HVAC Trade Schools in Colorado Springs, CO

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Colorado Springs, Colorado (CO), is 6,035 feet above sea level and located near Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains. The city has a semi-arid climate with cold and dry winters and slightly warmer summers. Colorado Springs sees an average of more than three feet of snow per year and mid-80s temperatures in the summer. July and August tend to be plagued by monsoons.

Colorado Springs is transforming into a high-tech, high-skill economy. The area is also seeing more diversification from the financial, professional service, healthcare, construction, and manufacturing industries.

Residents of Colorado Springs have long relied on heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort and the expanding economy means new buildings need new equipment and systems. Many of the high-tech industries require specialized climate-controlled facilities for their electronics. They, along with hospitality facilities, often require additional refrigeration (HVAC/R).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 810 HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics and installers were employed in Colorado Springs, with an annual mean wage of $50,720. The following state and local organizations provide training and support to HVAC/R technicians:

  • Associated General Contractors of Colorado (AGC)
  • Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors (CAMPC)
  • Colorado Contractors Association (CCA)
  • Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs (CSHBA)
  • Pikes Peak Mechanical Contractors Association (PPMCA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of Colorado (PHCC)
  • UA Local Union #58 Plumbers, Pipefitters, and HVAC Service Technicians

Read on to discover the HVAC employment outlook, salaries, credentialing, and accredited training programs within Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Colorado Springs, CO

The nationwide need for HVAC technicians is growing, according to the BLS (2019). The demand for technicians is expected to increase by 13 percent between 2018 and 2028 in the U.S., which is much faster than the 5 percent average projection for all occupations.

The HVAC/R industry is growing for several reasons. The primary factor is the increasing complexity of climate control systems and the need to replace, retrofit, or upgrade older systems. Industries based on technology, such as those driving the growth in Colorado Springs, rely on sophisticated systems. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution is another factor leading to the installation of new equipment and systems.

Technicians who are computer and electronics literate, and those with excellent troubleshooting skills, often have the best job prospects. Technicians who specialize in new installations may experience seasonal unemployment if construction declines. However, commercial and residential construction in Colorado Springs shows no signs of slowing.

The expanding economy is expected to continue generating the construction of new facilities. Maintenance and repair work tends to be 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.

HVAC Salaries in Colorado Springs, CO

The BLS (May 2019) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730 as of May 2019. Technicians in Colorado Springs, CO received an annual median salary of $49,110.

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

The BLS (May 2019) reported the following salary figures in Colorado Springs, CO:

United States Colorado Colorado Springs, CO
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 7,610 810
Annual mean wage $51,420 $54,920 $50,720
10th percentile $30,610 $34,020 $33,730
25th percentile $37,660 $41,790 $40,030
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $53,080 $49,110
75th percentile $62,070 $64,470 $61,430
90th percentile $77,920 $78,110 $71,550

The national figures were a bit different according to another source of data, Payscale (July 2020), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles for the United States:

  • 10th percentile: $31,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,097
  • 90th percentile: $74,000

HVAC Apprenticeships in Colorado Springs, CO

Most HVAC professionals begin their careers by attending classes or participating in an apprenticeship program. Formal training and apprenticeships open up more employment opportunities, higher wages, and a generally more successful career.

Apprenticeships include about 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom work per year for three to five years. Build Colorado has information on trade apprenticeships through a Workforce Development Program. The program is sponsored by the Associated General Contractors of America and the Colorado Contractors Association and lists available apprenticeships, training sponsors, and schools offering the required classroom work.

The Colorado Skilled Trades Education Program

STEP(Skilled Trades Education Program) provides a union-based pre-apprenticeship HVAC opportunity, providing students with hands-on training in the union-based fields of:

  • Pipe fitting
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Sheet metal/HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning)

Enrollees can learn basic skills such as CPR and first aid, financial responsibility, construction math, blueprint reading, and industry awareness. They also get basic hands-on training in their chosen trade. The classes are free and are available during the day and evenings.

The STEP initiative is a partnership between Servicios de La Raza and the MEP Alliance, which consists of the Mechanical Service Contractors Association (MSCA) of Colorado, Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) of Colorado, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning National Association (SMACNA) Colorado, and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Rocky Mountain Chapter.

UA Local Union #58 Plumbers, Pipefitters, and HVAC Service Technicians

Local 58 sponsors a five-year program in plumbing, pipe fitting, and HVAC where apprentices acquire on-the-job training during the day and attend classroom lectures two evenings a week. The classes are held at the state-of-the-art Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) center in Colorado Springs.

Coursework includes trade math, drawings, reading plans, welding, soldering, brazing, steam, hydronics, and air conditioning. Graduates are eligible for the licenses, certificates, and skills needed for employment as journey-level HVAC technicians. The program provides on-the-job training and classes at the JATC training center, spanning a total of five years.

Accredited HVAC Schools Colorado Springs, CO

Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of an educational institution’s program, including curriculum and instructors. When choosing a school, prospective students are encouraged to determine if it is properly accredited.

