The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training Division of Workforce Regulation and Safety’s Mechanical Board is responsible for licensing HVAC technicians and installers in Rhode Island.
The Board recognizes HVAC mechanics and installers as part of the Mechanical Trade Group, which includes:
- Refrigeration mechanics
Pipefitters and refrigeration mechanics in Rhode Island are licensed under the apprentice/journeyman/master model, which is common in the building trades:
Involves completing a registered program consisting of at least 4,000 hours (2 years) of paid on-the job training and experience, with at least 144 hours of HVAC-related schooling per year. Completing a technical school program before enrolling in an apprenticeship program can reduce the experience requirements substantially.
Journeyperson Class II (limited)
You will earn this license after completing at least 4,000 hours of on-the-job training with at least 288 hours of trade-related schooling through a Rhode Island registered apprenticeship. Specific specialty licenses are issued for Refrigeration Mechanics and Pipefitters.
Journeyperson Class I
Must complete at least 10,000 hours of on-the-job training with at least 144 hours of trade-related schooling per year; OR
You may apply for a Journeyperson I license by entering a Pipefitter I or Refrigeration Journeyperson I apprenticeship program. This includes completing 6,000 hours of on-the-job training and 432 hours of related training under a Master I or a Journeyperson I.
Contractor Master II (limited)
Must have held a Rhode Island Journeyperson Class II license for at least 3 years and have a regular place of business. Separate limited contractor licenses are issued for Pipefitters and Refrigeration Mechanics.
Contractor Master I
Must have held a Rhode Island Pipefitter Journeyperson I license for at least 1 year or held a Master II in Rhode Island for at least 1 year. Contractors must also have a regular place of business.
Contractor Master (limited)
Have a BS degree in mechanical engineering (or an equivalent) and at least 4 years of relevant experience in refrigeration or pipefitting OR have a BS in business administration (or an equivalent degree) and at least 4 years of experience in refrigeration or pipefitting.
Master contractors can be self-employed, partner with other business owners, or hold a position as an officer in a corporation. They can advertise, bid for work, and take out permits but CANNOT actually engage in HVAC installation, maintenance, or repair work themselves.
Master Mechanical Contractor
Must have worked as a contractor or have been associated in both the refrigeration and pipefitting trades for at least 20 years – 10 years as a pipefitter Master I and 10 years as a Rhode Island Master I.
HVAC technicians and installers in Rhode Island may also work under a number of limited licenses:
Oil Burner Service Journeyperson II LTD
- Limited to service work and installation of all components of oil burning furnaces, except storage tanks
- Requires the completion of a Board-approved program of at least 160 hours consisting of classroom and lab technical training
Oil Burner Journeyperson II LTD
- Limited to service work and oil line installation, including storage tanks with fill lines and vent lines
Propane Journeyperson LTD
- Limited to the installation and service of all propane appliances and components
- Requires the completion of a Board-approved program of at least 220 hours of combined classroom and lab technical training
Natural Gas Journeyperson LTD
- Limited to service work on natural gas burners and appliances
- Requires at least 220 hours of combined classroom and lab tech training approved by the Board
How to Become an Apprentice in Rhode IslandAn apprentice is an individual who receives skilled training under a sponsor and with a written agreement. Apprentices must be 18 or older, work for a licensed master contractor and be supervised by a licensed master or journeyperson
The apprenticeship program consists of at least 4,000 hours (2 years), with at least 144 hours of HVAC-related schooling per year.
There are both separate Pipefitter and Refrigeration Mechanic Apprenticeship programs, as well as programs that combine the two for anybody interested in earning a license in both areas. This is pretty common in the HVAC world since the job routinely involves both types of work.
You must be registered in a Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training approved apprenticeship program.
Completing a two-year program from an accredited school recognized by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training can reduce the apprenticeship training-hour requirements substantially.
After completing your registered apprenticeship program, the State Apprenticeship Agency will issue your Completion Certificate.
HVAC Technical and Trade School Programs
Completing a formal HVAC program through a technical college, trade school or community college will prepare you to enter the field and serve as a competent and prepared apprentice. These programs provide you with classroom learning and hands-on training in existing HVAC and refrigeration systems commonly in use, as well as the next generation of solar and green technology systems coming on the market.
