HVAC techs in Rhode Island make, on average, $55,000 annually. Top earners in the HVAC biz make over $70k. How do you transition from being an entry-level tech to a top earning industry veteran?
This article will discuss the basic requirements and examination process necessary for becoming a licensed refrigeration technician or a contractor. We will also talk about national certifications you can earn to make you a more marketable and qualified technician.
Master and Journeyman Refrigeration Licenses
Here are the requirements for all classes of Refrigeration Journeyperson and Master. As you’ll see, each of these has a “limited” and an “unlimited” class.
Refrigeration Journeyperson Class I (unlimited)
For the Journeyman I Unlimited classification, you must be employed by someone else. You must meet the following requirements:
Minimum of 10,000 hours of on the job training with a minimum of 144 hours of trade related schooling per year as a properly registered apprentice in a Rhode Island approved apprenticeship program. The apprentice must successfully complete the program and a copy of the certificate of completion shall accompany the application.
Here are some alternatives to the full 10,000 hours:
- 2 years of schooling in an accredited institution recognized by the Rhode Island Department of Labor may be deducted from the apprentice program.
- If you have an out-of-state Refrigeration Journeyperson Class I license you just need to pass the Refrigeration Journeyperson Class I exam for Rhode Island.
- If a license is not available, a notarized resume showing 5 years of experience as a journeyperson can be attached to the application when submitted
You must also be competent in the following areas:
- You must have all the knowledge of a Refrigeration Journeyperson Class II (see below)
- Proficiency in line sizing, soldering, and evacuation, charging and testing of systems utilizing any size liquid or suction line
- Able to diagnose electrical and mechanical problems, and be able to read blueprints and do wiring related to systems and controls. Familiarity with pipe hangers and supports.
- Knowledge of OSHA, and State Building Codes (Mechanical system)
There is no restriction on the type of work you can do.
Refrigeration Journeyperson Class II (Limited)
Like the journeyperson class I, you must be an employee if you are in this class. You need to meet these educational requirements:
- Minimum of 4000 hour of job training with a minimum of 288 hours of trade related schooling
- Be a properly registered apprentice with a state approved program and complete the program
- 2 years of schooling in an accredited institution recognized by the Department of Labor can be deducted from the apprentice program
- If you have an out-of-state Refrigeration Journeyperson Class II license and pass the state’s Refrigeration Journeyperson Class II exam, you can be exempted from the experience requirement
- If another license is not available a notarized resume showing 5 years of experience as a journeyperson can be attached to the application when submitted
Your areas of knowledge must include:
- Electrical knowledge of a single and three-phase power wiring and control systems. You must have the ability to evacuate fractional Horsepower systems, charge and test small closed systems and to balance and adjust them.
- Thorough familiarity with use of gases, refrigerants, fluxes, solder, and torches.
- Knowledge of OSHA, State Building Codes and currently approved edition of the International Mechanical Code.
A Refrigeration Journeyperson II may apply for a Refrigeration Journeyperson I license by re-entering the Refrigeration Journeyperson I apprenticeship program, and doing an additional 6,000 hours of on-the-job training plus an additional 432 hours of related training.
You’ll also have to work under a Refrigeration Master I or a Refrigeration Journeyperson I. As a Journeyperson II, you can work on installations limited to 20-ton comfort cooling systems and installations up to 3 tons product cooling or up to 1 Horsepower freezing.
Refrigeration Master Class I (Unlimited License)
A refrigeration Master Class I license holder can be self-employed once they have this license.
Too qualify , you must have held one of these licenses:
- Rhode Island Refrigeration Journeyperson I license for at least 1 year
- Rhode Island Refrigeration Master II license for at least 1 year
- Out of state Master Class I Refrigeration License and a passed exam for Refrigeration Master Class I Rhode Island License
- If this license is not currently available, a notarized resume showing 6 years of experience, including at least one year of those 6 as a contractor), must be submitted with the application
You must have a regular place of business, and the professional knowledge expected of a Journeyperson I and II and a Master II. With this license, you are allowed to work in any area of HVAC/Refrigeration.
There are also business-related requirements, such as properly registering and identifying your business location and vehicles. You must also have an understanding of Worker’s Compensation and federal and state tax laws.
To make sure the workplace is kept safe, you must demonstrate knowledge of OSHA laws as well as BOCA State Building Codes.
Refrigeration Master Class II (Limited License)
A Master II Limited License holder can also work for themselves. To get this license you must have had a Journeyperson Class II license for at least 3 years.
If you worked out of state, the requirements are the same as those for Master Class I.
You need a working knowledge of controls, wiring, layout and blueprint reading, as well as all that’s required of a Refrigeration Journeyperson Class II
You’re limited to working on installations up to 20-ton comfort cooling systems and up to 3 tons product cooling or 1 Horsepower freezing.
You also have the same business requirements as listed under Master Class I.
An apprenticeship is an excellent hands-on learning experience that will not only allow you to learn new skills, but also make strong connections within the HVAC community. In Rhode Island, an apprenticeship requires you to make a signed commitment to spending 144 hours in the classroom in addition to working full-time.
Programs are sponsored jointly by an employer and labor groups, or by individual employers. A local sponsor helps to place you in an apprenticeship.
The Rhode Island Apprenticeship Program guarantees you the learning experience of working through the apprenticeship, although there is no guarantee from the state that you will secure a job afterward.
A contractor can train 1 apprentice per 2 licensed persons for on-the-job training. Any properly registered apprentice has to always work under the direct supervision of a Refrigeration Master I or II or a Refrigeration Journeyperson I or II.
To obtain an HVAC contractor license in Rhode Island you will need to submit the following along with your completed application to be eligible for the exam process:
- Passport style photograph or copy of driver’s license
- Last 2 pages of the packet with the application signed and notarized
- The application fee of $75
- Detailed notarized statement on company letterhead signed by present or past employer stating all work-related experience
All pipefitter, refrigeration techs, sheet metal journeypersons, sprinkler fitter journeypersons require the completion of an apprenticeship program
Out of state applicants must provide proof of current licensure from that state, a photo copy of the license is not acceptable proof
Your license is subject to biennial review
Licensing fees are separate and range between $60-240 dependent on which class and field you are getting licensed in. A Master Mechanical Contractor fee is $480
Exams are given on a first come, first serve basis. For the calendar year of 2017, they are offered for one-week person month until December on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of that week. The exam fee is $75.
Getting EPA 608 certified as an entry-level technician can make you a more marketable tech since it allows you to purchase and handle refrigerants.For obvious reasons, that’s important in the HVAC industry.
There are three levels of certification you can achieve within EPA 608, depending on the type of equipment you’re working with. Check out this article to learn more about getting your EPA certifications today!
Getting licensed as a refrigeration technician or HVAC contractor in Rhode Island allows you to work in the industry and even move toward being your own boss.
You can bid on projects and move out of a hands-on position into a project manager/ business owner role. Get started working on your certifications and licensing in Rhode Island today!