The number of jobs for HVAC technicians throughout the state is projected to rise by 13.3 percent over the decade leading up to 2024.The Alabama Department of Labor (DOL)Alabama is unique in that it allows you to take the HVAC exam and become a certified contractor as soon as you graduate from an HVAC technical school program or period of on-the-job training without having to first spend years in the field in an entry-level position or working your way up through multiple licensing phases.
This means that if your goal is to work independently or establish a small shop of your own, you have a unique opportunity to fast track your career goals and start making more money sooner as a trusted contractor, authorized to install and service HVAC systems.
With all the new construction taking place in Alabama, established HVAC companies look to employ HVAC technicians with a solid understanding of both tried and tested fundamentals and today’s advanced building automation systems. Even if you don’t have immediate plans to become a contractor, an HVAC training program resulting in a diploma/certificate or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree will set you up with an impressive resume that will make you an attractive prospect for companies in search of a knowledgeable technician.
You have three options available to you for meeting the requirements to sit for Alabama’s HVAC contractor exam:
Choosing a Path to Meeting HVAC Contractor Licensing Requirements
Becoming an HVAC contractor in Alabama means meeting the requirements of the Alabama Board of Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Contractors (HACR), which involves completing a period of education or experience and taking and passing the HVAC examination.
This would involve meeting one of the following requirements before you can apply to take the HVAC exam:
COMPLETING A HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING PROGRAM WITH AN APPROVED CURRICULUM THAT MEETS BOARD REQUIREMENTS.
To qualify for an HVAC program, you must hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some programs require a personal interview as part of the admission process, during which time you will discuss your career goals to ensure the program is the right fit for you.
Some programs are designed as intensive programs that are completed in a matter of weeks, while other programs may take as long as 18-24 months to complete.
You will learn to apply theory and principles, both in the classroom and in lab settings. Graduates of these programs are prepared to enter the field as an HVAC technician or sit for the HVAC contractor exam and become a certified contractor. Today’s HVAC programs include basic and advanced HVAC training, which includes training in computer diagnostics, an integral component of today’s complex systems.
Some of the technical courses you can expect to complete in an HVAC technical school or community college program include:
- Principles of Electricity for HVAC
- HVAC service procedures
- Introduction to Engineering Technologies
- Principles of Technology
- Fundamentals of Gas Heating Systems
- Fundamentals of Electric Heating Systems
- Commercial Heating Systems
- Computer-Assisted HVAC Troubleshooting
- Residential Air Conditioning
Many of these programs offer online courses to accommodate students’ busy schedules, and most programs have career services centers that provide graduates with career placement assistance.
COMPLETE AN APPRENTICESHIP OF AT LEAST 3,000 HOURS
Once you have found an HVAC company willing to take you on as an apprentice, you and your employer must complete Form AA-1 Apprentice Application and pay the $25 application fee. This form includes an Affidavit that lists the name of the heating and air conditioning business under whom you will be working during your apprenticeship. It must be signed by a current HACR licensee.
Once you send it to the Board and receive your apprenticeship certification, you can begin your apprenticeship. Your apprenticeship must be at least 3,000 hours in duration, which can be completed in about 18 months, though you are required to hold your apprenticeship card for at least two years to be eligible for the exam.
You must renew your apprentice certification annually. In other words, you will have applied for two certifications during the two years you will work as an apprentice.
COMPLETE AT LEAST 3,000 HOURS OF COURSEWORK OR EXPERIENCE
You may also qualify if you can provide proof of completing at least 3,000 hours of educational training outside of an approved curriculum program or if you worked in the HVAC industry under the supervision of an HACR licensee outside of a formal apprenticeship for the past two out of the last 5 years.
The Board reviews educational programs outside of Board-approved programs and training outside of formal apprenticeships on a case-by-case basis. You can contact the Board to learn more about meeting these requirements at 1-866-855-1912 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taking the HVAC Examination
You must complete, sign, and notarize the HVAC/Refrigeration Examination Application and include the examination fee of $150 (made payable to the State of Alabama) and at least ONE of the following, based on your qualifications for licensure:
- Affidavit signed and notarized by the employer swearing that you have worked in the HVAC industry for at least two years within the past 5 years, along with all corresponding W-2 forms
- Copies of certificates showing that you completed at least 3,000 hours of heating and air conditioning educational training
- Proof of graduation from an approved heating and air conditioning curriculum (copies or transcripts from the approved curriculum)
- Copies of your apprenticeship certificates from the past two years
Once the Board has reviewed and accepted your application, they will provide you with information on taking the HVAC contractor exam.
