It is expected that between 2014 and 2024 the number of HVAC jobs will grow by 33.4 percent. That comes out to 1,350 job openings every year on average.The Florida Department of Economic OpportunityFlorida is the granddaddy of all state HVAC markets: between the hot, humid climate and the steady influx of retirees looking to spend their golden years in comfort, the state clocks in first in the nation when it comes to HVAC jobs. It is also well-known in the industry for stringent contractor licensing requirements and for having no reciprocal licensing agreements, which make it a particularly difficult market to crack.
Although there is no state-wide HVAC technician licensing requirement, the state’s most populous metropolitan area, Metro-Dade County, requires licensing for individual technicians, as do several other Florida counties.
Although licensing requirements vary slightly where mandated, one thing that is the same no matter where you go in the state is that EPA Section 608 certification is required for many HVAC-R jobs.
Many trade schools and college HVAC programs offer Section 608 certification as part of their courses. And many municipalities accept school diplomas or certificates as at least part of the component for licensing qualifications.
Having the right training to understand and work with modern, high-efficiency HVAC systems is a solid first step on the path to a career in the industry.
Cities and Counties in Florida That Require Licenses for HVAC Work
Since Miami-Dade County covers a large swath of southern Florida that includes some of the state’s largest cities, the HVAC tradesman certification process here is among the most relevant to the state’s 25,000 HVAC technicians and installers.
Miami-Dade County’s Contractor Licensing Section licenses both tradesmen and contractors working in Miami-Dade. Qualifications are established and reviewed by the Construction Trades Qualifying Board. The board issues licenses for more than 100 different trades, but those most relevant to HVAC technicians are:
Full descriptions of the exact tasks and limitations of each certification are available in Miami Dade Ordinance 10-2.
The general mechanical classification is allowed to work in each of the other sub-specialties without further certification required
The county issues both journeyman and master certificates of competency in each of these categories. The steps to achieving journeyman status are identical for each:
- Gain 3 years of experience in the field—Up to half of this requirement can be met by completing formal education and training through a trade school or community college program
- Pass an exam (exam descriptions and study materials are available here)
Prov, a third-part testing service administers the exams. There are six different testing locations in the county, and tests can be taken either on a computer or by pen and paper.
You must score at least a 75 percent to pass the journeyman exam, but the exam is open book. You’ll be provided information for scheduling after you have filed your application and had it accepted by the county. The certification fee is $240.
Achieving a master level certification requires two years of experience at the journeyman level, or at least six years of specialized training, and passage of another exam; the certification fee is $315.Renewals for certifications are due every two years. You will receive a notification approximately two months before your renewal is due specifying the fee to pay and how to renew the certificate.The county also licenses contractors in each of the categories listed above.
Other Florida Counties With Technician Licensing or Certification Requirements
Although Miami Dade is the largest county with HVAC certification requirements, it’s not the only one in the state that requires licensing or certification for technicians, contractors, or both. Others include:
Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami Dade have reciprocal agreements so you do not need to go through the complete licensing or certification process for each of them. Check with your local municipality to find out if they have their own licensing or certification standards for HVAC technicians.
EPA Certification is a Requirement for Most HVAC Mechanics and Installers
Although you may plan to find a job in a part of Florida where there is no HVAC licensing requirement, that doesn’t mean you won’t need any certifications at all to work legally. The federal government regulates environmentally-sensitive and hazardous refrigerant gases such as Freon or ammonia-based gases under the Section 608 of the federal Clean Air Act. If you work on installing, maintaining, or pressure-testing any system using such chemicals—and most HVAC technicians do—you will need a certificate to legally perform the work.
There are four different categories of Section 608 certification:
Almost all HVAC trade school or college programs specifically teach the information tested on the Section 608 exams, and most of them also offer the certification test itself as a part of their curriculum. This means you can graduate with your Section 608 certificate already in hand, making you considerably more employable all around the Sunshine State.
How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Florida
In order to advertise, bid, or take contracts on HVAC-R jobs in Florida, you will require a contractor’s license. The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB) issues contractor licenses to both individuals and companies in Florida.
Many counties have their own contractor licensing requirements. This is the case in Miami Dade and Palm Beach. But this doesn’t mean contractors in these areas necessarily need to hold both a state and county license. To manage this, CILB offers two types of contractor licensing, certified and registered:
Certified licenses require undertaking the state-level qualification requirements, including passing trade and business knowledge exams and meeting financial and stability requirements, but allow you to do business anywhere in the state. For certified state contractor’s licenses, you will deal directly with the CILB.
Registered licenses require that you first obtain licensure in at the county level, in which case you may apply for your state license on that basis; however, you are only allowed to contract in the county where you originally earned your credential. Each county will have their own specific licensure requirements. Review the requirements in your county if you plan to go the registered license route:
Common Requirements for Both Certified and Registered Contractors
Two credentials are available:
- Class A Air Conditioning – No limits on HVAC system capacity.
