As of 2015, there were 7,900 HVAC technicians employed in Michigan. The Department predicts the number of jobs will increase by 1,170 over the ten-year period of its projections.Michigan Department of TechnologyThe state of Michigan has no general state-level licensing requirements for HVAC technicians. The state does license a smaller subset of HVAC professionals that install or repair boilers.
In Michigan, common HVAC licenses are required in a number of cities, each with their own licensing agency. In most cases licenses are issued for specific system types, each with a specific experience requirement and exam.
In Detroit, for example, there are three classes of refrigerator operator licenses available to HVAC-R technicians:
First Class Refrigeration
2 years experience plus 200-question exam (Covers compressors, evaporators, condensers, safety controls and instruments, refrigerants and plant operation)
Second Class Refrigeration
2 years experience plus 100-question exam (Covers compressors, evaporators, condensers, safety controls and instruments, refrigerants and plant operation)
Third Class Refrigeration
3 months experience or an equivalent course in refrigeration (less than 500 pounds of refrigerant with motors no larger than 125 hp)
And two different boiler operator licenses:
High-pressure boiler operator
2 years experience OR completion of a boiler operator program plus exam
Low-pressure boiler operator
1 year experience OR completion of a boiler operator program plus exam
HVAC is a competitive, fast-growing field. A solid educational footing through an HVAC career diploma program will get you up to speed with the latest technology developments. Many HVAC technicians in the state choose to attend a trade school or technical college program in HVAC to receive a degree or certificate before embarking on their career in the field.
Common Credentials for HVAC Technicians in Michigan: EPA Section 608 Certification and Michigan Boiler Operator License
EPA Certification Requirements – The federal government has certain certification requirements for technicians working with controlled refrigerants and many employers in the state require earning at least one type of EPA certification in order to get hired.
Section 608 of the Clean Air Act mandates that any technician installing or servicing systems that make use of certain controlled refrigerants have a certificate in safely handling those substances.
There are four categories of certification under Section 608:
Almost all HVAC-R career diploma and associate degree programs not only include education on the Section 608 test knowledge, but offer the test itself. In most cases, you will graduate from such programs not only with the HVAC-R diploma, but also with your Section 608 certificate, giving you an immediate advantage over job applicants who haven’t gone to school.
Boiler Operator and Installer Licensing in Michigan – A small number of HVAC technicians who work specifically with boiler systems do have to obtain a state-level license to perform their jobs. The license is offered by examination only, and administered by the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).
There are seven categories of license available under two general classifications:
- Boiler Installer
- 1B – Install low-pressure boilers of less than 1,000,000 BTU/hour
- 2B – Install low-pressure boilers of any size
- 3B – Install power boiler less than 5,000 pounds of steam pressure
- 4B – Install boiler of not more than 300,000 pounds of steam pressure
- 5B – Install boiler of any capacity
- 6B – Install nuclear boilers
- P – Install or replace non-boiler exterior piping
- Boiler Repair
- Class I – Allows non-welding repairs
- Class II – Allows low-pressure boiler repair
- Class III – Allows high-pressure boiler repair
- Class IV – Allows repair or field-erection of a boiler of any pressure
- Class V – Allows repair or erection of a nuclear boiler
- Class P – Allows repair or installation of non-boiler exterior piping
Examinations are open book and cover the Michigan state Boiler Code and American Society of Mechanical Engineers standards. The examination fee is $100 and the license cost is $80. Renewals are annual, and also cost $80.
Cities in Michigan That Require HVAC Technician Licenses
Some jurisdictions in the state have additional licensing requirements for HVAC-R technicians. The most common license is for boiler operators, mandated by these cities:
- Dearborn – Registration and licensing
- Detroit – City licensing website
- Grand Rapids – License application form
- Saginaw – Contact the city’s Code Enforcement division for license information
Dearborn and Detroit both also require licenses for refrigeration operators. Both have multiple license classes depending on the size of the installations being serviced.
Licensure is by examination and requires around two years of experience, depending on the municipality. The license fees for all categories are less than $100, with periodic renewals required.
In Detroit, for example, there are five different possible classifications of license available:
High-pressure boiler operator
2 years experience or completion of a boiler operator program plus exam – $140
Low-pressure boiler operator
1 year experience or completion of a boiler operator program plus exam – $140
1st Class Refrigeration
2 years experience plus 200-question exam – $332 – Covers compressors, evaporators, condensers, safety controls and instruments, refrigerants and plant operation
2nd Class Refrigeration
2 years experience plus 100-question exam – $332 – Covers compressors, evaporators, condensers, safety controls and instruments, refrigerants and plant operation
3rd Class Refrigeration
3 months experience or an equivalent course in refrigeration – $140 – Covers units with less than 500 pounds of refrigerant with motors no larger than 125 hp
License renewals are required every two years, but no continuing education is required.