Two industry organizations are responsible for evaluating and accrediting HVAC programs. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has awarded accreditation to Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, CO, and HVAC Excellence has accredited Pikes Peak State College in Colorado Springs, CO. Front Range is included in the profiles below due to the accreditation, although it is a two-hour commute for those living in Colorado Springs. The other programs have received regional accreditation from respected entities.

Front Range Community College

Front Range Community College offers one degree and four certificates for aspiring HVAC/R technicians. The certificate programs include 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, basic electricity, and electrical components. The other certificates build on these basics. The 35-credit residential HVAC certificate provides additional education in advanced HVAC, troubleshooting, customer service, 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 will be trained to safely handle refrigerants, troubleshoot common 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) and PAHRA
  • Tuition: Resident ($263.20 per credit-hour); non-resident ($401.25)
  • Program length: AAS degree (four semesters); residential HVAC (three semesters); light commercial (three semesters); commercial refrigeration (two semesters); HVAC/R fundamentals (one semester)

Intellitec College

The HVAC/R degree program at Intellitec College prepares graduates for employment as entry-level residential, commercial, and industrial technicians. Classes are available during the daytime and evenings. The program teaches students about installing, maintaining, and repairing HVAC/R systems.

The 99-credit curriculum covers various subjects, including electricity, gas furnaces safety and codes, heating fuels and combustion analysis, refrigeration, residential and commercial air conditioning, pneumatics and controls, load calculations, organizational communication and etiquette, business English, and customer service, among others.

The coursework prepares students to sit for industry certification exams including EPA Section 608, Combustion Analysis Technician, R410A Refrigerant Safety, and Green Awareness & Carbon Monoxide Safety.

At the end of the program, students will be well-equipped to maintain and repair residential and commercial HVAC systems; operate, maintain, and repair commercial refrigeration systems; troubleshoot chilled-water and water tower systems and pumps; read blueprints, and more.

On successful completion of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as refrigeration technician, heating equipment technician, HVAC control technician, facility maintenance technician, HVAC mechanic, environmental maintenance technician, HVAC service technician, and more.

  • Location: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $39,950 for the full program
  • Program length: 19.5 months

Pikes Peak State College

Pikes Peak offers multiple certificate programs and a degree program in HVAC technology. The 35-credit residential HVAC/R certificate program qualifies graduates to seek positions as helpers or apprentices through courses such as basic refrigeration, electricity for HVAC/R, fundamentals of gas heating, piping skills for HVAC, air conditioning and refrigeration controls, and residential air conditioning.

The 18-credit industry upgrade certificate has been designed particularly for employed technicians looking to advance their skillset. Courses in this industry upgrade certificate include heating for commercial, direct digital controls, advanced refrigeration, advanced air conditioning, and residential heat pump service.

The 15-credit direct digital controls certificate program qualifies students for entry-level employment as environmental control technicians for HVAC systems in commercial and industrial facilities. Applicants for the program must have four years of work experience or a degree in HVAC or facilities management technology. This includes courses such as a survey of electronics, building automation: installer; building automation: service, and building automation: advanced operations.

The 68-credit HVAC degree program covers the same coursework as the certificate programs as well as additional trade classes in commercial heating, hot water heating systems, advanced HVAC/R, and heat pumps. Degree students also learn communication and technical writing skills, and take 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) and HVAC Excellence
  • Tuition: $148.90 per credit
  • Program length: Industry upgrade certificate (two semesters); direct digital controls and residential HVAC certificates (three semesters); degree program (four semesters)

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Colorado Springs, CO

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

  • Type I for technicians who work with small appliances
  • Type II for technicians who work with high-pressure refrigerants
  • Type III for technicians who work with low-pressure refrigerants
  • Universal (Type IV) for technicians who work with all equipment

Practice exams are available on the website.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations, such as the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence. These organizations offer Section 608 testing, certification, and various industry certification exams.

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) does not require HVAC technicians or contractors to be licensed. However, the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department is the authority for contractor’s licenses in Colorado Springs and El Paso County. The mechanical license application includes four HVAC/R categories:

  • Mechanical Contractor A (Commercial)
  • Mechanical Contractor B (Residential)
  • Mechanical Contractor C-1(Gas piping)
  • Mechanical Contractor C-2 (Commercial refrigeration)

Applicants must pass a criminal background check, pay a $50 fee and, submit the following documentation with their application form:

  • Proof of passing scores on the relevant International Code Council (ICC) exams
  • Copies of all licenses and certificates
  • Three references documenting relevant work experience, qualifications, and assessment of character
  • Proof of workers comp insurance
  • Proof of liability insurance
  • Certificate of good standing from the State of Colorado

There is a separate application for a heating mechanic IV license, which focuses on the repair or servicing of HVAC systems under the direction of one of the licensed mechanical contractors described above. Applicants must pass the relevant ICC exam, hold a combustible gas indicator certificate and a carbon monoxide detection instrument certificate, and pass a criminal background check.

Farheen Gani

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).