Many HVAC programs provide flexible scheduling options, online study, and career placement assistance.
EPA Certification Requirements
The federal Clean Air Act requires HVAC professionals handling, working with, testing, and adding ozone-depleting refrigerants commonly found in air conditioning systems to hold the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Section 608 Certification. Most HVAC technical school programs provide test preparation and proctor the exam that leads to Section 608 certification.
There are four EPA section 608 certification options:
To earn EPA Section 608 certification, you must pass an examination that includes two sections: (1) a Core Section and (2) a section that aligns with the certificate type for which you are applying.
Journeyperson and Contractor Master License Requirements
To advance beyond an HVAC apprentice in Rhode Island to become a journeyperson and then contractor, if desired, you will need to meet the experiential requirements of each license level and take the appropriate exam.
You must complete an Application for Examination and submit it (signed and notarized), along with the following, to qualify to take the appropriate examination:
You can read more about taking the appropriate HVAC exams here. You can also learn more through the RI Department of Labor and Training’s Trade Licensing pamphlet.
Housing Shortages, Green Building Supporting Growth of HVAC Jobs in Rhode Island
Even as a small state, Rhode Island has a big problem: a major shortage of housing. A 2016 study conducted by Roger Willliams University’s HousingWorks RI found that Rhode Island would need to add as many as 40,000 new housing units over the next decade to keep up with the state’s changing demographics. However, as it stands, the state is poised to fall short.
The study forecasted that between 34,000 and 40,000 new housing units will need to be built in the next 10 years—or about 3,500 units each year—to meet the demand.
According to the study, millennials and seniors will drive the demand for more housing in Rhode Island, particularly for multi-family homes.
Governor Gina Raimondo has proposed a $40-million bond to subsidize new affordable housing developments in the state. Such incentives are sure to keep the construction market in Rhode Island strong, thereby bringing additional job opportunities in the building trades, including HVAC.
At the same time, Rhode Island continues to be a trailblazer for green building. Thanks to the Resilient Rhode Island Act, the state is working to reduce energy consumption and promote renewable energy. Coordinating with the Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council, National Grid, and the Green Building Advisory Committee, the Resilient Rhode Island Act is working to establish a building code based on the International Green Construction Code or the equivalent by 2017.
This means that HVAC technicians and installers in Rhode Island will be among the construction professionals to enjoy a boom in clean energy jobs resulting from the upgrade of old HVAC systems to the next generation of advanced automated systems.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, the top 10% of HVAC technicians make an average annual salary of $71,850, or $34.54 an hour. The median salary for HVAC technicians in the state is $55,890, or $26.87 an hour (US Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2015).
Rhode Island HVAC Technician Salary (median)
Rhode Island HVAC Technician Salary (top 10%)
In all Rhode Island cities that were recorded in the US Department of Labor’s 2015 report, HVAC technicians earning within the median and top 10% brackets made more than the national average for these categories.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Rhode Island’s Largest Cities
The city data below for Rhode Island’s four most populated cities – for Providence, Fall River, Warwick, and New London — was sourced from the US Department of Labor. We’ve organized the data by annual salary and hourly wages, with the ranges representing the median to top 10 percent for each city.
*Salaries that are higher than the national median or top 10%.
The Job Market for HVAC Technicians in Rhode Island
Between 2014 and 2024, the construction industry is expected to grow by 14.1% in Rhode Island, adding 6,037 jobs during this period. This growth, which is having a strong impact on the HVAC industry, is promising for technicians entering the field (Rhode Island Labor Market Information, “Occupational Outlook 2024”).
In Rhode Island, the job market for HVAC technicians is expected to grow by 11.9% over the twelve years spanning 2012-2024. This growth will add roughly 80 new jobs to the field, or 20 new jobs per year on average (Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, Labor Market Information).
In fact, according to Burning Glass Technologies, in 2015 Rhode Island had 714 job postings in the HVAC field (Burning Glass Technologies, “Heating Up: The Sweltering Demand for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Workers” 2015).