HVAC Schools in Colorado – Programs & Certifications

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In Colorado (CO) with its cold winters and various microclimates, there is a rich network of HVAC resources for both customers and professionals in the industry. Colorado workers in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC-R) have an abundance of trade-based associations to support people in the industry.

For example, the Colorado Association of Mechanical & Plumbing Contractors (CAMPC) traces its roots back to 1889 when it went by a different name (now known as Rocky Mountain Mechanical Contractors Association (RMMCA); it now represents over 160 member companies that enjoy legal advocacy on important HVAC issues, business marketing tools, continuing education, and networking events. Notably, CAMPC partnered with the Colorado Safety Association to offer members discounted training.

The Pikes Peak Mechanical Contractors Association also offers technician training and hosts monthly meetings, energy efficiency incentive programs, community service opportunities, and more.

Finally, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Colorado not only provides educational and professional networking conferences, but it also has a comprehensive list of regional and national resources for people in the industry such as the Building Jobs for Colorado Coalition, the Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry, the Colorado Competitive Council (C3), the Mountain States Employers Council, NAIOP Colorado, the Associated General Contractors of Colorado, the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, and the Denver Metro Economic Development Corporation.

In sum, there is no shortage of supportive organizations for HVAC technicians in Colorado — but what is it that these professionals do? HVAC mechanics and technicians install, troubleshoot, or repair HVAC systems and their components (e.g., motors, filtration devices, intake & exhaust fans, ducts, ductless splits, wiring, pipes, vacuums, heat pumps, hermetic compressors, economizers, loop systems); interpret & implement blueprint plans; keep detailed records of services; make client recommendations to increase energy efficiency; calibrate systems to manufacturer recommendations; calculate heat loads & losses; and maintain appropriate licensure or permits.

Some of these workers specialize in a type of equipment such as environmental and industrial setups, large-scale cooling plants, solar panels, commercial ventilation, or residential systems, to name a few; others are more generalist workers who provide a range of services across residential and commercial environments. In terms of requirements, people in HVAC typically must be able to lift at least 40 lbs and should be prepared to perform services in all kinds of weather.

In Colorado, there is expected to be an especially high demand for trained HVAC professionals in the years to come. Read on to check out the bright career outlook, salary prospects, accredited HVAC schools, and licensing requirements in this industry in CO.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Colorado

Not only are there expected to be ample opportunities for HVAC professionals nationwide in the coming decade, but there is evidence that the future will be particularly bright for these workers in Colorado. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) projects a 4 percent explosion in HVAC openings across the country between 2019 and 2029, as fast as the 4 percent average increase anticipated for all occupations.

In Colorado, the prediction is substantially higher. Projections Central (2021) anticipated an astonishing 29.7 percent increase in openings between 2018 and 2028, more than double the national growth figure predicted in this industry. In short, there are especially bright prospects predicted in HVAC in CO in the years to come.

According to the BLS (May 2020), HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers can seek employment in a wide range of environments, particularly in high-growth cities such as Denver (which has a booming construction industry). In a state such as CO with cold winters, the demand for these skilled workers extends across residential and commercial buildings, including schools, factories, convention centers, retail shops, grocery stores, and much more. Notably, 7 percent of HVAC workers across the country were self-employed in 2019, and 66 percent were working as heating and air conditioning contractors.

While some of these professionals perform services during normal business hours, HVAC workers may also be called upon to work evenings, weekends, and holidays, especially during the busy winter season.

It is also worth noting that people in this occupation incur a higher-than-average rate of injury compared to other jobs in the US; this is likely because of the physical nature of the work and the types of chemicals such as refrigerants to which workers are exposed. Despite the threat of muscle strains, burns, and electrical shock, with proper safety training and prudence, these issues can generally be avoided.

As a testament to the booming HVAC industry in Colorado, Indeed (September 2021) had 467 relevant job postings across the state at places such as HomeX, Walmart, City and County of Denver, Vestas, Tolin Mechanical Systems Co, and Air Pros to name a few. Furthermore, Monster (September 2021) had postings with companies such as CoolSys Inc, Redlaw Mechanical Inc., and TemperaturePro Baton Rouge.