How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Michigan
The state of Michigan does require licenses for all HVAC contractors. A technician in the state cannot perform work independently, but must be employed by a licensed contractor, or as building maintenance staff working only within the facility of their employer, to perform any HVAC installation, repair, or maintenance work.
Becoming a contractor is a natural step for many HVAC technicians after gaining several years of experience in the field. Contractors have the freedom and independence to call their own shots in their career, to run their own business as they see fit, and to profit from it. Being a contractor requires business skill as well as HVAC knowledge, but many in the industry agree that it is the best way to make good money.
HVAC contractor licenses in Michigan are issued through the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and are called Mechanical Contractor’s licenses. There are ten different classifications within the license. You can apply for as many or few of those as you like, but you will only be allowed to perform work specific to the classifications that you have been licensed for:
- Hydronic heating and cooling
- HVAC equipment
- Limited heating service (low-end gas, solid field, or electric systems)
- Unlimited heating service (all heating systems of all capacities)
- Limited refrigeration and air conditioning service
- Unlimited refrigeration and air conditioning service
- Fire Suppression
- Solar Heating and Cooling
- Solid Fuel Equipment and Gas Appliances
- Fuel Gas Piping
- Fuel Gas Piping and Venting
Each of these license classifications is granted by exam. The examination fee is $25, regardless of the number of classifications you choose to test for.
If you are a veteran, you may be exempt from paying the exam fee—contact LARA for details.
The exam for all classifications also includes testing on business regulations as well as the fundamental technical knowledge of the work itself.
In order to qualify for the exam, you must have accumulated at least three years experience in at least one (but not necessarily all) of the classification categories you intend to apply for.
Applications are available at the LARA website, together with study materials and an examination schedule. You will have to choose which testing date you prefer at time of filing. All testing is performed in person in Lansing. In addition to the $25 exam fee, you will pay the $75 license fee at time of application also.
Mechanical contractor licenses expire every three years. You should receive notice at least 60 days before expiration with renewal instructions and the fee required. No continuing education is currently required to renew Michigan mechanical contractor licenses.
Reciprocity for Michigan Mechanical Contractor Licenses
The state code regulating mechanical contractor licenses allows for the issuance of reciprocal licenses without examination if you already hold a license in another state or municipality if the licensing requirements there are substantially equivalent to those in Michigan.
LARA does not publish a list of such states or municipalities but will consider each application for reciprocal licensing on a case-by-case basis.
A Strong Job Market for HVAC Technicians in Michigan
For a state that has been hit hard by waves of economic disruption over the past decade, Michigan is doing well in the construction industry. According to the Detroit Free Press, the state was expected to add 10,000 jobs each year in construction alone at least through the end of 2017.
The traditional driver of Michigan economic prosperity, the auto industry, has begun to recover from the Great Recession and other state industries are following, spurring new construction.
This means solid prospects for HVAC technicians and contractors alike. The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget forecasts a solid 15 percent increase in HVAC technician jobs alone over the next decade. The best of those jobs are likely to go to the best-educated and trained candidates.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Michigan
The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget reported that HVAC technicians in the top 10% earned an average salary of $68,130 ($32.75 hourly) as of 2015. The median salary among HVAC techs was $45,510 ($21.85).
HVAC Technician Salary (Median)
HVAC Technician Salary (Top 10%)
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that HVAC techs in Saginaw earned the 5th highest average salary of those in any metropolitan area in the country in 2015. Ann Arbor paid particularly high wages for HVAC technicians in the top 10% with an average salary that exceeded the national average for this category by $10,340.
In addition, the median salary among HVAC technicians in half of Michigan’s major metropolitan areas exceeded the national average.
HVAC Salaries in Michigan’s Largest Cities
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the salaries of HVAC technicians throughout Michigan as of 2015. 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%.
Strong Job Growth Predicted for HVAC Technicians in Michigan
The Detroit Free Press reported that Michigan had completed its 6th year of economic recovery as of January 2016. It also stated that Michigan’s construction sector will “grow more substantially” from 2014 through 2017.
This is reflected in the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget’s job growth projections for HVAC technicians. The Department predicts that the number of jobs for HVAC technicians will grow by 15.16% between 2014 and 2024.
This rate of growth exceeds the national one for HVAC techs by 11.5%. The Department predicts even higher rates of job growth in a number of Michigan’s regions:
- Northwest – 22.2%
- West – 20.9%
- Southwest – 19.8%
- Southeast – 19.0%
- Detroit Metro – 18.1%
As of 2015, there were 7,900 HVAC technicians employed in Michigan. The Department predicts the number of jobs will increase by 1,170 over the ten-year period of its projections.
With the building construction industry being by far the major employers of HVAC technicians according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highly favorable job growth projections for Michigan’s construction industry provide further evidence that the future job market for these skilled tradesmen will be rosy in the state.
As of November 2016, the total number of construction jobs in Michigan increased by 9,000 during the previous year according to state labor market predictions. Ten-year projections indicate that residential building construction will grow at 10.3% while non-residential construction will increase by 7.9%.