Aurora, CO HVAC Technical Schools & Certification

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Aurora has been called the most diverse city in the state due to its economy and population. Many statisticians and commentators lump Aurora in with Denver due to its proximity to the capital, but those in the know recognize that the young and affluent population in Aurora has created a booming city that stands on its own.

The Aurora Economic Development Council states that ‘“Aurora is a community on the global stage”. Industries in Aurora have experienced significant growth in employment, the number of firms, and average wages. These industries include aerospace & defense, bioscience & healthcare transportation & logistics, and energy. In the last five years, Aurora has outpaced the Metro area, Colorado, and the nation in growth for these areas.

Residents of Aurora, Colorado (CO) enjoy four seasons and minimal rain throughout the year. Although winters can be cloudy, the weather is mostly cold and dry with temperature lows dropping below freezing, especially in December. Summertime is warm but not too hot, with July and August surging to nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

The hot summers and cold winters mean that residents of Aurora rely on heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort at home and in the office. The growing economy has created an expanding need for climate-controlled facilities. Businesses, as well as tourist and entertainment venues, often need the addition of commercial-scale refrigeration (HVAC/R) to operate efficiently. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020), 3,390 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area.

Technicians can find many benefits such as training and support from industry organizations. These organizations coordinate with others in the industry to establish educational and licensing standards and are involved in all aspects of the HVAC and HVAC/R industries, including safety, performance, and promotion.

HVAC technicians in Aurora can consult the following state and local chapters of industry organizations.

  • Associated General Contractors of Colorado (AGC)
  • Rocky Mountain Mechanical Contractors Association (RMMCA)
  • Colorado Contractors Association (CCA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of Colorado (PHCC)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Sheet Metal Workers Local 9
  • UA Pipefitters Local 208

Additional support and resources for workers and their employers are available from national industry associations, including:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA)

Explore the accredited HVAC training programs in Aurora, CO, including information about coursework, apprenticeships, and credentialing.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Aurora, CO

Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians is growing nationwide. Statistics from the BLS (2021) show that demand for technicians is expected to increase 5 percent between 2020 and 2030—slightly slower than the average 8 percent increase projected for all occupations.

The demand for technicians in Colorado is growing at an even faster rate—29.7 percent between 2018 and 2028, according to Projections Central.

The HVAC/R industry is growing rapidly for several reasons. For example, the complexity of modern climate control systems means that older equipment and systems must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet industry standards. The hospitality industry and businesses that rely on technology, such as those in Aurora, frequently require specialized climate control equipment and systems. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution is another factor leading to the installation of new equipment and systems.

Adverse weather conditions can create the need for extensive rebuilding, repairing, and replacing equipment and systems. Maintenance and repair work is usually stable, as businesses and homeowners depend on their climate-control systems year-round. They need to keep their equipment in good working order regardless of economic conditions.

One of the easiest ways to view the scope of the HVAC industry is by scouting for jobs by using an online search engine. A search on Monster (Nov. 2021) for the term “HVAC” yielded job postings with companies such as Gables Search Group, Cameron Craig Group, Davron, LLC, United Rentals, and EMCOR Group, among many others. A similar search on Indeed (Nov. 2021) yielded 534 results with businesses including ARS-Rescue Rooter, Ferguson, Denver Health, Air Solutions & Balancing, Marriott International, Inc, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and LONG Building Technologies.

HVAC Salaries in Aurora, CO

Not only is HVAC a high-growth profession, but it is also relatively lucrative, especially for a profession requiring only one to two years of postsecondary training.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020), there were 344,020 HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $53,410, and 6,850 HVAC mechanics and installers in Colorado with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $55,650. The BLS also stated that there were 3,390 HVAC mechanics and installers in Aurora with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $56,900.

The table below is a comparison of national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals:

United States Colorado Denver – Aurora – Lakewood
Number of HVAC workers 344,020 6,850 3,390
Average annual salary $53,410 $55,650 $56,900
10th percentile $31,910 $35,660 $37,410
25th percentile $39,320 $43,480 $45,300
50th percentile (median) $50,590 $54,150 $56,080
75th percentile $64,350 $66,440 $67,900
90th percentile $80,820 $79,500 $79,420

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

  • 10th percentile: $32,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,639
  • 90th percentile: $78,000

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 34th 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.

