The US Department of Labor reported that HVAC technicians in several of Louisiana’s metropolitan areas earned unusually high salaries. The median salary among HVAC techs in Monroe and Alexandria exceeded the national average. The US Department of Labor (DOL)HVAC contractors are licensed in Louisiana, but the state has no license in place for the service technicians and installers that work for HVAC contractors and contracting companies.
But that’s not to say that qualifications aren’t required to get into the competitive HVAC job market in Louisiana:
- HVAC technology continues to advance, with solar, geothermal and hydronic systems being installed in both residential and commercial buildings all the time. Building automation and high-efficiency systems with very fine tolerances have brought a high-tech element to the field in the past decade, requiring a new level of expertise.
- The Environmental Protection Agency requires that any HVAC-R technician pressure-testing refrigerant lines or otherwise handling certain common controlled refrigerants known to be damaging to the environment hold specialized Section 608 certification.
Almost all HVAC technical college or trade school programs resulting in a career diploma or associate’s degree in HVAC-R teach you everything you need to know for a Section 608 cert. Most programs also include the test itself as a part of their curriculum, allowing you to graduate and enter the job market already meeting this common requirement.
Common Certification for HVAC Technicians in Louisiana
Just because the state does not have any licensing requirements does not mean that Louisiana HVAC technicians can work without meeting federal certification standards.
The federal government has stringent requirements in place for anyone working on systems where recovering, reclaiming and recycling certain types of chemical refrigerants with stratospheric ozone depleting properties is necessary. Since systems that make use of refrigerants that produce these gasses are in use, virtually any HVAC service technician job will require an EPA Section 608 certification.
There are four categories of certification:
The EPA does not offer this test directly, but instead through various approved vendors. It is possible to find exam companies online if you are willing to study independently and take the test without any formal preparation.
Another common and reliable method of gaining certification is to take a trade school or community college HVAC program that offers training and testing as a part of the regular course of study.
How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Louisiana
The Louisiana State Licensing Board (LSLB) requires contractors to obtain a Mechanical Work contractor license, or one of its variety of sub-licenses, in order to work on commercial HVAC projects with an overall value of $10,000 or higher. Residential or commercial jobs under $10,000 do not require licensure.
The blanket Mechanical Work contractor license also includes three sub-specialties, each of which can be obtained separately:
Licensing for any of these categories is strictly by examination; there are no work experience requirements, so it is possible to obtain your contractor’s license straight out of school in Louisiana.
If you choose to apply for the general Mechanical Work contractor license, you are allowed to perform any of the tasks covered by the sub-licenses. Otherwise, sublicensees are restricted to tasks only covered by their particular license, although it is possible to hold more than one sublicense and to add additional categories later.
The license fees are charged on a sliding scale per category:
- 1 – $100
- 2 – $195
- 3 – $290
- 4 – $385
- 5 or more – $400
There is also a mandatory $60 background investigation fee due at time of filing.
There are separate tests for each license category. If you obtain the general license, you will have to take them all; if you apply only for sublicensees, you need only take the relevant tests for that category. Each classification test will cost $120.
The state publishes study reference sheets for each of the tests here.
There is also a mandatory Business and Law test that you must take if it is the first time you have applied for a state contractor’s license; the fee for that test is also $120. The exam evaluates your knowledge of the legal aspects of business ownership and the specific Louisiana codes you will have to follow.
You must apply as a licensed business entity and will have to provide a signed and notarized financial statement with your application. The statement must also be signed by an independent auditor, and must reflect at least a $10,000 net worth for the business entity on the application form.
Because it is the business that receives the contractor license, rather than you as an individual, you must designate yourself (or, more rarely, another person) as the qualified party who will represent the specific HVAC skills required for the business. The qualified party must be the person who takes the required tests for licensure.
Obtaining a Contractor’s License Through Reciprocity
The state also has reciprocal licensing agreements with a number of other states:
- South Carolina
If you currently hold an HVAC contractor’s license in any of those states, you can apply on that basis for a reciprocal license in Louisiana. Approval is not automatic, but if the board accepts your application you do not need to take the state speciality tests (although the business and law exam is still required, as are the relevant license fees).
