certifying you to work with refrigerants, will further increase your job prospects.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVAC systems are now so high-tech, complex, and rapidly changing, employers are considering job applicants with HVAC degrees before those with apprenticeships. The changes in the industry are fueled, in part, by the demand to meet The Department of Energy standards for energy conservation and greener practices. Holding a degree from one of the accredited HVAC schools in FL shows that you have the skills needed and are capable of making the effort to understand the latest trends and technology and apply them in the field.
How to Choose the Best HVAC Training Schools in FL to Consider
Following we’ve compiled a list of things you’ll want to consider when deciding on which HVAC training school to apply to.
- Find out what kind of degrees are available. The most recommended degree is an Associate’s Degree in HVAC or Applied Science with an HVAC concentration.
- Get basic information about the school including if it is HVAC accredited. We’ll outline accreditation and its importance later in the article
- Be careful of schools that only offer certificate programs as those schools will only teach what is needed for specific certifications.
- Make sure the school is conveniently located and easy to get to from home. If you plan to work during your training, the school should also be fairly close to your job.
- If you will be working during your training, look for a school that offers classes in the evenings or on weekends might be helpful.
- If you’re considering an on-line training school, find out how and where they provide the hands-on labs you will need.
- Look at the tuition cost and determine if it’s affordable. If needed, will the school assist you in finding a student loan, a grant, or other financial aid? Find out how and when tuition payments are due.
- Ask to review the HVAC curriculum. Does the coursework appear thorough and interesting? Does the school include training in refrigerants and prepare you for the EPA 608 (refrigerant) certification?
- Get information on the instructors in the program. Have they, or do they currently work in the industry? It’s often a better learning experience if your instructors have worked in the field they are teaching. Do the instructors keep up with trends and innovations taking place in HVAC/R?
- Ask about student to teacher ratios in the classroom, but especially in the labs. The smaller the class size, the more one-on-one time you will have with your instructors.
- Sitting in on a class and talking with the students can tell you a lot about a school. Is the instructor able to clearly convey the material? Ask the students if the school is meeting their expectations.
- You can even inquire about the school’s reputation. There is plenty of information on-line like school rankings and ratings. You might even check with the HVAC school accrediting organization, Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) for their recommendations. Contact them here.
- Finally, ask if the school provides any employment assistance. Does the school work with any trade organizations or HVAC companies to offer paid internships or apprenticeships during your schooling? Does the school help you find employment after you graduate? Some schools actually provide job guarantees.
The Importance of Choosing Accredited HVAC Schools in FL
Accreditation means that a school has been reviewed and approved by a third party, non-governmental, accrediting organization, and has proven to meet established standards of educational excellence and competence.
Accredited HVAC schools will provide you with the knowledge and necessary skills for employment in the HVAC/R industry. It also means that the school will teach you government regulations surrounding climate control and how to provide and maintain quality customer service. If an HVAC training school has earned accreditation, you can be sure that the school is legitimate and holds international credibility.
Partners for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) is the most common accrediting organization in the HVAC industry. HVAC Excellence is another accrediting organization. The responsibility of these organizations is to assure that students will get the needed training to become successful in their careers.
Learn more about the importance of considering accredited HVAC schools.
Pro Tip: Use the Pick HVAC’s HVAC/R School Finder to locate the top HVAC schools in Florida and those close to where you live. See HVAC schools in Miami, Orlando, Tampa / St. Petersburg, Tallahassee and other major Florida areas.
HVAC Training School Curriculum
HVAC/R training school curriculum will cover all aspects of heating and air conditioning, including their systems, how to install, maintain, troubleshoot and diagnose problems, and repair them. You will learn about various motors, fuel sources, and duct work. Your classes will cover the latest trends and advances, understanding energy efficiency, and about government rules and regulations.
HVAC Education Classes
This section covers some of the typical classes and subject matter you should expect in HVAC training school. Your educational time will be spent both in the classroom and in hands-on learning labs.
Your classes will provide an overview of the basics of HVAC systems, including the operational principles of the equipment. You will learn to install, maintain, and repair all types of systems, both residential and commercial.
