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The number of jobs for HVAC technicians will increase by 6% between 2014 and 2024, generating 889 jobs over this period.The Kansas Department of Labor
Kansas represents an unusual case in the world of HVAC-R technician and contractor licensing. According to state law as specified in Kansas Statutes Chapter 12, Article 15, cities and counties are allowed, but not required, to license certain tradespersons and contractors, including HVAC technicians. The statute further specifies the requirements for examination and experience in order to award the license. However, the state does not implement any sort of umbrella licensing regime to satisfy this requirement. Instead, it relies on local municipalities to provide licensing systems that comply with the state law.

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HVAC Tech installing a new air conditioner for an office

This results in a patchwork of local implementations, with some cities not implementing licensing at all and others creating their own systems with varying interpretations of the state standards.

The official state requirements for becoming a journeyman HVAC mechanic are:

  • Obtain two years of field experience working under the supervision of a licensed journeyman or master HVAC technician. Up to one year of this experience may be substituted for by trade-related schooling including 930 program hours documented by a certificate of completion.
  • Pass an exam designed or offered by one of:
    • International Code Council (ICC)
    • International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO)
    • Parametric

For aspects of licensing that are not specifically covered in the state statutes, however, individual municipalities go their own way, making comprehensive statements of requirements elusive.

One certain thing, however, is that you are allowed to use your trade school or community college diploma or degree to count toward the experience requirement mandated by the state. Another is that passing the ICC, IAPMO, or Parametric exams requires study and familiarity with HVAC theory and standards of practice, all of which are taught in any reputable HVAC-R school program. So a degree or certification is one clear step toward getting your HVAC license in any Kansas municipality that requires it.

How to Become an HVAC Technician in Kansas: Licensing Requirements and EPA Certification

Although the city you work in may not require an HVAC license, the chances are good you will still need at least one legal qualification to work in almost any HVAC job in Kansas: an EPA Section 608 Certificate.

EPA Certification Requirements

The federal government regulates environmentally-sensitive and hazardous refrigerant gases such as Freon or ammonia-based refrigerants with Section 608 of the federal Clean Air Act. Anyone who works on installing, maintaining, or servicing such systems where there might be a risk of those gases escaping is required to have a Section 608 certification.

There are four different categories of Section 608 certification:

Small appliances service and repair (self-contained appliances with 5 pounds of refrigerant or less)

Most trade school or community college HVAC program actually incorporate teaching the Section 608 regulations into their curriculum. Typically, they offer students the opportunity to take the official exam as part of their coursework, allowing you to get the certificate before you even graduate.

Official State License Requirements

Although not implemented at the state level, the state has imposed certain requirements for HVAC mechanic licensing that cities must adopt if they choose to create a license program in their own jurisdiction. The state refers to the credentials as certificates of competency.

To become a journeyman HVAC mechanic, the states requires:

  • Two years of field experience (1 year may be satisfied by completion of a trade program with at least 930 hours of training)
  • Passage of an exam designed or offered by one of:
    • International Code Council (ICC)
    • International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO)
    • Parametric

To advance to master level certification, an additional two years of experience as a licensed journeyman are required, or four years field experience total, plus passage of an examination offered by one of the same three agencies valid for the journeyman’s exam.

There is no specific apprenticeship requirement and apprentice programs are not discussed in the state legislation, nor are specific supervision requirements for unlicensed mechanics accumulating their initial experience hours.

The state does not specify licensing fees or terms but does require at least 12 clock hours of continuing education for license holders every two years.

Another important piece of the framework is mandatory reciprocity between municipalities. If you have earned a certificate in any Kansas jurisdiction that requires one, it will automatically be accepted as valid in any other jurisdiction in the state (although you may still have to pay local licensing fees).

Cities in Kansas That Require Certification for HVAC Work

Some cities implement a more formal apprenticeship phase than state law requires. In those municipalities, it may be possible to find organized apprentice training programs in HVAC-R through the Kansas Works Registered Apprenticeship page. An apprentice program may be run by a union or independent trade organization, and will combine supervised field experience with classroom training hours. These programs will typically exceed state and local licensing requirements in terms of education hours and on-the-job training offered.

The following cities in Kansas require HVAC technicians to be certified under state rules, with variations as noted.

The list of municipalities here may not be comprehensive; check with your own local city offices to find out if they require certification as an HVAC mechanic.

How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Kansas

Like technician licensing, contractor licensing in the state of Kansas follows some regulations set down by the state but is handled, optionally, at the municipal level. As a rule, the same municipalities that require certification for HVAC mechanics will also require contractor registration, but there are also cities that regulate contractors without requiring HVAC technician credentials.

As with technician certification, the state requires that counties offer a test to qualify contractors. Contractor licenses from any city that chooses to offer them must also be accepted as valid proof of requirements for any other city that requires licensing. It is common to still charge fees for these reciprocal licenses, although re-testing is not required.