Contractor License Renewals
Your initial Louisiana Mechanical Work contractor’s license will be good for a one-year period from the date of issue. You must then renew it (all renewals are handled online), but you have the option of doing so for either a one, two, or three year period. The cost will vary depending on your number of classifications and the period of renewal, and will be calculated at time of renewal.
Louisiana HVAC-R Job Growth and ProspectsIt’s always going to be hot down in the bayou, so Louisiana HVAC technicians can expect to always have demand for air conditioning work, and projections bear that out.
The Louisiana Workforce Commission expects to see a 9 percent bump in HVAC employment over the next decade, which is modest but healthy. It comes, however, on the heels of a two-year period during which construction led the state in job growth. The state is second only to North Dakota in the percentage of state GDP generated by construction sector jobs.
The state still has not reached its pre-Great Recession employment peak, and the low barriers to entry in HVAC particularly, combined with the solid wages offered in the field, make entry-level jobs competitive.
Differentiating yourself with a solid educational background by obtaining a degree from a community college program in HVAC-R, or attending and getting a certificate from a reputable trade school, can make a great deal of difference in your personal job prospects in Louisiana.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Louisiana
The Louisiana Workforce Commission assigned a 5-star rating to the HVAC technician field. This high rating indicates the increased need for these skilled tradesmen in the state.
The Commission reported that HVAC technicians in the top 10% in the state earned an average salary of $60,286 ($28.98 hourly) as of 2015. The median salary among HVAC techs in Louisiana was $39,894 ($19.81).
Louisiana HVAC Tech Salary (median)
Louisiana HVAC Tech Salary (top 10%)
The US Department of Labor reported that HVAC technicians in several of Louisiana’s metropolitan areas earned unusually high salaries. The median salary among HVAC techs in Monroe and Alexandria exceeded the national average. HVAC techs in the top 10% in Lafayette earned an average salary that exceeded the national average for this category by more than $11,000.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Louisiana’s Largest Cities
The US Department of Labor provides the salaries of HVAC technicians throughout Louisiana as of 2015. The ranges below show the median to top 10% yearly and hourly earnings in each of the state’s major cities.
- Annual: $54,090* – $63,010
- Hourly: $26.00* – $30.24
- Baton Rouge
- Annual: $43,920 – $61,790
- Hourly: $20.81 – $29.71
- Annual: $43,250 – $59,510
- Hourly: $29.79 – $28.61
- Annual: $38,900 – $82,740*
- Hourly: $18.70 – $39.78*
- Lake Charles
- Annual: $35,660 – $48,120
- Hourly: $17.14 – $22.17
- Annual: $63,640* – $72,910*
- Hourly: $25.79* – $36.06*
- New Orleans-Metairie
- Annual: $39,190 – $62,590
- Hourly: $18.82 – $25.28
- Shreveport-Bossier City
- Annual: $42,580 – $66,750
- Hourly: $20.47 – $32.09
*Salaries that exceed the national median or top 10%.
Job Growth for HVAC Technicians in Louisiana’s Robust Construction Industry
The combination of Louisiana’s constant demand for plant construction and maintenance jobs coupled with the expected retirement of a number of skilled workers helps to create job opportunities and drive up wages for HVAC technicians.
The Louisiana Workforce Commission predicts that the number of jobs for HVAC technicians in the state will increase by 9.2% between 2014 and 2024. As of 2016, Louisiana’s robust construction industry is creating a large demand for skilled tradesmen.
In the year leading up to March 2016, the Commission reported that the fastest growing sector by employment in Louisiana was the construction industry. The addition of 7,000 construction jobs during this period cemented the industry’s status. The job growth reported is part of a trend, since construction employment in Louisiana increased during each of the previous five years.
Engineering News-Record Texas and Louisiana featured the state’s robust construction industry in an article in July 2016. Large industrial projects in the southern part of Louisiana fueled much of the growth according to Al Bargas of Baton Rouge. Bargas serves as President of the Pelican Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors located in that city.
In fact, he stated that Louisiana has been the site of an “industrial renaissance” during the past few years that involves more than $100 billion worth of construction projects and plant expansions in the chemical industry. Even as some of the jobs from these projects start to decline, Bargas predicts that Louisiana will “always” have a high demand for construction and maintenance jobs.