Some of the subject matter you will encounter includes:
- Becoming familiar with the tools used in the HVAC trade
- Electricity in HVAC systems
- Mechanical operations of HVAC systems
- Motors, wiring, circuits, thermostats
- Understanding air flow
- How to calculate, size, and install ductwork
- Proper safety procedures, codes, ordinances, EPA standards, and OSHA regulations
- HVAC components such as compressors and condensers
- Various fuels including natural gas, petroleum, steam, hot water
- Heat Pumps, boilers, zone systems
- Reading blueprints and schematics
- Energy fundamentals and energy conservation
What Are HVAC Certificates?
You will need to earn some certifications to allow you to do specific types of work. You can study for and earn some certificates without earning a degree but your knowledge will be limited and will not be a substitute for a well-rounded HVAC education. In the next section we will provide further details about certification.
Differences Between HVAC/R Licenses and Certifications
HVAC Certification and Licensing are not the same things and have different purposes. A license is always issued by a government office and states that you have passed an exam and are qualified to practice a profession. In Florida, you only need a license if you wish to become self-employed as an HVAC contractor which is described below.
Earning certifications is a voluntary procedure where you will need to take a test to verify your knowledge and ability about specific aspects of the industry. Certificates in Florida are often provided by the HVAC training school and include HVAC Assistant and HVAC Technician.
While earning certificates is generally optional, some employers will require you to hold specific certificates for employment. Certifications act as professional credentials and make you more valuable to prospective employers. Following are the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) certifications:
- EPA Type I Certification - For servicing small appliances, air conditioners, domestic refrigeration, vending machines
- EPA Type II Certification – For servicing high pressure systems, residential air conditioning and refrigeration units, heat pumps
- EPA Type III Certification – For servicing low pressure systems, chillers
- Universal EPA Certification – Covers all of the above
- EPA 608 Certification (Refrigerants)
The EPA 608 Certification is required for any technician who maintains, services, repairs, or disposes of appliances that contain regulated refrigerants. Passing the exam will provide assurance that you understand the refrigerants and the refrigerant cycle and are qualified to work in that capacity.
Both HVAC certification and licensing are important, so plan to achieve both during the first years of your HVAC career.
Some additional certifications are provided through industry organizations like NATE, North American Technician Excellence, which is the nation’s largest non-profit certification organization for HVAC. NATE is owned, operated and supported by the entire HVAC/R industry and participation is voluntary. Following are some of the certificates that they offer:
- #1) Ready to Work Certification
- #2) HVAC Support Technician
- #3) NATE Certification: Core and Specialty Tests
- #4) Senior Level Efficiency Analyst Certification
- #5) Certified HVAC Professional (CHP-5)
Get more information on the NATE website.
Contractors Licenses in Florida
If you wish to become self-employed and start your own business in the HVAC field in Florida, you will need to acquire one of the following licenses:
- Class A Certified Air-Conditioning Contractor
- A Class A allows you to install, maintain, and repair heating and cooling systems of any size and also allows you to work anywhere in the state.
- Class B Certified Air-Conditioning Contractor
- A Class B allows you to install, maintain, and repair heating systems if the heating capacity per unit is below 500,000 BTU’s and cooling systems if the cooling capacity is less than 25 tons. You are also allowed to work anywhere in the state.
- Registered Air-Conditioning Contractor (Class A or B)
This license allows you to work on either size heating and cooling systems but in a designated local area only.
HVAC Licensing Requirements
To get any of the above licenses you must have at least 4 years of experience. If you have a 2 year Associate’s Degree, you will need 2 additional years working in the field. You will also need to carry HVAC business insurance, have a credit score of 660, and provide proof that you do not have any bankruptcies, liens or judgments against you.
HVAC/R Professional Organizations
Professional organizations can provide you with information including educational resources, training information, testing assistance, employment opportunities, and networking opportunities. Below is a list of some of these organizations, including Florida chapters, where available:
- Florida Air Conditioning Contractor Professional Alliance
- American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
- Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA)
- Women in HVACR
- International Institute of Refrigeration
ONet stands for the Occupational Information Network and is a free on-line site containing occupational definitions, tasks, necessary technical skills and knowledge, and expected work activities for each industry.
The site also includes wages by state, wages for some cities in the state, on-line job openings, and other information sources. Here is the link to the ONet HVAC page.