HVAC Apprenticeships in Aurora, CO

Most HVAC technicians attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program before joining the workforce. Apprenticeships typically include 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom work every year for three to five years.

Build Colorado provides information on trade apprenticeships through a Workforce Development Program sponsored by the Associated General Contractors of America and the Colorado Contractors Association. The site lists available apprenticeships, training sponsors, and schools offering the required classroom work.

Additionally, workers seeking HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs can find several available through the previously mentioned organizations, such as the ACCA, the MCAA, the PHCC, and the RSES, as well as the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA).

Accredited HVAC Schools in Aurora, CO

Accreditation involves an evaluation of the quality of an educational institution’s program by an independent agency. The evaluation typically includes both the curriculum and the instructors. When choosing a school, it is essential to determine if it is accredited and by whom.

Two industry organizations evaluate and certify HVAC programs. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has awarded accreditation to Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, and HVAC Excellence has accredited Pikes Peak State College in Colorado Springs.

Please note that all programs below are accredited by one of the two above entities or another reputable regional organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Pickens Technical College

The college offers a certificate in HVAC/R technology that prepares students for entry-level positions as residential technicians. Coursework is taught using state-of-the-art computer simulation programs, hands-on training in the lab, and classroom lectures.

The curriculum covers basic electricity, introduction to service tech training, fundamentals of gas heating, residential load/duct design, servicing forced air systems, basic refrigeration, refrigerant recovery training, troubleshooting & customer service, as well as an independent study project.

Students complete 35 credits to earn their certificate and are qualified to sit for industry-based certifications such as the EPA Certificate Universal and the 10 hour OSHA Certificate.

  • Location: Aurora, CO
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education
  • Estimated Time to Completion: One year
  • Estimated Tuition: $220 to $230 per credit

Front Range Community College

Front Range offers an HVAC/R degree program and four certificate programs. The HVAC/R fundamentals certificate is 15 credits and includes four classes: an introduction to air conditioning & refrigeration, basic refrigeration, basic electricity, and electrical components.

The residential HVAC certificate builds on the fundamentals program with 20 additional credits in advanced HVAC, international residential codes, air conditioning, hot water heating systems, troubleshooting, customer service, and communication skills. The light commercial HVAC program consists of 37 credits and the commercial refrigeration consists of 28.

The HVAC/R degree program includes all of the coursework required for the certificate programs. In addition, students must complete an internship or capstone project; and general education coursework in English, mathematics, science, and an elective. They complete 60 credits to earn their degree.

  • Location: Fort Collins, CO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; PAHRA
  • Estimated 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)

Emily Griffith Technical College

Emily Griffith Tech is a vocational college that offers an HVAC/R undergraduate certificate program. Students attend classroom lectures and follow up with hands-on training in an innovative lab. Students learn skills in fabrication and piping, including brazing, soldering, PVC piping, and threading.

Coursework is scheduled during the day as well as during the evenings. The 46.5-credit curriculum covers safety training for the trades, basic refrigeration, electrical components, electricity for HVAC/R, fundamentals of gas heating, advanced air conditioning, hot water heating systems, refrigerant recovery training, HVAC/R systems troubleshooting, and more.

Upon successful completion, students will be able to take up roles such as HVAC service technicians, building engineers, maintenance technicians, commercial refrigeration technicians, and temperature control technicians.

  • Location: Denver, CO
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education (COE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 10 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $7,939

Lincoln College of Technology

Lincoln Tech offers an HVAC/R diploma program with day, afternoon, and evening classes. The program includes coursework on green technology and energy auditing that is designed to improve the marketability of technicians. Students learn through hands-on training in fully equipped labs and classroom lectures.

The program comprises 47 credits. The curriculum features instruction in electricity, introduction to climate control systems, HVAC and HVAC/R basics, air conditioning design and layout, commercial refrigeration control, commercial refrigeration design, warm air heating, and energy efficiency.

Graduates are qualified to take industry exams, such as EPA Section 608 certification, and seek entry-level positions as technicians.

