Jobs for HVAC technicians are projected to increase by 17.5 percent over the decade leading up to 2024.The Indiana Department of Workforce DevelopmentIn Indiana, as long as you are working as an HVAC technician or installer for a licensed contractor you are NOT required to have any type of state-issued HVAC license or credential.
Within the HVAC field there are two important factors to consider when preparing for employment:
- Working with controlled refrigerants commonly found in HVAC and refrigeration systems requires federally-mandated Section 608 certification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- HVAC contractors – while there is no state-wide HVAC contractor license, many cities and counties have their own license requirements for HVAC contractors
Employer Preferences and Requirements
Employers may specify any number of credentials or attributes from a wide range of options:
- Optional certification from a national HVAC professional association
- Multiple years of experience in the HVAC industry
- On-the-job training (apprenticeship) sponsored by a private company, professional organization or union, resulting in a journeyman credential
- A career diploma, certificate, or degree from a community college or trade school HVAC program
In Indiana it’s typical for employers to voice a preference for HVAC technicians who hold an AAS or diploma in HVAC. This is because earning an HVAC education is a concrete way of showing you have the skills employers are looking for, and have mastered critical concepts in this industry including:
- Heating and refrigeration fundamentals
- Energy transfer and energy management systems
- Principles and theories of electricity
- Duct fabrication and installation
- Heat pump technology
- Air flow control
- Installing pneumatic and digital controls
The most competitive HVAC programs include EPA Section 608 exam prep courses and the certification exam itself as part of the curriculum.
Considering Training Through an Apprenticeship Program
HVAC apprenticeships are available through both union and non-union sponsors, but generally have a very limited number of annual openings and only the most qualified and promising applicants are accepted. As an apprentice you’ll spend around four years gaining supervised on-the-job training that comes with a paycheck.
You’re not legally required to complete an apprenticeship or training to become an HVAC technician, however employers always look favorably on a background that includes on-the-job training and relevant experience.
The apprenticeship system is the first step in a linear progression to “journeyman,” and eventually, “master” tradesman status. These terms used most frequently within the trade unions to describe different levels of experience and skill mastery. The accumulation of the experience needed to achieve journeyman and master status can be tracked even without participating in an apprentice program, but entering the field through the apprentice system automatically establishes a clear paper trail that tells the story of your time on the job.
If you ever want to start your own business or work independently as an HVAC contractor, the city or county where you live may require you to gain master status first, which is another consideration that makes apprenticeship programs attractive.
While you’re working you’ll also spend some weekends and evenings in the classroom. Apprenticeships often result in earning an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) or certificate of completion in HVAC. If you’ve already earned a similar degree check with your apprenticeship organizer to see if you can transfer your credits into the program and apply them toward the experience and/or classroom requirements.
After you’ve completed your apprenticeship you’ll take an exam to become a journeyman. As a journeyman you’re recognized as a capable professional who can work without being under direct supervision, and can move around to different employers. However, if you want to work independently you’ll still need to check your local jurisdiction’s contractor license requirements.
Employer-sponsored apprenticeships may be offered through an individual private company. Check your local job listings to see if there are any employer-sponsored apprenticeships available near you. You can also find non-union apprenticeships through local branches of industry associations such as:
- Indiana/Kentucky Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors
- Indiana Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
Union apprenticeships involve joining a labor/trade union. Unions that offer HVAC apprenticeships include:
EPA Section 608 Certification
If you’re going to be working with pressurized refrigerant of any kind then federal law says you must become certified under the EPA’s Section 608. There are four types of certification options you can choose from depending on what type of work you’ll be doing:
To earn any of these certifications you must pass the EPA exam specific to the certification type. You can often find same-day education and certification programs locally. If you’re earning an HVAC degree from a college this certification may be included in your curriculum. If you’re going directly into the job market your employer or union representative can provide you with more information.
If you are working with motor vehicle air conditioning (MVAC) systems you must complete a separate Section 609 EPA-approved technician training and certification program.
How to Get an HVAC Contractor License
You don’t need a contractor license if you’re an employee working for an HVAC company. However if you want to work independently, have your own business, and hire employees then you will need an HVAC contractor license. If this applies to you then consider the information in this section.
These licenses are not issued by the state. They are issued by your local city or county. Every jurisdiction can establish its own licensing requirements stipulating under which circumstances it’s required and what conditions you must meet to acquire it.
Here are the requirements for some of the most populous cities in Indiana:
Why the Hoosier HVAC Market is Hot
Indiana is growing and has a vibrant economy that continues to grow and expand. Population and economic growth are two of the main factors that explain why the near recession-proof HVAC industry is doing so well.
In 2015 Indiana’s gross state product totaled more than $311 billion. Its five fastest-growing economic sectors all rely on the HVAC industry to maintain adequate climate control:
While private-sector business and manufacturing continue to grow, so do government regulations and policies that support the HVAC industry:
According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, jobs for HVAC technicians are projected to increase by 17.5 percent over the decade leading up to 2024.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Indiana
Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development reported that the top ten percent of HVAC technicians working in the state earned an average salary of $69,971 ($33.64 hourly) as of 2015. The median salary among HVAC technicians was $42,058 ($20.22 hourly) that year.
Indiana HVAC Technician Salary (median)
Indiana HVAC Technician Salary (top 10%)
Detailed data from the US Department of Labor indicated that the salaries for HVAC technicians were exceptionally high in Bloomington, Evansville, and Indianapolis-Carmel.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Indiana’s Largest Cities
The US Department of Labor provides the salaries of HVAC technicians throughout Indiana. The ranges below show the median to top 10% yearly and hourly earnings in each of the state’s major cities.
*Salaries that exceed the national median or top 10%.
The Job Market for HVAC Technicians in Indiana
The number of jobs for HVAC technicians in Indiana should grow by 17.5% between 2014 and 2024, almost twice as fast as the state’s overall average projected job growth rate according to the state’s Department of Workforce Development. This level of growth should generate an average of 90 new jobs each year during this ten-year period.
This estimate is for new jobs only. The true number will be much higher when factoring in the new techs that will be needed to replace Indiana’s aging workforce. The findings of an analysis performed by workforce development non-profit, Northeast Indiana Works, found that the state’s construction sector will be faced with a large number of retirements in the near future. More than 18% of all the workers in this sector are 55 or older and likely to retire in the next ten years. In contrast, only 9% of the workers in the construction sector are 25 or younger.
This is a trend that is being seen throughout the US. A rigorous study of craft laborers in the country conducted by the Association of Union Constructors and the Construction Labor Research Council found that 65% of those who responded to a 2015 survey “believe the current union craft labor force is too small.” Tight labor markets create a tremendous opportunity for skilled tradesmen to establish themselves in the field, seek advancement, and position themselves for the best possible pay.