HVAC Training Programs in PA

Connect With HVAC Schools

Luckily for aspiring HVAC technicians in the Keystone State, there’s a wealth of accredited HVAC schools and abundant job openings as well. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) reports that Pennsylvania employs 12,700 of these skilled professionals and is the fifth top employing state nationwide in this field. Furthermore, HVAC techs and mechanics in PA make an average annual salary of $47,350, a high wage relative to occupations with minimal postsecondary educational requirements. The BLS (Dec. 2015) reports that most HVAC workers have at least a certificate or vocational diploma prior to beginning work.

One reason this field is so promising in PA is that there are continually evolving standards for energy efficiency and rapidly changing HVAC technologies. Not only do commercial and residential systems require regular maintenance, but as equipment becomes “smarter” and more sophisticated, there’s a growing demand for the latest in the business.

There are also several professional networking organizations and trade associations to support HVAC workers in PA. For example, the Air Conditioners Contractors of Western Pennsylvania (ACC-WPA June 2016) protects the interests of people in the industry and strives jointly with groups such as the EPA to increase energy efficiency in these systems. Its core values include: “quality, honesty, integrity and good faith,” and above all the ACC-WPA endeavors to promote business growth in a safe and ethical manner.

So what do HVAC (i.e., HVACR) technicians and mechanics in PA do? The BLS (2015) details some of the common tasks in this line of work such as identifying problems in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems; inspecting system components (e.g., air ducts, building exhaust fans, heating units, etc.); installing, repairing, and maintaining HVAC equipment; complying with local, state, and federal legislation; maintaining records from residential and/or commercial jobs; ensuring one’s licensure or certifications remain current; staying on top of technological and methodological developments in the HVAC industry; and educating consumers on the best practices for maintenance.

Read on to discover the bright occupational outlook in the HVAC industry, as well as to learn about the salary prospects in the field, professional certification options, and abundance of accredited HVAC programs in Pennsylvania.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Pennsylvania

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015), the HVAC industry is expected to grow in the coming decade. By illustration, the BLS anticipates a 14 percent increase in job openings in HVAC nationwide between 2014 and 2024, double the average growth rate projected in all occupations (7 percent). With the addition of 39,600 positions in this industry across the US, aspiring HVAC professionals can enjoy relative job stability on into the future.

As mentioned in the introduction, Pennsylvania is one of the top five employing states in HVAC with 12,700 workers in the field (BLS May 2015). As of June 2016, there’s been an explosion in job postings in this industry in PA. As proof of point, Indeed (June 2016) listed local opportunities at Pennsylvania companies such as Brubaker, Inc., Meade HVAC, Maitz Home Services, Lennox International, Quantus, Inc., McLoughlin Plumbing & Heating, Integrity Mechanical, Inc., Stanley W. Cooper, Inc., and Mattioni, Inc. Monster (June 2016) posted additional openings at Cool Rite Air Conditioning & Heating, Patriot Fuel Oil, LLC, Company Confidential, Engineered Air, and Insight Global, to name a few. In sum, the opportunities are rich for HVAC workers in PA and beyond.

For these positions, typical qualifications include achieving the mandatory EPA Section 608 certification, having one to five years of experience, being able to lift 25-50 pounds, passing a background check, and having a driver’s license. While educational requirements for HVAC jobs differ by employer and region of PA, those with greater training and certifications typically have more access to employment opportunities.

Interestingly, the BLS (2015) found that one in ten HVAC techs and mechanics were self-employed and work in many environments including schools, homes, hospitals, commercial buildings, and factories. It’s important to note that this field also has a relatively high rate of injury and illness due to the physical nature of the occupation. All prospective HVAC workers are encouraged to invest in the proper safety equipment and training to minimize these possibilities. Refrigerants post especially great risks, not only to human health, but also to the environment. It makes sense that in the PA, the sole mandatory credential is the aforementioned EPA Section 608 certification, which is discussed in the “Certification” section below.

While some HVAC professionals work typical business hours, others may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, holidays, or overtime hours, particularly during peak seasons of extreme temperatures.

HVAC Technician Salary in PA

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015), HVAC mechanics and installers enjoy comfortable wages, particularly in an occupation which generally requires only six months to two years of postsecondary education. Among the 274,680 HVAC workers around the US, the BLS (May 2015) found an average annual salary of $47,380. In more detailed terms, here were the salary percentiles in this occupation:

US (274,680 HVAC workers): $47,380 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,790
  • 25th percentile: $34,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,110
  • 75th percentile: $58,070
  • 90th percentile: $71,690

Here are the same figures in hourly terms (BLS May 2015):

US: $22.78/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.36/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.79/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.69/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.92/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $34.47/hr.

Interestingly, Payscale (June 2016)—an aggregator of self-reported salaries in common occupations—found lower figures among its 486 responding HVAC technicians around the country:

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $35,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,266
  • 75th percentile: $53,000
  • 90th percentile: $67,000

An additional 2,566 HVAC technician respondents gave their salaries to Payscale (2016) in hourly terms:

  • 10th percentile: $12.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.00/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $23.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $28.00/hr.

Notably, the 12,700 HVAC professionals in PA had similar salaries on average compared to national figures (BLS May 2015):

Pennsylvania (12,700 HVAC workers): $47,530 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $29,170
  • 25th percentile: $36,400
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,000
  • 75th percentile: $56,770
  • 90th percentile: $65,640

In hourly terms, these PA figures equated to $22.85/hr. and the following percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $14.02/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.50/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.12/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.29/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $31.56/hr.

Not surprisingly, these figures varied not only by source of data, but by region of Pennsylvania as well. The City of Brotherly Love boasted the highest salaries in the state and the highest number of people employed. In addition to Salary.com’s (June 2016) breakdown of PA HVAC workers’ salaries by city, the BLS (May 2015) provided an extensive overlook among the 23 BLS-designated metropolitan (and nonmetropolitan) regions in the state:

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ (820 HVAC workers): $46,670 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $32,100
  • 25th percentile: $39,470
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,960
  • 75th percentile: $54,630
  • 90th percentile: $62,640

Altoona, PA (150 workers): $39,830 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,240
  • 25th percentile: $33,270
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,550
  • 75th percentile: $46,590
  • 90th percentile: $55,330

Bloomsburg-Berwick, PA (unknown number of workers): $38,290 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,050
  • 25th percentile: $30,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,960
  • 75th percentile: $46,130
  • 90th percentile: $50,930

Chambersburg-Waynesboro, PA (230 workers): $45,640 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,820
  • 25th percentile: $33,570
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,780
  • 75th percentile: $56,660
  • 90th percentile: $62,710

East Stroudsburg, PA (140 workers): $43,600 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,140
  • 25th percentile: $36,510
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,230
  • 75th percentile: $50,780
  • 90th percentile: $56,650

Erie, PA (180 workers): $47,440 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,250
  • 25th percentile: $38,560
  • 50th percentile (median): $50,400
  • 75th percentile: $57,700
  • 90th percentile: $61,650

Gettysburg, PA (40 workers): $39,700 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,210
  • 25th percentile: $31,810
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,240
  • 75th percentile: $50,360
  • 90th percentile: $58,750

Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA (620 workers): $44,810 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,720
  • 25th percentile: $36,480
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,040
  • 75th percentile: $52,890
  • 90th percentile: $60,470

Johnstown, PA (90 workers): $32,970 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,750
  • 25th percentile: $27,070
  • 50th percentile (median): $30,540
  • 75th percentile: $38,160
  • 90th percentile: $46,590

Lancaster, PA (870 workers): $48,710 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,500
  • 25th percentile: $39,670
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,590
  • 75th percentile: $55,860
  • 90th percentile: $66,190

Lebanon, PA (120 workers): $45,130 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,790
  • 25th percentile: $39,720
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,460
  • 75th percentile: $49,340
  • 90th percentile: $58,520

Montgomery County-Bucks County-Chester County, PA Metropolitan Division (2,620 workers): $52,480 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,340
  • 25th percentile: $41,130
  • 50th percentile (median): $52,450
  • 75th percentile: $61,140
  • 90th percentile: $73,370

Philadelphia, PA Metropolitan Division (1,200 workers): $59,380 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $34,670
  • 25th percentile: $43,240
  • 50th percentile (median): $54,580
  • 75th percentile: $66,660
  • 90th percentile: $105,600

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (7,080 workers): $54,950 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,770
  • 25th percentile: $42,690
  • 50th percentile (median): $53,450
  • 75th percentile: $62,830
  • 90th percentile: $78,090

Pittsburgh, PA (2,730 workers): $43,930 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,190
  • 25th percentile: $34,750
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,770
  • 75th percentile: $52,930
  • 90th percentile: $61,320

Reading, PA: (600 workers): $43,930 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,100
  • 25th percentile: $34,770
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,580
  • 75th percentile: $52,320
  • 90th percentile: $60,640

Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA (410 workers): $46,710 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,630
  • 25th percentile: $35,050
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,270
  • 75th percentile: $58,680
  • 90th percentile: $69,130

State College, PA (250 workers): $39,170 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,630
  • 25th percentile: $30,890
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,250
  • 75th percentile: $46,310
  • 90th percentile: $56,510

Williamsport, PA (80 workers): $41,920 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,490
  • 25th percentile: $34,470
  • 50th percentile (median): $39,580
  • 75th percentile: $48,690
  • 90th percentile: $57,900

York-Hanover, PA (510 workers): $49,200 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,850
  • 25th percentile: $39,410
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,790
  • 75th percentile: $57,690
  • 90th percentile: $67,110

Western Pennsylvania Nonmetropolitan Area (140 workers): $37,580 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,140
  • 25th percentile: $31,660
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,330
  • 75th percentile: $39,000
  • 90th percentile: $49,920

Northern Pennsylvania Nonmetropolitan Area (400 workers): $39,650 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,090
  • 25th percentile: $31,260
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,950
  • 75th percentile: $47,020
  • 90th percentile: $54,700

Southern Pennsylvania Nonmetropolitan Area (340 workers): $38,750 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,550
  • 25th percentile: $29,770
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,310
  • 75th percentile: $46,140
  • 90th percentile: $55,190

Accredited HVAC Schools in PA

In the past, HVAC professionals typically trained in apprenticeships or under the guidance of experienced workers. However, with the continuing evolution of technologies, methods, and legislation surrounding the industry, it’s becoming increasingly common for HVAC technicians, installers, and mechanics to seek training in a more formal academic environment such as a trade school, vocational school, community college, or university.

Prior to enrolling in a program, aspiring HVAC workers in PA are advised to verify the accreditation status of their programs. While there is no singular programmatic or institutional approval body for programs, there are two standout agencies in this space: HVAC Excellence  and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). HVAC Excellence has been offering accreditation since 1999 and now has accredited schools in 32 states, including eight in PA as of June 2016. PAHRA’s program accreditation body is “the only one that is supported by the major industry associations” (e.g., ASHRAE, NATE, ICE). Please consult the individual websites to learn more about the accreditation processes.

One program accredited by HVAC Excellence is available at the Brownstown campus of the Lancaster County Career & Technology Center. Working side-by-side HVAC professionals, students can take targeted short-term courses such as heating & AC systems, refrigeration, and EPA certification. Lancaster also prepares students for certification from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI): the Pennsylvania Builders Association Skills credential. Another HVAC Excellence-accredited program is available in Oley at the Berks Career & Technology Center. Berks prepares its students for certifications such as the HVAC Excellence Student Outcome Assessment; EPA Section 608; NCCER Core; Section 609 Certification for Refrigerant Recycling and Recovery; the Pennsylvania Builders Association Skills Certificate (NOCTI); the OSHA/CareerSafe 10-Hour Certification; and the OSHA 30-hour Certification. Additionally, this program has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania Builder’s Association.

The Pennsylvania College of Technology of Williamsport provides various PAHRA-accredited programs in heating, ventilation & air conditioning design technology, including a bachelor of science (BS) and an associate of applied science (AAS) degree. In the AAS program, students focus on mechanical systems and get specialized instruction in hydronic heating, temperature & humidity control, air circulation, thermostats, ventilation practices, and duct & pipe design. Courses include HVAC/R electricity, mechanical systems design & operation, air conditioning systems, print reading & interpretation, and basic heating systems. This program has also been endorsed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). Another PAHRA-accredited program is offered at the Somerset County Technology Center, the first secondary program to achieve that feat. Ideal for high school students interested in the HVAC trade, Somerset imparts the fundamentals of HVAC technologies, including commercial & domestic systems; basic principles of heating & air conditioning; blueprint reading; and more. This program takes three years and is typically completed in a student’s sophomore through senior years.

Finally, for those interested in a comprehensive apprenticeship, the Air Conditioning Contractors of Western Pennsylvania (ACC-WPA) provides a four year, structured training program. This 8,000 hours of on-the-job training has units in basic math; refrigeration cycles; HVAC controls; basic electricity; AC/DC circuits, electric motors & starters; advanced refrigeration & pipe fitting, CFC testing; heat loss & gain calculations; and NATE core testing preparation. It is held seven months per year for two nights per week, and can be ideal for working HVAC professionals looking to advance their skills in a supervised environment with industry professionals. 

HVAC Certification & Licensing in PA

As mentioned above, in Pennsylvania and all over the US, there is one mandatory certification for HVAC professionals who work with refrigerants: the federally mandated EPA Section 608 certification. There are four distinct subtypes of this certification: Type 1 (small appliance), Type 2 (high-pressure appliances), Type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and Type 4 (universal). While many HVAC schools provide preparation for the 608 certification, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also provides a list of approved Section 608 certification programs.

North American Technician Excellence (NATE) has a wide range of certifications available and aspiring HVAC workers must pass a core exam and one specialty exam to qualify. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) offers not only Section 608 certification, but also eight additional specialties, including heating, domestic service, and commercial air conditioning, to name a few. HVAC Excellence also provides a gamut of certifications such as heating, electrical, and air conditioning technology (HEAT) and many specialty exams. Criteria for this extensive list of certifications varies, but generally involves submitting an application, paying a fee, showing proof of experience, and passing an exam with both hands-on and written components.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, HVAC contractors do not need state licensure to operate in the state, but regulations may differ according to cities. For example, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspection provides an HVAC licensure examination and requires that HVAC contractors within the city have this credential. To qualify for the exam, candidates must be 18 or older, proficient in English, and have at least four years of experience. Additionally, they must submit the following:

  • Proof of Contractor’s General Liability Insurance
  • Proof of registration for city taxes
  • International Code Council (ICC) certification (Pennsylvania Standard Master Mechanical Contractor – Exam #670)
  • Licensing Fee

Be sure to check with local bureaus to verify what licenses are necessary for HVAC contractors. Overall, while professional certification may not be mandatory for employment in PA, it can indicate to potential employers that a candidate possesses certain skills and many HVAC employers actively seek out credentialed professionals.

To discover the array of credentials available nationwide in HVAC, please check out the main HVAC certifications page.