HVAC License Massachusetts: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Massachusetts
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Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration technologies have never been more complex, and systems are ever-evolving. Learning this trade can mean not only job security in Massachusetts but a healthy paycheck too. The Bay State is one of the top-paying states for HVAC mechanics and installers in the United States. That’s according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also reports that there are over 394,100 Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers nationwide and 7,550 work in Massachusetts.
That number nationwide is expected to grow 5% from 2021 to 2031 — adding more than 20,000 of these skilled workers to the ranks. And, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, contractors are hiring. In the 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. had unfilled hourly craft positions.
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A large part of what HVAC contractors and technicians do is replace and repair existing systems. As more of an emphasis is placed on energy efficiency and reducing pollution, systems need to be retrofitted, upgraded or replaced entirely to comply with these new standards. Licensing requirements for HVAC technicians and contractors vary from state to state and, in some cases, from locality to locality. Massachusetts is uniform statewide.
Licensing Requirements for HVAC Professionals in Massachusetts
Is a license required for HVAC technicians and contractors in Massachusetts? The Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not license HVAC technicians as they do electricians and plumbers. However, they do require anyone dealing with refrigerants to be licensed. For those technicians who handle small amounts like in most standard residences, an EPA certification is needed. More on that later. However, Massachusetts requires a refrigeration license for anyone working with more than 10 tons of refrigeration as with industrial or commercial projects and larger homes.
The Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure Office of Public Safety and Inspections issues the Refrigeration Licenses, but those are only for Apprentices, Technicians, and Contractors who perform refrigeration work having a capacity over 10 tons.
That means if you want to get started in the HVAC field in Massachusetts you just need to meet employer expectations and eventually have certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to legally be permitted to handle refrigerants. If you want the freedom to work on larger commercial or industrial refrigeration units, that’s when you’ll need your state-issued license.
Types of HVAC Licenses in Massachusetts
What are the different types of HVAC licenses in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts does not license HVAC professionals but does require Refrigeration Licenses for those bigger jobs. There are three types:
Each license has specific requirements for licensure.
LICENSE REQUIREMENTS: A refrigeration license is required for installing, repairing, replacing, and\or maintaining any refrigerant containing part of any refrigeration\air conditioning system TEN (10) tons or greater.
Must be at least 18 years of age.
Must provide proof that the applicant is enrolled in a registered apprenticeship program (must be accompanied by a copy of the Division of Apprentice Standards (DAS) ID Card).
Applicants will be limited to two renewals of their Refrigeration Apprentice License unless otherwise approved by the Bureau of Pipefitters, Refrigeration Technicians and Sprinkler Fitters.
Must provide proof that the applicant has worked 6,000 hours in Massachusetts as a Refrigeration Apprentice.
Documentation from an approved school indicating that the applicant has completed 100 hours of refrigeration theory classes.
Documentation from an approved school indicating that the applicant has completed 150 hours of related Massachusetts electrical code training. OR
Must provide proof that the applicant has worked 4,000 hours as a Massachusetts Refrigeration Apprentice.
Documentation from an approved school indicating that an applicant has completed 500 hours of refrigeration classes of which includes: 250 hours of practical shop-related work; 100 hours of refrigeration theory\code; 100 hours of Massachusetts electrical code training. OR
Must provide proof that the applicant has worked 2,000 hours as a Massachusetts Refrigeration Apprentice.
Documentation from an approved school indicating that an applicant has completed 1,000 hours of refrigeration classes of which includes: 700 hours of practical shop-related work; 100 hours of refrigeration theory\code; 100 hours of Massachusetts electrical code training. OR
Copy of a refrigeration technician’s license, master technician’s license or equivalent license from another jurisdiction.
Documentation from employer listing work experience and certification requirements equivalent to the refrigeration technician prerequisites listed above.
Must provide proof that the applicant has worked 2,000 hours as a Massachusetts Refrigeration Technician.
Documentation from an approved school indicating that the applicant has completed 100 hours of additional refrigeration training.
Steps to Becoming an HVAC Technician in Massachusetts
Typically you must be at least 18 years of age and have earned a high school diploma or GED equivalent to meet employer requirements.