Colorado HVAC Technician Salary Data

For a profession that generally requires only one to two years of postsecondary training, HVAC mechanics and installers make a relatively generous salary, especially in Colorado.

By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020) reported that there were 344,020 HVAC workers nationwide with an annual average salary(mean annual wage) of $53,410; in CO, the 6,850 HVAC professionals enjoyed a mean salary of $55,650, which is higher than the national figure.

In more detailed terms, HVAC workers across the country had the following salary percentiles (BLS May 2020):

United States Colorado
Number of HVAC professionals employed 344,020 6,850
Annual mean wage $53,410 $55,650
10th percentile $31,910 $35,660
25th percentile $39,320 $43,480
50th percentile (median) $50,590 $54,150
75th percentile $64,350 $66,440
90th percentile $80,820 $79,500

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (2021), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $33,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,679
  • 90th percentile: $78,000

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in Colorado is slightly higher than that of the rest of the nation. As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) found that CO was ranked 35th in affordability, making it more expensive than the majority of states. For HVAC technicians this means relatively high salaries may still not go as far as lower salaries in other states, so that is something to keep in mind.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Colorado

For aspiring HVAC technicians in Colorado, there is an array of quality training programs available. While some of these skilled professionals seek out an apprenticeship to learn the hands-on techniques of the trade, others enroll in diploma, certificate, or degree programs in HVAC technology.

There are currently two main entities that accredit programs and institutions offering HVAC training: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

To learn about how programs are approved, please refer to the HVAC programs accreditation section.

As of September 2021, there is one HVAC Excellence-accredited school in Colorado:

Pikes Peak Community College

Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs offers the only HVAC Excellence-accredited programs in Colorado. It has the following HVAC courses of study:

Residential HVAC/R certificate program – This program is made up of 35 credits, preparing graduates for positions such as apprentices or helpers. It involves courses such as basic refrigeration, fundamentals of gas heating, electricity for HVAC/R, piping skills for HVAC, residential air conditioning, and air conditioning and refrigeration controls.

Industry upgrade certificate – Designed for employed technicians who are looking to advance their skillset, this 18 credit certificate involves courses such as direct digital controls, heating for commercial, advanced refrigeration, residential heat pump service, and advanced air conditioning.

Direct digital controls certificate – Comprising 15 credits, this certificate program qualifies graduates for entry-level employment as environmental control technicians for HVAC systems in industrial and commercial facilities. Applicants for this program will need at least four years of work experience or a degree in HVAC or facilities management technology. Courses include a survey of electronics, building automation: installer; building automation: service, and building automation: advanced operations.

Associate of applied science (AAS) degree – This 70-credit degree program involves the same courses as the certificate programs, as well as additional trade classes in commercial heating, hot water heating systems, advanced HVAC/R, and heat pumps. This program teaches communication and technical writing skills and takes classes in computer applications or computer literacy, math, and workplace psychology. They complete the program with an internship or sheet metal fabrication.

On successful completion of the program, graduates can take up roles such as HVAC installer or repairer, HVAC contractor, business owner, or HVAC instructor.

  • Location: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Industry upgrade certificate (two semesters); direct digital controls and residential HVAC certificates (three semesters); AAS (five semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident rate without COF ($247.35 per credit); resident rate with COF ($153.35 per credit); non-resident rate ($629.25 per credit)

IntelliTec College

IntelliTec Colleges has a campus in Colorado Springs that prepares students for entry-level employment as HVAC technicians. With a strong focus on refrigeration, students in the program have the opportunity to complete a 19.5-month associate of occupational studies (AOS) degree with advanced training to pass professional certification exams including the EPA Section 608.

Courses in the program include organizational communication & etiquette, fundamentals of electricity, basic gas furnaces and safety, heating fuels and combustion analysis, alternative heating systems, refrigeration theory & EPA certification, advanced refrigerations, residential air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, and duct design and blueprint reading, among others.

Preparing students for entry-level employment in the HVAC industry, the program provides students with the confidence and know-how to succeed in a new career. They learn all about installing, maintaining, and repairing HVAC/R systems.

Graduates of the program can take up roles such as refrigeration technician, HVAC control technician, heating equipment technician, HVAC service technician, facility maintenance technician, HVAC mechanic or HVAC installer, and many such positions. Graduates will also be prepared to earn the EPA Certification, Mechanic IV Licensing, and additional certifications.

  • Location: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 19.5 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $39,950 (including uniforms, books, and tools)

Front Range Community College

Front Range Community College has campuses around Colorado, but its Larimer campus offers the state’s only PAHRA accredited HVAC program. It offers an AAS degree and four certificate programs such as HVAC/R fundamentals, residential HVAC, light commercial HVAC, and commercial refrigeration.

The 15-credit HVAC/R fundamentals certificate includes an introduction to HVAC, basic refrigeration, electrical components, and basic electricity. The other certificates build on these basics. The 35-credit residential HVAC certificate provides additional education in advanced HVAC, customer service, troubleshooting, communication skills, and more.

The 37-credit light commercial certificate is similar to the residential HVAC certificate, with an additional focus on industrial controls. Finally, the 28-credit commercial refrigeration certificate covers commercial refrigeration.

The 60-credit HVAC/R degree program includes all of the coursework required for the certificate programs, as well as an internship or capstone project, and general education coursework in English, math, science, and an elective.

Students in this program will be trained to safely handle refrigerants, troubleshoot HVAC/R systems, operate gas fuel torches used in brazing and soft soldering, perform general maintenance and servicing of HVAC/R systems, and develop the highest level of professionalism as well as communication skills.

  • Location: Fort Collins, CO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); PAHRA
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS degree (four semesters); residential HVAC (three semesters); light commercial (three semesters); commercial refrigeration (two semesters); HVAC/R fundamentals (one semester)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($153.35 per credit); non-resident (629.25 per credit)

Red Rocks Community College

Finally, Red Rocks Community College of Lakewood provides both degree (AAS) and certificate programs in HVAC. Its AAS degree program is made up of 62 credits and includes courses such as fundamentals of gas heating, piping skills for HVAC, air conditioning systems, basic sheet metal, heating controls, mechanical codes, and servicing forced air systems, among others.

Apart from the AAS degree, Red Rocks Community College offers the following certificates:

  • Air Conditioning-AHRA Certificate (37 credits)
  • Refrigeration-AHRR Certificate (31 credits)
  • Refrigeration Level I-AHRR Certificate (11 credits)
  • Refrigeration Level II-CTHO Certificate (23 credits)
  • HVAC Fundamentals-AHRF Certificate (15 credits)
  • HVAC Control Technician-CTHM Certificate (18 credits)
  • Forced-Air Heating-AHRFH Certificate (30 credits)
  • Hydronic Heating-AHRHH Certificate (30 credits)

Graduates of these programs can find employment in roles such as air-conditioning, air-balancing, facility maintenance, refrigeration servicing, heating, and service.

  • Location: Lakewood, CO
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies (one to four semesters, depending upon the program)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($153.35 per credit); non-resident ($629.25 per credit)

For students who live in rural regions in CO or are otherwise unable to attend an on-campus program, there are various distance-based training schools available. To survey the options, please check out the online HVAC programs page.

Colorado HVAC Certification & Licensing

In addition to pursuing a training program or apprenticeship, HVAC professionals in Colorado must ensure that they have all the necessary credentialing before beginning work.

For all people who work with refrigerants, there is one mandatory national credential—the EPA Section 608 certification—with four subtypes: type 1 (small appliance), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal). Most accredited HVAC programs will include EPA 608 certification as part of their training.

Other national certifications typically connote that an HVAC worker has mastered a particular skill or set of skills. The agencies which bestow these national certifications include North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams or ICE); HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus); and Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator).

To learn in-depth about the variety of HVAC credentials, check out the main HVAC certification page.

While the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) does not require HVAC technicians or contractors to be licensed, local laws governing HVAC work within regions of the state vary.

In Colorado Springs, for example, the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department regulates HVAC workers, with separate licensing available for commercial and residential HVAC contractors. These licenses can be renewed annually following the completion of six hours of continuing education.

Above all, since local laws vary, aspiring HVAC professionals in Colorado are advised to reach out to their city administrators to determine all necessary credentialing before beginning work.

Jocelyn Blore

Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.