While the construction industry in South Carolina is expected to rise by 9.13% from 2012-2024, the HVAC job market in particular is expected to rise by 14% within that twelve-year time span.South Dakota has no state licensing requirements for HVAC technicians, installers, and contractors, instead leaving it up to the cities to determine what—if any—licensing requirements and regulations to impose on HVAC professionals.
City-Specific HVAC Licensing Requirements in South Dakota
HVAC licensing requirements vary considerably from one city to the next. You will find a lack of licensing in some cities, specific licensing requirements for several HVAC classifications in some, and contractor-only licensing requirements in others.
The City of Rapid City Building Inspection Division issues Mechanical licenses in the following categories:
- Mechanical Apprentice
- Mechanical Installer
- Mechanical Contractor
To transition from mechanical apprentice to mechanical installer, you must show proof of at least 4 years in the mechanical trade and take and pass the required examination. To become a mechanical contractor, you must take and pass the required examination. Licenses are valid for 2 years. Six hours of continuing education per renewal period is required.
You can read more about the required license examinations here.
The City of Sioux Falls licenses master mechanical contractors.
To become a master mechanical contractor, you must:
- Show evidence of at least 4 years of experience in the HVAC trade; during this period, you must have spent at least 2,000 hours per year working as a refrigeration technician, sheet metal mechanic, engineer, or general manager
- Take and pass the Master Mechanic examination
- Pay the $75 examination fee
Graduates of accredited trade schools or accredited colleges may receive credit for some of the required experience.
After passing the exam, you can apply for the Master Mechanic License and Mechanical Contractor’s License. Applications can be found here.
Upon application of the Mechanical Contractor’s license, you must submit a $10,000 Compliance Bond within three months of taking the exam.
The City also requires contractors doing refrigeration and coolant work within city limits to hold a Refrigeration Contractors License. You must take and pass the Refrigeration Contractor examination. You must apply for the Refrigeration Contractor License and submit a $10,000 Compliance Bond within 90 days of examination. Applications can be found here.
HVAC Training Programs
Regardless of whether you will need to hold an HVAC license to practice, an HVAC program leading to a diploma, certificate, or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree will provide you with a solid foundation in the fundamentals of heating, cooling, ventilation, and refrigeration.The completion of an HVAC program will also allow you to confidently enter the field as an apprentice, trainee, or technician, armed with classroom theory and hands-on training in HVAC electrical applications, hydronic heating, residential HVAC, heat pump, and commercial refrigeration systems, among others.
Today’s HVAC programs also emphasize energy efficiency through retrofitting, upgrading and replacement of older HVAC systems for some of the most advanced internet-enabled climate-control systems and diagnostic software.
Many of these programs offer online study, thereby allowing students to complete some or all of the required coursework from the comfort of home. Many more offer graduates job placement assistance.
EPA Certification Requirements
Many programs also prepare students to take the EPA 608 certification exam. EPA certification is required if you work in a capacity that involves handling or working with equipment that uses refrigerants like Freon and ammonia, which are know to have ozone-depleting characteristics.
This applies to just about everybody in the trade, so this is a universally recognized, federally-mandated card that every HVAC mechanic and installer holds.
The type of certification you hold must coincide with type of systems you will work with. The EPA examination consists of a core section and a section that aligns with one of the following certification types:
You can more about EPA 608 Certification requirements here.
Rapid City Construction Jobs Attracting Workers from Nearby States
It seems there is no shortage of construction jobs in Rapid City, leading many workers in the building and craft trades, including HVAC installers, to travel from all parts of South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming for work.
According to Rapid City’s communication director Darrell Shoemaker, jobs are almost always available in the construction industry in Rapid City. Shoemaker also noted that the Black Hills area is abundant in construction jobs, too.
2016 was a record-breaking year for Rapid City for building permits, with $320 million worth of building permits filed. And if January is an indication of the year to come, 2017 may be even bigger. January 2017 was the second biggest January for permits in Rapid City, reaching $35 million.
HVAC Technician Salaries in South Dakota
In 2015, the US Department of Labor recorded that the average annual salary for the top 10% of HVAC technicians in South Dakota is $63,420, or $30.49 an hour. The median salary for HVAC technicians is $45,460, or $21.86 an hour (Occupational Employment Statistics, 2015).
South Dakota HVAC Technician Salary (median)
South Dakota HVAC Technician Salary (top 10%)
In Sioux City, Sioux Falls, and Brookings, the recorded salaries were higher than the national median for HVAC technicians.
HVAC Technician Salaries in South Dakota’s Largest Cities
The salary figures we’ve listed below were sourced from the US Department of Labor’s 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics report. We’ve listed the data in both annual wages and hourly figures. The data represents five of South Dakota’s largest cities.
- Sioux City
- Annual: $54,800* – $73,440*
- Hourly: $26.35* – $35.31*
- Sioux Falls
- Annual: $49,900* – $73,400*
- Hourly: $23.99* – $35.29*
- Annual: $47,020* – $60,350
- Hourly: $22.61* – $29.01
- Rapid City
- Annual: $40,510 – $58,980
- Hourly: $19.48 – $28.35
- Annual: $37,730 – $60,670
- Hourly: $18.14 – $29.17
*Salaries that exceed the national median or top 10%.
The Job Market for HVAC Technicians in South Dakota
In August 2016, South Dakota’s unemployment rate was recorded at 2.9%— the lowest unemployment rate in the nation! The state’s economy has continued steadily expanding since 2010, opening up jobs in all sectors (South Dakota Economic and Revenue Update, September 2016). With such a low unemployment rate, new HVAC technicians can confidently enter South Dakota’s workforce.
While the construction industry in South Carolina is expected to rise by 9.13% from 2012-2024, the HVAC job market in particular is expected to rise by 14% within that twelve-year time span. This projected rise will add 160 new jobs, or 30 new jobs a year, according to a report by the South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation.
South Dakota is also a promising state for HVAC technicians who wish to work as independent contractors, according to a list of “The Best and Worst States to Start a Business”, complied in 2016 by Business Insider. While South Dakota ranked 26th on the list, the state took “the number two spot for the best business tax climate.” Because the state does not tax personal income, capital gains, corporate income or corporate capital gains, it is a forgiving climate for new business owners such as independent HVAC technicians.