You must get the proper training. Either attend community or technical college (usually two years) or trade school (usually six to nine months) to prepare for certification exams and be a good candidate for hire; Or
Be accepted into a union or trade association apprentice program; Or
Find entry-level work with an HVAC company and get on-the-job training. Most employers will place you with a licensed supervisor to learn from on the job and require classroom instruction two nights per week to prepare to take certification exams.
You will need to get EPA Section 608 Certification by passing the exam.
You can earn additional certifications to improve your marketability and pay.
If you want to be able to work on bigger projects like larger homes or industrial or commercial sites with more than 10-ton capacity, you need a refrigeration license.
A high school diploma or equivalency certification is required by the state.
Enroll in a Massachusetts Division of Apprentice Standards registered apprenticeship program.
Apply for your Refrigeration Apprentice license.
Meet the educational and experience requirements.
Apply for your Refrigeration Technician license and pass the written exam as well as the practical exam.
Meet the educational and experience requirements: 2,000 hours as a Massachusetts Refrigeration Technician and 100 hours of additional refrigeration training.
Apply for your Refrigeration Contractor license and pass the exam.
Benefits of Becoming an HVAC Professional in Massachusetts
There are many benefits to getting into the HVAC field in Massachusetts:
You will earn as you learn with a guarantee of pay increases as you develop new skills.
Though there is no state-issued license for HVAC in Massachusetts, the certifications you earn are proof of your knowledge, experience, and expertise as a technician.
If you decide to pursue state refrigeration licensing, you will receive industry-recognized credentials that can go with you anywhere.
Being licensed gives you a competitive advantage in the job market and higher pay.
You can eventually own your own business and be your own boss.
What Is the Mean Salary for an HVAC Technician in Massachusetts?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean wage for HVAC mechanics and installers nationally as $54,690. Massachusetts has the sixth highest annual mean wage in the country at $65,460. The salary for an HVAC Technician increases, as you might expect, as you acquire more experience according to Indeed.com.
HVAC Installer: The average salary for an HVAC installer is $30.82 per hour in Massachusetts and $6,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Technician: The average salary for an HVAC Technician is $31.20 per hour in Massachusetts and $6,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Mechanic: The average salary for an HVAC Mechanic is $34.10 per hour in Massachusetts.
HVAC Supervisor: The average base salary for an HVAC Supervisor is $87,553 per year in Massachusetts.
Salary ranges can vary widely depending on the city and many other important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you have spent in your profession.
What Business Owners Need to Know
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How to Become an HVAC Professional in Massachusetts
EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS: Because there is no statewide licensing for HVAC technicians in Massachusetts, there is no state-mandated minimum age to get started on your HVAC career path. Some high schools offer vocational programs for seniors, making it possible to begin preliminary training at 16 or 17. However, most employers seem to expect job candidates to be at least 18 years old and have earned either a high school diploma or GED.
DRIVER’S LICENSE: A valid driver’s license is a must. A clean driving record is important for a job in HVAC because you’ll be driving to the customers. Many job listings in the HVAC field specify no major or frequent traffic violations or DUI in the previous five years.
EDUCATION/WORK EXPERIENCE: Either attend community college and earn an Associate Degree in Applied Science or complete a shorter certificate program at a technical college to get the foundational knowledge to get started. Employers often state a preference for HVAC technicians who have graduated from a relevant trade school or technical college because they have been educated in key skills needed for the job. Alternatively, you can opt for on-the-job training to prepare for the EPA and other certifications. You would need to become an Apprentice/Entry Level worker for an HVAC company to begin learning on the job and complete the requisite classroom instruction your employer prefers. Certification tests are rigorous and thorough, so some kind of formal education at a college or trade school may be a more helpful first step in your training. The other way to get the training you need is through a formal apprenticeship, which is sometimes referred to as “The Other Four-Year Degree,” because it’s like college for the trades. The Massachusetts Building Trades unions and their contractor partners operate over 30 joint apprenticeship training centers (JATCs) across Massachusetts and, according to the website, many of the apprentice programs offer college credit too. There are also opportunities through the Merit Apprenticeship Program of the Massachusetts Associated Builders and Contractors, the largest construction trade association in the Commonwealth, representing over 460 local general contractor, subcontractor, supplier and associate companies.