- Class B Air Conditioning – May only work on HVAC systems of 25 tons of cooling or less, or 500,000 BTU of heating.
Both certified and registered contractor licenses require:
The business and finance exam is available exclusively through Pearson VUE. The Air B exam is also available through Pearson, but the Air A exam is only offered as a pen and paper test through Professional Testing, Incorporated. Exam dates are offered in three locations (in Northern, Central, and South Florida):
The total cost for testing will be $215.
It’s possible to upgrade from a Class B to a Class A license after one year of experience at Class A, but you will still have to take and pass the Class B trade knowledge exam.
Individual Vs Business Contractor Licensing
These steps will allow you to qualify as an individual operating as a contractor, but it’s also possible to qualify a business entity instead. In that case, you must still have a qualifying agent that meets all of the same requirements, but it is possible to use a different person as a Financial Responsibility Officer, who can then take on the financial responsibility and business and finance knowledge qualifications separately.
Fees for Registered and Certified Contractor Licenses
The fees for licenses are based on whether you are using the certification or registration process and when you file for the license:
- Registered Contractor Fee – $309 if applying between May 1 of an odd year and August 31 of an even year; $209 if applying between September 1 of an even year and April 30 of an odd year.
- Certified Contractor Fee – $249 if applying between May 1 of an even year and August 31 of an odd year; $209 if applying between September 1 of an odd year and April 30 of an even year.
Contractor License Renewals
Renewals are due every two years, on August 31. Certified licenses expire in even numbered years, while registered licenses expire in odd numbered years.
The renewal fee for both types of license is $209.
Certified contractors must perform 14 hours of continuing education during each license period. The CE credits must come from a state-approved provider. You can find a list of those providers here.
HVAC-R Job Prospects and Industry Growth in Florida
Florida is a mecca for HVAC-R technicians and contractors. The year-round cooling demand there provides constant business and a booming economy fuel a strong demand for both new HVAC installations and continuing service and replacement of older systems.
This demand is reflected in the Florida Department of Economic Opportunities latest projections, which see a 33 percent increase in HVAC-R employment over the course of the next decade.
But the market is constantly shifting and the trend toward computerized HVAC systems, sophisticated zone sensors, and high-efficiency equipment means that education is paramount in finding jobs as an HVAC technician. A certificate or associate’s degree in HVAC-R technology is a solid first step on the path to employment in Florida’s booming air conditioning sector.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Florida
Florida has some of the best prospects for HVAC technicians according to 2015 statistics from the US Department of Labor:
- It has the highest number of employed HVAC technicians in the United States
- The three metropolitan areas with highest concentrations of HVAC jobs in the nation are all in Florida: Sebastian-Vero Beach, Cape Coral-Fort Myers, and Punta Gorda
Nationally Florida has the fifth-highest projected rate of HVAC job growth. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity projects that between 2014 and 2024 the number of HVAC jobs will grow by 33.4 percent. That comes out to 1,350 job openings every year on average. To put this in perspective, the national job growth rate for HVAC technicians over this same time period is just 13.6 percent
Part of the reason why HVAC technicians are in such strong demand in Florida is because of environmental efficiency policies taken by the state. 2016 marked the year when the state code was updated to now require new HVAC units to have a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) of at least 14. If Floridians install anything less then it will be a violation of the law and could void the manufacturer’s warranty. In addition to making Florida a more environmentally efficient state, this policy has also stimulated the demand and salaries for HVAC technicians.
Cost and savings are other important factors in the demand for HVAC technicians. The US Energy Information Administration reports in 2016 that Florida has some of the highest electricity rates in the region. Its residential and transportation electricity rates are higher than Georgia’s, while its industrial electricity rates are higher than Georgia and Alabama’s.
HVAC demand will also always stay as hot as Florida’s summers. As it remains strong, schools and training programs are struggling to keep up with Florida’s demand for skilled HVAC technicians.
A 2016 article in The Florida Times-Union’s jacksonville.com details one HVAC apprenticeship program sponsored by the Northeast Florida Builders Association (NEFBA). Employers pay the cost of their apprentices to gain education and training, while the apprentices themselves earn a wage while enrolled. The article describes HVAC apprenticeships as opening a world of opportunities while providing, “…on-the-job training and related classroom instruction in skilled, high-demand, well-paying occupations.”
Florida HVAC Technician Salary (median)
Florida HVAC Technician Salary (top 10%)
2015 US Department of Labor statistics show the average salary for an HVAC technician in Florida is $19.31 an hour or $40,160 annually. More experienced HVAC technicians in the 90th percentile earn $60,260 per year.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Florida by City
The following salaries represent hourly and annual statistics. They are presented as a range between the median and the 90th percentile. Numbers are sourced from the US Department of Labor in May 2015: