In South Carolina, about 83 percent of all contractors in South Carolina are struggling to find tradespersons; that’s significantly higher than the national average of 69 percent.The General Contractors of AmericaThere aren’t many barriers to getting a career in HVAC off the ground in South Carolina. HVAC technicians and installers here do not need to hold a license as long as they work under a licensed contractor. This means that after graduating from an HVAC program, you can immediately begin working in an entry-level job as a valuable member of an HVAC team.
South Carolina also offers one of the shortest paths to earning a contractor’s license. After one year of experience in the field as an HVAC technician/installer, you can move on to become your own boss by earning a license as …
- Residential Specialty Contractor through the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission (for residential installations and repairs that exceed $200)
- Mechanical Contractor through the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board (for commercial HVAC installation or repair services of more than $5,000)
Although a formal HVAC education earned through a diploma or certificate program or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree is not a prerequisite for entering the HVAC profession in South Carolina as a service technician or installer, it allows you to learn the ins and outs of the HVAC industry and enter the field with a solid foundation of knowledge and skills that will make you a commodity to HVAC contractors and businesses. Fact is, there is no better way to present yourself as a strong job candidate.Most quality programs even include federally-mandated EPA Section 608 certification exam preparation as part of the curriculum, and many even offer the test itself. This means you would complete the program with this mandatory card in hand.
Many of today’s HVAC programs prepare students with knowledge and hands-on experience not only in existing HVAC systems found in buildings and home through South Carolina, but also introduce students to the emerging technology that is now dominating the market for new installs and retrofits.
Many programs also offer online study, flexible schedules, and career placement assistance.
Just some of the topics you will study in a comprehensive HVAC program include:
Federal EPA Certification Requirements
Section 608 of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Air Act requires certification for anybody who services, repairs, maintains, or disposes of equipment that uses environmentally impactful pressurized chemical refrigerants, namely those that contain Freon and ammonia. All HVAC techs and installers will perform tasks of this nature, at least on occasion, and most work on this type of equipment every single day. This means Section 608 certification is not only a federal mandate, but a standard employer requirement.
You must determine which type of certification you will need based on the type of systems you work with:
Your HVAC technical school program will provide you with information on taking this examination, and may even proctor it as part of the program. You can also find more information on EPA 608 Certification requirements here.
Requirements to Become a Residential Specialty Contractor in South Carolina
After one year of on-the-job experience working for a licensed South Carolina HVAC contractor, you can apply to become a Residential Specialty Contractor in HVAC.
A Residential Specialty Contractor is an independent contractor who is not a licensed residential builder but who contracts with licensed residential builders, general contractors, or individual property owners to do installations and repairs that exceed $200.
You must complete the Residential Specialty HVAC License application and submit it to the Commission, along with:
The Commission usually reviews applications within 7-10 days. You can view the status of your application online. Once your application is approved, you will receive an Examination Eligibility Letter. Your examination eligibility is valid for just one year. During this time, you are allowed three attempts to pass both the Residential HVAC Exam and the Residential Business Management and Law Exam.
Both examinations are administered by PSI. You will schedule your examination directly with PSI.
Once you pass both exams, you will submit the following information to the Commission:
You must renew your Residential HVAC License every other year (odd-numbered years) before June 30.
Mechanical Contractor Requirements in South Carolina
If you perform any commercial HVAC installation or repair services of more than $5,000, you must apply for a Mechanical Contractors License through the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board.
To qualify for a Mechanical Contractors license, you must complete at least 2 years of experience in the last 5 years and pass a technical examination.
You must first register to take the required examinations with PSI. Select the exams to be taken (Technical Exam and Business Management and Law Exam) and submit the PSI registration exam form.
PSI will send you a letter after they receive your registration. Call the number on the letter and schedule your appointment at the testing center of your choice. After you have passed the exams, submit the following to the SC Contractor’s Licensing Board:
- General and Mechanical Contractor’s Initial License (You will select the Heating and Air Conditioning classifications and a Group Number based on the job amount.)
- Exam results from PSI
- If you bid any job over $30,000, the completion of a Financial Statement Balance Sheet is required
- A copy of your certificate if you have registered your corporation, partnership, LLC with the South Carolina Secretary of State
- License fee (varies according to when you apply; see fee schedule on page 2)
South Carolina HVAC Workers Are in Short Supply
A building boom throughout the state has resulted in a construction worker shortage, which, according to an August 2016 survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America, is worse than most other states.
As a result, everyone from HVAC program graduates to experienced HVAC contractors are enjoying a wealth of professional opportunities.
According to the General Contractors of America, firms of South Carolina are planning to keep hiring construction workers, including HVAC technicians and installers, even though they are demanding higher wages and pull in more overtime. In South Carolina, about 83 percent of all contractors in South Carolina are struggling to find tradespersons; that’s significantly higher than the national average of 69 percent.
Further, the survey found that about 7 in 10 contractors plan to hire more people throughout 2017.
Construction has led the state’s job gains for more than a year. In July 2016, the construction industry in South Carolina posted gains of 5,500 construction workers—an increase of 6.3 percent over 2015. Regardless, these gains have not been able to keep up with the pace of new commercial and real estate developments.
HVAC Technician Salaries in South Carolina
In South Carolina, the top 10% of HVAC technicians made an average annual wage of $60,330, or $29.01 an hour. The median salary in the state for HVAC technicians was recorded at $39,220, or $18.86 an hour (US Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2015).
South Carolina HVAC Technician Salary (median)
South Carolina HVAC Technician Salary (top 10%)
In Charleston and Augusta, the US Department of Labor recorded salaries which were higher than the national median salary for HVAC technicians.
HVAC Technician Salaries in South Carolina’s Largest Cities
The figures recorded below were sourced from the US Department of Labor and show the median to top 10% of earnings in average annual wages and hourly figures. We’ve included data from twelve of South Carolina’s most populous cities.
*Salaries that exceed the national median or top 10%.
The Job Market for HVAC Technicians in South Carolina
A December 2016 article from South Carolina Construction News reported that “steady economic gains are expected for South Carolina in 2017…the gains build on positive growth across most of the Palmetto State’s industries and regions.” With a growing economy, most industries in the state are experiencing a boost. In fact, job creation in the state is expected to grow by 2.6 percent in 2017, according to the article.
The construction industry is no exception. According to South Carolina Construction News, construction “played a key role in South Carolina’s economic growth in 2016.” Job opportunities in construction are only expected to rise in the state over the next year (“U of SC Economists: 2017 SC Economy Strong and Stable Amid Political Uncertainty,’ South Carolina Construction News, December 2016).
Within the construction industry, there will be numerous opportunities for HVAC technicians over the next several years. In fact, between the years 2012 and 2024, the job market for HVAC technicians in South Carolina is expected to grow by 14.6%! This job growth is projected to open up 650 new jobs, or 130 new jobs in the field per year (SC Works, SC Department of Employment and Workforce).