HVAC Training Schools in Chicago, Illinois

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There are few things that bring a community together quite like a harsh winter. And no one knows a harsh winter like the citizens of Chicago. With temperatures dipping below zero and an unimaginable cold wind blowing in from Lake Michigan, Chicago winters are the stuff of legend. People who have never experienced the frigid reality cannot even begin to imagine what it would mean for your heating to malfunction. Chicago weather means that HVAC technicians will always be in demand in this city, ensuring that people stay warm in the winter and cool in the hot, humid midwest summers.

Mechanically-oriented individuals who are interested in a sustainable career path in the Chicago area might consider a career in HVAC. An HVAC professional works to maintain comfortable climates in both residential and commercial buildings. The right HVAC training program will teach students about repair, maintenance and installation of HVAC systems. A postsecondary education in HVAC may be useful as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employers may be most interested in hiring those with a formal education and/or apprenticeship experience.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Chicago

According to CareerOneStop, an employment site that sources its data from the U.S. Department of Labor, those working in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration in Illinois could see job demand increase 16% in the state from 2014 to 2024.

Graduates of HVAC schools in Chicago could also look for jobs across the nation as opportunities are expected to grow by 14% nationwide over the same time span, which is twice as fast as the expected growth rate for jobs overall. As of 2014, in Illinois around 7,700 people are employed in the HVAC field.

The Chicago metropolitan area accounts for a very high percentage of all the HVAC employment in the state. BLS tracks employment data in two different metropolitan areas that encompass Chicago: Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Illinois Metropolitan Division and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin. It is important to note when assessing this data, that there will be some overlap.

According to BLS, the majority of HVAC technicians in Chicago can expect to earn a salary that falls somewhere between the 10th and 90th percentile salaries listed here:

  • 10th percentile: $29,340 – $30,040
  • 50th percentile:$53,120 – $53,620
  • 90th percentile: $77,010 – $77,840

The data referenced above encompasses Chicago HVAC technicians in a range of different specialities. When you drill down into the specialty areas available to technicians, different demand and salary numbers can emerge.

For instance, commercial refrigeration technicians in Chicago may have somewhat different salary expectations. According to Indeed.com, the median salary for commercial refrigeration technicians in Chicago is $54,000, which is 20% higher than average commercial refrigeration technician salaries nationwide. This higher salary may reflect the higher experience requirements for commercial level refrigeration work. Similarly, solar technicians in Chicago may expect to earn an average of $57,000, which is also about 20% more than solar technicians in other cities. Both of these specialities are generally only available to HVAC technicians who already have some baseline experience under their belts, which accounts for higher salary possibilities.

After graduation, alumni can look to The Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago for help with continuing education, government affairs and marketing needs. Various reports, articles and webcasts can also be found online and the association touts its mission as helping “members meet the challenging demands of doing business every day.” Other organizations to join may include SMACNA Greater Chicago (Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association) and the Illinois Chapter of ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers).

HVAC Schools in Chicago

Fortunately for students interested in pursuing an HVAC career in Chicago, there are multiple educational options in the region. The follow schools have earned accreditation for their HVAC programs and are worth a look for aspiring HVAC technicians.

HVAC Technical Institute

The HVAC Technical Institute, which was first established in 1994, is located in Chicago. The school offers courses in HVAC, HVAC/R, LCR, and Electrical topics. Graduates of the HVAC program will earn a certificate through both classroom and hands-on training. The HVAC Technical Institute has earned its accreditation from HVAC Excellence.

Elgin Community College

Just outside of Chicago is Elgin, Illinois, which is the home of Elgin Community College. Among other topics, students at Elgin Community College can choose from five different tracks in the HVAC field:

  • Associate of Applied Science: Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration
  • Basic Vocational Certificate: Heating Ac & Refrigeration Level I
  • Basic Vocational Certificate: Heating Ac & Refrigeration Level II
  • Vocational Specialist Certificate: Heating AC & Refrigeration Level III
  • Vocational Specialist Certificate: Sheet Metal Mechanics

Students that wish to continue their academic career can also earn credits that will transfer to a 4-year university.

College of Lake County

In the Chicago suburb of Grayslake, Illinois students can study HVAC at the College of Lake County. The extensive HVAC department includes the following tracks:

  • HVAC/R Engineering Technology A.A.S.
  • HVAC/R Installation Technician Certificate
  • HVAC/R Service Technician Certificate
  • Commercial Refrigeration Technician Certificate
  • Electrical Troubleshooting Technician Certificate
  • Residential Air Conditioning Technician Certificate
  • Residential Energy Auditing Certificate
  • Residential Heating Technician Certificate

In addition, students can choose the FastTrack program, which takes only 16 weeks and prepares graduates to take the HVAC certification exam.

Chicago HVAC Certification

There is no state licensure needed for HVAC work in Illinois, but this may be different in specific cities and municipalities within the state. While Chicago only requires licensure for fields such as electrical and plumbing, the requirements are different across the Indiana state line in East Chicago. There, an HVAC contractor’s license is required to perform HVAC work, with different licenses required for different types of work. The license types in East Chicago are:

  • Type A, warm air heating and sheet metal,
  • Type B, wet heating and fuel burning equipment;and
  • Type C, ventilating, air conditioning and/or commercial refrigeration.

Graduates of HVAC schools in Chicago should be familiar with the licensing requirements that may be required when working or looking for employment in the HVAC field.

There are various types of HVAC certification available in Chicago. Eligibility will vary, but applicants will want to understand that the term “certificate” can be used to mean different things, and that there is a difference between a postsecondary academic diploma or certificate, which may be awarded as a result of completing an HVAC program, and professional certification, which attests to proven skills or knowledge. Some of the professional certifications to consider are listed below.

  • HVAC Excellence, founded in 1994, has certifications available for students who have experience as technicians, and for educators. Its employment-ready certifications may be most appropriate for those nearing completion of a Chicago HVAC training program, and are available in areas such as air conditioning, electrical, oil heat and more.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE), founded in 1997, offers three certification levels that include installation, service or senior level. These can be sought in fields such as air distribution, commercial refrigeration, and hydronics gas.
  • EPA 608 certification is required for those who want to work with refrigerants, which are environmentally regulated because of their impact on the ozone. Four different EPA certification types are available and some schools may specifically prepare students for these exams.

Typically, students have to take written exams to prove their skills, but sometimes a hands-on test may also be required. Some organizations, like the Esco Institute, offer materials to help students prepare for certifications and exams.

Accreditation for HVAC Schools in Chicago

Program accreditation for HVAC schools in Chicago is available through HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), the two main organizations offering HVAC accreditation. In Illinois, three schools are accredited through HVAC Excellence, including HVAC Technical Institute in Chicago, as profiled above. PAHRA accredits five schools in Illinois,including Elgin Community College and the College of Lake County. Because there is no licensure requirement for HVAC technicians in Chicago, accreditation is not essential. However, it is still a good idea to choose an accredited program because it indicates the high standards of the school and the education it offers.

The Higher Learning Commission provides institutional accreditation to schools in Illinois and many surrounding states. This commission looks at the institution as a whole, examining its overall quality of its education. Within Illinois, more than 200 post secondary institutions are accredited through the HLC and about 20 of these are located within Chicago. Students will want to check to see if any of these accredited schools have HVAC programs.