HVAC Education and Training Requirements in Arizona

Undergraduate Education Options

HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) training in the State of Arizona is a multistep process. The first step for aspiring HVAC technicians is to either enroll in a technical program or begin a comprehensive apprenticeship. There are nine HVAC colleges in Arizona which provide specific trade programs in HVAC. The technical training programs typically earn the graduate an associate’s degree or certification and take anywhere from six months to two year to complete. The certificate program is then followed by an abbreviated apprenticeship for hands-on training.

Alternatively, a technician can complete a full apprenticeship which can provide both classroom instruction, which is sometimes delivered online, as well as on the job training. This route typical takes three to five years to complete depending on any degree certificates initially obtained. Depending on the type of degree earned and years worked, the salary of an HVAC technician can be higher or lower.

HVAC technicians who receive formal education and certificates are generally preferred by employers after training, and selected for work over technicians trained solely by apprenticeship.

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The nine technical training programs in Arizona generally require either graduation from high school, or a GED and an SAT score for admission. Typically, students who are enrolled are also at least 18 years of age. Once the training begins, there are a few variations on the trade core curriculum that the technician can choose from. HVAC technicians and engineers all complete general training units covering the fundamental techniques to heating and air conditioning systems including topics like: electrical components, airflow physics, ventilation, blueprint reading, pipefitting, sheet metal work, and plumbing. In fact, all nine Arizona HVAC trade schools include a course that covers certification in heating and air conditioning; and seven out of the nine colleges also offer a course in certification for ventilation. Some programs will also include courses in refrigerant handling and refrigeration systems; technicians who complete these courses may earn HVACR or HVAC&R certificates. Seven out of the nine colleges HVAC programs in Arizona offer courses for certification in refrigeration maintenance technology.

Another option, for those who wish to find work in HVAC control systems, are programs which offer further training in (air-powered) controls and even direct electronics. There are other additional colleges with associate’s degree offerings in electronics or various mechanics degrees that can be used to find work or apprentice opportunities in HVAC. Finally, some programs will also prepare HVAC technicians for work with Solar systems which is highly desirable in Arizona.

After the completion of the associate’s degree program, graduates in HVAC engineering are normally employed as HVAC engineering technicians and assist engineers in the design or retrofitting of HVAC systems for either residential or commercial jobs. HVAC technicians are not required by the State of Arizona to obtain a HVAC license and certification, so they can begin work once hired by a licensed contractor. Employers in HVAC control systems prefer an associate’s degree in electronics, in addition to several years of experience working in HVAC.

Work as an HVAC technician
There is considerable work available for HVAC Technicians in installation, service or repair of heating, air conditioning or refrigeration systems in residences and commercial establishments. Entry-level positions as HVAC Technician, HVAC Service Technician, HVAC/R Service Technician, HVAC Installers, HVAC Apprentices, HVAC Helpers, and other related positions are expected to grow in Arizona in years to come as technology and demand increases. The Projected employment growth rate over the next decade for HVAC Technicians is at 29%.

After four years of work a technician or an apprentice who would like to work as a sole proprietor or individual contractor, or be hired as a journeyman by a corporation, can consider applying to become a licensed contractor. The license is required for any work that will exceed $1000 including all labor and materials.

Becoming a journeyman requires documentation of at least four years of verified HVAC work experience, passing both the HVAC trade and Business licensing exams, payment of licensing and recovery fees and registration and good standing with the Arizona Corporation or Trade Commissions.

Licensing Exams
A license is required if a technician wishes to pursue a career as a commercial or residential journeyman in HVAC, in the State of Arizona. Many technical training programs will also include specific preparation for completing licensing exams. In Arizona, the Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning trade exam content is comprehensive including five major content areas: HVAC system design, HVAC system fabrication, HVAC system installation, HVAC system maintenance, and safety. The program should also include preparation for the Business Management Exam which includes twelve major content areas: business management, Arizona registrar of contractor’s statutes and rules, estimating and bidding, contracts and agreements, project management, insurance and bonding, safety, record keeping and reporting, labor laws and employment regulations, financial management, tax laws, liens, environmental laws and regulations. Completion of both exams is mandatory for a contractor to obtain a license.

Post-graduate Studies
HVAC technicians and engineers can also choose to purse a Bachelor’s Degree or even post-graduate training such as a Master of Engineering or a Doctorate of Philosophy in Mechanical or Electrical Engineering all of which integrate a great deal more research and methodology training. A Bachelor’s degree is typically four years in duration; a Master’s or Doctorate may require an additional 2-6 years of education beyond a doctorate. In terms of research and development of HVAC systems, preference is often given to technicians who hold a higher degree in mechanical or electrical engineering; however some companies will consider significant years of field experience in lieu of formal higher education.

Continuing Education
The HVAC industry is continually growing and accommodating new technologies; therefore, the educational opportunities for a new contractor are not over when the contractor reaches the Master or Journeyman status. Master HVAC contractors and journeymen HVAC mechanics in Arizona can elect to enroll in ongoing and continuing education through some of the same HVAC programs that technicians are training with. However, the state of Arizona does not mandate continuing educational credits for contractors at this time.