The end of the HVAC/Refrigeration Examination Application packet includes a list of references that you will use as a guide when taking the examination. The HVAC exam is administered in an open book format, so you are permitted to take any of the listed references with you into the testing center.
The application packet also includes a list of exam preparation course providers and book suppliers. You can purchase most of the references books online.
Apply for an HVAC Contractor Certificate
To apply for active certification, you must complete the following forms and send them to the Board, along with a performance bond in the amount of $15,000 and the active certification fee of $165:
- AL-1 Application for Licensure
- AL-2 Business Information
- BF-1 Contractor License Bond form
If you currently hold a current and valid HVAC license in Mississippi, Louisiana, or Tennessee, you may apply for licensure by reciprocity by completing the following forms:
- AL-1 Application for Licensure
- AL-2 Business Information
- BF-1 Contractor License Bond form
- VL-1 Verification of License and Statement of Good Standing
- VL-2 Affidavit of Understanding
Earning EPA Section 608 Certification
Since your work involves attaching and detaching hoses and gauges from appliances to measure refrigerant pressure, as well as adding or removing refrigerant, you will need to earn the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) Section 608 Certification to meet the federal requirements of the Clean Air Act. (You may also need this certification if you work as an HVAC technician, under an HVAC contractor. Apprentices are exempt from EPA certification).
Before applying for and taking EPA Section 608 Certification, you will first determine which type of certification you will need based on the type of systems you work with:
If you work on AC (MVAC) systems in motor vehicles, you may also need to earn EPA Section 609 Certification.
The technical school or community college where you earned your HVAC education will likely provide you with an examination package that includes information about taking and passing the EPA’s Section 608 certification.
To earn EPA Section 608 certification, you must pass an examination that includes two sections: (1) a Core Section and (2) a section that aligns with the certificate type for which you are applying.
Keeping your HVAC Contractor’s Certificate Current and in Good Standing
Your Alabama HVAC contractor’s certificate must be renewed annually on Dec. 1.
To renew your contractor’s certificate, you must complete the Annual Manual Renewal Form and send it to the Board, along with an annual renewal fee of $165. You may also choose to renew your certificate online.
Beginning in 2017, you will also be required to provide proof of your current performance bond prior to renewal for 2018.
To qualify for renewal, you must complete at least 4 credit hours of continuing education every year. You are not required to meet the continuing education requirements during your first renewal year.
Factors Contributing to a Strong Job Market for HVAC Techs and Contractors in Alabama
HVAC technicians in Alabama are enjoying the surge in residential and commercial construction happening throughout the state, and for good reason. New construction means new opportunities for contractors to bid projects, overtime for employees and more jobs for new techs coming out of trade school.
According to the November ‘16 New Construction Monthly Report published by the Alabama Center for Real Estatenew homes sales for Alabama’s five major markets—Montgomery, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Mobile, and Birmingham—increased an impressive 51 percent between 2015 and 2016.
Alabama Home Sales (2015 - 2016)
In his January 2017 “State of the City” address, Birmingham Mayor William Bell revealed that the growth of the city’s tech sector will translate into many new building permits. Bell said that building permits throughout the city’s neighborhoods are already up 11.6 percent, while Downtown Birmingham is enjoying a building boom valued at more than $1 billion—the largest value in the history of Birmingham.
The number of jobs for HVAC technicians throughout the state is projected to rise by 13.3 percent over the decade leading up to 2024. That means an average of 150 new job openings each year over that time period. Between 2017 and 2024, the DOL expects 1,050 new jobs to open up for HVAC specialists, creating more opportunities than ever for techs new to the field and those looking for opportunities to advance.The Alabama Department of Labor (DOL)
HVAC TECHNICIAN SALARIES IN ALABAMA
The Alabama Department of Labor (DOL) reports the number of jobs for HVAC technicians throughout the state is projected to rise by 13.3 percent over the decade leading up to 2024. That means an average of 150 new job openings each year over that time period. Between 2017 and 2024, the DOL expects 1,050 new jobs to open up for HVAC specialists, creating more opportunities than ever for techs new to the field and those looking for opportunities to advance.
The huge job growth projections for HVAC professionals are largely the result of industrial growth and job availability in Atlanta and other major metro areas. But new construction alone isn’t enough to create this kind of demand. Retrofits of energy efficient HVAC systems are on the rise, representing a significant force behind the growing demand for HVAC technicians in Alabama.
Alabama’s 15 largest cities are presented here with hourly and annual salary data. Salary data shown here comes from a 2015 US Department of Labor report and is presented as a range between the median and the top ten percent.