Most cities require that a contractor employ a qualified master HVAC mechanic and outline supervision requirements for apprentices (where regulated), but others, such as Leavenworth, allow you to take the contractor exam without having to gain a master certification.

Some cities, such as Lawrence, specify experience requirements in order to become a contractor, but these generally coincide with master’s-level certificate requirements.

Most cities also specify some level of insurance and bonding for contractors. A $500,000 liability coverage policy is common.

Contractor license fees tend to run in the $200 range for most municipalities, with renewal fees and terms varying.

HVAC-R Job Prospects and Industry Growth in Kansas

HVAC-R job growth over the next decade in Kansas is only forecast to increase by about six percent by the Kansas Department of Labor, slightly below average for the nation. This follows a trend in Kansas of modest growth in both employment and housing, a healthy but not explosive rate of expansion.

For HVAC-R technicians and contractors, this means relatively stable and solid job prospects, but without the opportunity for growth seen in much of the country. The best positions in Kansas HVAC companies, considering the relatively moderate requirements for licensing state-wide, are likely to go to the best trained candidates.

Although education does not feature prominently in the state certification requirements, it is nonetheless an important factor considered by many potential employers. A candidate with a strong background evidenced by an HVAC-R degree or certificate from a college or trade school is likely to attract notice before someone who has met only the minimum requirements. And with HVAC technology constantly improving and changing, someone with the education to design and install the most modern systems is likely to continue to have better employment opportunities than their peers.

HVAC Technician Salaries in Kansas

The Kansas Department of Labor reported that experienced HVAC technicians earned an average salary of $53,530 ($25.74 hourly) as of 2015. The median salary among HVAC technicians in Kansas was $44,200 ($21.25).

Kansas HVAC Technician Salary (median)
$44,220
Kansas HVAC Technician Salary (top 10%)
$53,530

The US Bureau of Labor Statistic reported that the salaries for HVAC techs in the top 10% are exceptionally high in Kansas. The salaries for these technicians exceeded the national average for HVAC techs in this category in four of the five major metropolitan areas in the state. In fact, the salary of HVAC techs in the top 10% in the Kansas City area exceeded the national average by more than $21,000.

HVAC Technician Salaries in the Largest Cities in Kansas

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the salaries of HVAC technicians throughout Kansas of 2015. The ranges below show the median to top 10% yearly and hourly earnings in each of the state’s major cities.

  • Kansas City

    • Annual: $56,200* – $93,450*
    • Hourly: $27.02* – $44.97*
  • Lawrence

    • Annual: $43,940 – $74,130*
    • Hourly: $21.12 – $35.64*
  • Manhattan

    • Annual: $42,700 – $76,220*
    • Hourly: $20.53 – $36.64*
  • Topeka

    • Annual: $57,550* – $73,580*
    • Hourly: $27.67 – $35.28*
  • Wichita

    • Annual: $44,750 – $62,220
    • Hourly: $21.43 – $29.92

*Salaries that exceed the national median or top 10%.

Job Growth for HVAC Technicians in Kansas

The Kansas Department of Labor predicts that the number of jobs for HVAC technicians will increase by 6% between 2014 and 2024, generating 889 jobs over this period.   The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that Manhattan, Kansas had an unusually high number of HVAC technicians employed there in 2015. This city boasted the 8th highest concentration of jobs of any metropolitan area in the country.

Since the BLS reported that building equipment contractors employ the most HVAC techs by far, factors that affect the construction of buildings strongly affect the job prospects for these skilled tradesmen.

The number of jobs generated by the construction of buildings in Kansas will increase by 16% over the ten-year period of the state’s projections by its Department of Labor. The increase in employment for building construction in Kansas will increase at a rate 2.2 times greater than that of the construction industry as a whole in the state.

Positive Construction Outlook in the Kansas City Area

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce produced an economic forecast for 2016 that included a summary of its construction industry. The CEO and HR Director of McCownGordon Construction produced this analysis.

The authors stated how the wages and salaries of construction industry employees have been trending upwards in recent years due to “the war for talent.” They predict that pay rates will continue to increase over the next few years.

Not surprisingly, unemployment in the construction industry “has been in sharp decline since 2011” in the Kansas City area. Construction employment increased by 5% in Kansas City, Kansas in the year preceding the third quarter of 2015. This value exceeds the national increase in construction employment by 1.4-fold.

Predictions for the period between 2014 and 2019 suggest that residential construction in the Kansas City metropolitan area is likely to see the highest level of growth at 9.8% compared to commercial construction and that of non-building structures.

The commercial construction market in this area comprises about 43% of the money spent on construction in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Projections suggest that companies will spend more than $13 billion constructing commercial buildings during this five-year period.