GET CERTIFIED/LICENSED: As part of your training on any of those paths, you will need to prepare for and pass the EPA Section 608 certification exam to be allowed to work with refrigerant of any kind. You can also acquire other certifications from professional HVAC organizations to demonstrate your value as an employee and justify higher pay. If you want the freedom to work on industrial, commercial, or larger home projects of more than 10-ton capacity, you will need to get your Massachusetts Refrigeration Technician License.
That requires that you enroll in a Massachusetts Division of Apprentice Standards registered apprenticeship program, apply for your Refrigeration Apprentice license and pay the application fee.
You will then need to begin gaining the training and education required to meet the educational and experience requirements for a Refrigeration Technician license. There are several combinations of hours of experience and hours of classroom education that meet those mandates. Once you have accomplished one of those combinations you may apply for your Refrigeration Technician license. The requirements are listed on the application. Then you will be scheduled for the state administered exam. You will be notified by mail approximately four to eight weeks after the Office of Public Safety & Inspections (OPSI) has received your application.
TECHNICIAN WORK EXPERIENCE/EDUCATION: If you want to pursue a Refrigeration Contractor License you will need to work for 2,000 hours as a Massachusetts Refrigeration Technician and get 100 hours of additional refrigeration training before qualifying. Any of the license applications must be mailed to:
Division of Professional Licensure Office of Public Safety and Inspections 1000 Washington Street, Suite 710 Boston, MA 02118
If your application is complete and you satisfy all the prerequisites, you will be scheduled to take the Contractor exam. If you pass, you will receive your Refrigeration Contractor License.
How Much Does It Cost to Become an HVAC Technician in Massachusetts?
How you get started will determine your upfront costs. If you start as an entry-level employee, you can earn while you learn and have no up-front costs, but you will likely make a lower wage. However, HVAC, plumbing and electrical companies are looking for people interested in learning those skills and often are willing to pay for your training. You could also choose to enroll in an apprenticeship program where you will be earning a percentage of a journeyman wage while you train. Or you can attend classes at a community or technical college to prepare for eventual licensing, which of course means paying tuition. The New England Institute of HVAC offers a 13-week program that costs $6,975 for the day class schedule or $5,975 for the night class. The Peterson School offers a program designed to prepare you for the Technician licensing exam in combination with three years (6,000 hours) working in the HVAC field. It is made up of three courses that cost a combined $6,460. The cost to take the EPA Section 608 Certification Examination can be as low as $20 for the Type I exam and upwards of $150 for the Universal Exam. If you start with a program, that may be included. There are also application processing fees for each level of licensure.
Refrigeration Apprentice — $40
Refrigeration Technician — $75
Refrigeration Contractor — $150
How Long Does it Take to Become an HVAC Tech in Massachusetts?
It will take about two years of schooling/work experience to learn what you need to know for the EPA Section 608 Certification Exam. However, you can be working as a technician under a seasoned professional—and earning money—the whole time. Full training through an apprenticeship takes about four years. The refrigeration technician license requires at least three years to accomplish any of the combinations of hours of work experience and classroom training. The longer you work in the business, the more skilled and valued you will become as an employee and the more earning potential you will enjoy.
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Massachusetts HVAC Training programs and schools
There are many programs to get the training you need to become an HVAC professional in Massachusetts and they are located all over the state. Most HVAC technicians hold some kind of post-secondary degree or certificate. There are currently two main organizations that approve HVAC programs and schools nationwide: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).
There are no programs in Massachusetts that are currently accredited by HVAC Excellence.
PAHRA has accredited two high school programs but no post-secondary ones at this time. The two for students are:
Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich
Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica
There are many other post-secondary programs in HVAC and refrigeration. You may want to focus on refrigeration courses that are approved by OPSI. The two mentioned above — the New England Institute of HVAC and the Peterson School are all approved curriculums. Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology offers an HVACR Technology certificate program that is eight months long and can be taken day or night. It prepares you for EPA certification and gets you 2,000 credit hours toward the Refrigeration Technician Examination and 150 hours of electrical code needed for licensure. Springfield Technical Community College has a one-year HVAC program that prepares you for entry-level positions in the HVAC field and EPA certification too.
Here are three great lists to the best HVAC schools in Massachusetts:
You’ll see that many of the same colleges or programs appear on all these lists.