  • Location: Denver, CO
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Estimated Time to Completion: 40 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $23,220

Red Rocks Community College

The Red Rocks Community College offers an associate of an applied science degree program and several certificate programs for aspiring HVAC technicians. Curriculum for both certificate and degree programs are updated as needed to incorporate evolving energy efficiency requirements. All programs prepare graduates for employment.

The college offers the following certificate programs:

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

The curriculum for each certificate varies, but all are designed to teach the basics relevant to the particular skills in the program title. For example, the refrigeration level II certificate requires prior completion of the refrigeration level I program.

The associate of an applied science degree program consists of 62 credits including courses such as fundamentals of gas heating, air conditioning systems, piping skills for HVAC, heating controls, servicing forced air systems, basic sheet metal, electricity for HVAC/R, and mechanical codes, among others.

On successful completion of the program, graduates can take up roles such as air balancing technicians, facility maintenance, air-conditioning technicians, heating technicians, service representatives, and refrigeration servicing technicians.

  • Location: Lakewood, CO
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Up to two years, depending on the selected program
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($153.35 per credit); non-resident ($629.25 per credit)

Pikes Peak State College

Pikes Peak State College offers an associate of applied science degree in HVAC/R technology and the following three certificate programs:

  • Direct Digital Controls Certificate (15 credits)
  • Industry Upgrade Certificate (18 credits)
  • Residential HVAC Certificate (35 credits)

The direct digital controls certificate prepares students for entry-level employment in the area of environmental controls as they pertain to the HVAC systems. It includes courses in the survey of electronics and building automation (installer, service, and advanced operations).

The industry upgrade certificate is ideal for those who are currently employed in the HVAC/R field wanting to upgrade their skills. Coursework includes direct digital controls, heating for commercial, advanced air conditioning, residential heat pump service, advanced refrigeration, and an internship.

The residential HVAC certificate qualifies students to seek entry-level positions as apprentices or helpers. The curriculum includes electricity for HVAC/R, basic refrigeration, fundamentals of gas heating, piping skills for HVAC, refrigerant recovery training, HVAC/R controls, load calculation & duct design, mechanical code, and customer service.

The HVAC/R degree program includes all courses mentioned above with the addition of commercial heating, advanced HVAC/R, hot water heating systems, heat pumps, an internship or sheet metal fabrication, computer applications or computer literacy, communication, technical writing, math, and workplace psychology. Students complete 68 credits to earn their AAS degree.

  • Location: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS degree (two years); certificates (one to three academic terms)
  • 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)

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Aurora, CO

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain EPA Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants—practice exams are available on the website. The four certifications are:

  • Type I: small appliances
  • Type II: high-pressure refrigerants
  • Type III: low-pressure refrigerants
  • Technicians who will be working on all types of equipment are required to obtain Universal (Type IV) certification

Technicians may obtain additional training and HVAC certifications from industry organizations. These include but aren’t limited to the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), the North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence.

As a final note, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) does not require licensing of HVAC technicians or contractors, but municipal and country rules apply.

The City of Aurora includes parts of Adams County and Arapahoe County, which means that technicians need to comply with both counties’ regulations. Adams County requires all contractors and subcontractors, including those in HVAC, to register. Registration includes submitting a current license from a Colorado municipality or an International Code Council (ICC) contractor’s license and a certificate of $100,000 minimum liability insurance. There is no fee to register.

Arapahoe County requires companies and individuals doing work in unincorporated areas that require a building permit to obtain a contractor’s license. There are two classes of licensing for HVAC: Class AM is for residential and non-residential work, and Class BM is for residential work only and specifically excludes refrigeration work. Applicants must submit a completed application, a contractor license from other Colorado jurisdictions or ICC certification, workers’ comp insurance, general liability insurance, and a fee of $180. The license must be renewed annually.

The City of Aurora also requires HVAC contractors to obtain a mechanical systems contractor license. Applicants must submit proof that they are in the country legally, ICC mechanical B contractor certification, three job references, a completed application, and a $136 fee. Licenses must be renewed annually.

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith was introduced to the HVAC industry when she worked as a bookkeeper and secretary for a small air-conditioning contractor. She eventually became a CPA and started her own practice specializing in small business taxes and accounting. After retiring from business, she began writing articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. She also authored four books. Sandra makes her home in the mountains with a rescue dog that naps on her lap as she writes.