Apprenticeship: The alternative to a formal education program is to look for an apprenticeship. As stated earlier, many employers hiring entry-level HVAC technicians follow an apprentice model — pairing new employees with others who are licensed in the local jurisdiction to begin hands-on training while requiring the beginner to attend HVAC classes. Employers will often pay for the instruction if you maintain a certain grade point average.
There are also apprenticeships offered through unions or local trade associations.
If you want to be eligible for the Refrigeration Technician License, the apprenticeship you choose must be approved by The Division of Apprentice Standards (DAS), which is responsible for promoting, developing, and servicing registered apprenticeship programs in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The website offers a detailed explanation of how to apply to become an apprentice in the trades.
Tuition: Apprenticeships usually have some up-front costs of tuition and book fees but the apprentice will be paid a percentage of the journeyman wage rate and will receive periodic wage increases as they meet program requirements. The cost of tuition at a vocational school or college depends on the program you choose but can range from $5,000 at a community college to $40,000 at a state or private school for an associate degree or bachelor degree in engineering.
Program Prerequisites: You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED.
On-the-Job Experience: While on the job, you will need to have good customer service skills, be detail-oriented, have some mechanical capability, and be physically fit because the job can include some heavy lifting and hours of walking, standing and working in tight spaces.
Everywhere throughout the country, including Massachusetts, federal-level EPA regulations under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act require that technicians who maintain, service, repair, or dispose of equipment that could release refrigerants into the atmosphere must be certified. EPA section 608 HVAC Certification is required for any professional who conducts refrigerant line-pressure tests or handles or adds refrigerant to existing air conditioning systems.
Most training programs can direct you to how and where to get that certification, and many even make it part of the curriculum, or your employer will require you to get it before handling refrigerant. You can also go to EPA.gov and key in 608 Certification in the search bar to find out which institutions in your state offer certification programs.
Certification Exam: You must acquire your EPA Certification from an approved organization. A list of these organizations can be found on the EPA’s website. There are four types of EPA Certifications for Refrigerant. They allow for different levels of certification for different scopes of work.
Type I – for servicing small appliances containing 5 pounds of refrigerant or less.
Type II – for servicing high-pressure units that contain 5 pounds or more of refrigerant (including most small commercial and residential systems).
Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances.
Universal – for servicing all systems and appliances covered under Types I, II, and III. Generally more useful than targeting any one specific certification.
For all certifications, you must pass the “Core Section” of the EPA certification exam. It covers the following topics:
Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol
Section 608 regulations
Substitute refrigerants and oils
The Three R’s (Recover, Recycle, Reclaim)
Who Issues HVAC Licenses in Massachusetts?
There are no licenses issued at the state level for HVAC contractors or technicians in Massachusetts. However, the state does issue refrigeration licenses for work on systems of more than 10-ton capacity. The Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure Office of Public Safety and Inspections issues the Refrigeration Licenses. The website offers guidance on who needs to be licensed, the prerequisites for licensure, and how to apply for each level: Refrigeration Apprentice, Refrigeration Technician, and Refrigeration Contractor.
Does My Massachusetts Refrigeration License Work in Any Other State?
Every state has different licensing requirements. Some will have minimum work experience thresholds, and many will require that you document that experience and pass a licensing exam. In Massachusetts, a copy of a refrigeration technician’s license, master technician’s license or equivalent license from another jurisdiction and documentation from an employer listing work experience and certification requirements equivalent to the refrigeration technician prerequisites in the commonwealth will make you eligible for the Massachusetts technician exam. If you want to test for the Refrigeration Contractor license, you’ll need to fulfill the required 2,000 hours of work as a licensed Massachusetts Refrigeration Technician and provide documentation from an approved school indicating that you’ve completed 100 hours of additional refrigeration training.
National HVAC Certifications
Other certifications can help you demonstrate your proficiency to potential employers and clients. North American Technical Excellence (NATE) certification, ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) certification and other professional certifications are not required but can add to your marketability as a service provider and therefore increase your opportunity to make more money.
To renew your Refrigeration License you must get continuing education from a school approved by OPSI. There is a list of approved providers on the website. Once you’ve gotten the required continuing education units you can renew your license online.
You can stay up to date on all HVAC industry news several ways:
Read about the latest industry trends.
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