Colorado Springs, CO HVAC Trade Schools

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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. Many defense organizations and military installations call Colorado Springs home and when combined with related industries, form a large part of the economy. The area also is seeing more diversification from the financial, professional service, healthcare, construction, and manufacturing industries.

The Chamber of Commerce notes that downtown Colorado Springs is experiencing a “renaissance” thanks to a developmental boom in urban living, hospitality, tourism, retail, and dining, which is worth more than $620 million. The natural beauty of the area, outside activities, and entertainment venues draw visitors that support the expanding hospitality services.

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 490 HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics and installers were employed in Colorado Springs, which has a population of 400,000 residents. 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)
  • Rocky Mountain Chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. (ASHRAE)
  • 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 (2018). The demand for technicians is expected to increase by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026 in the U.S., which is much faster than the 7 percent average projection for all occupations. In Colorado, demand is even higher—more than twice the national average. Projections Central predicted a 38.3 percent statewide increase in jobs for HVAC professionals in the decade preceding 2026.

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

According to the BLS, HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics and installers in the U.S. receive a median salary of $47,080 annually while those in Colorado Springs receive $51,470. Below is a comparison of salary figures at the national, statewide, and local level.

United States Colorado Colorado Springs, CO
Number of HVAC workers 307,060 5,430 490
Average annual salary $49,530 $57,070 $49,740
10th percentile $29,120 $33,810 $33,440
25th percentile $36,150 $42,740 $40,840
50th percentile (median) $47,080 $55,790 $51,470
75th percentile $60,270 $67,690 $59,270
90th percentile $75,330 $81,950 $63,690

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 provides a union-based pre-apprenticeship HVAC opportunity where 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.

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.

Aspiring HVAC technicians can find other apprenticeship programs with the national organizations mentioned earlier, such as the ACCA, MCAA, PHCC, RSES, and SMWIA. Details are available on their websites.

HVAC School Accreditation in 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 evaluate and accredit 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 Community 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 very 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.

  • Location: Fort Collins, CO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and PAHRA
  • Tuition: $181.56 per credit
  • Program length: Two years for the degree; varies for the certificate

Intellitec College

The HVAC/R degree program at Intellitec College is designed to prepare graduates for employment as entry-level residential, commercial, and industrial technicians. Classes are available during the daytime and evenings.

The 90-credit curriculum covers many 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.

  • Location: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (valid until Feb. 2019)
  • Tuition: $31,949 for the full program
  • Program length: 18 months

Pikes Peak Community 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 coursework in basic refrigeration, air conditioning, electricity, gas heating, piping, refrigerant recovery, HVAC controls, and more. The 18-credit industry upgrade certificate is designed for employed technicians who want to upgrade their skills to include modern technology and equipment.

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.

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.

  • Location: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Accreditation: HLC and HVAC Excellence
  • Tuition: $148.90 per credit
  • Program length: Two semesters for the industry upgrade certificate, three semesters for the direct digital controls and residential HVAC certificates, and four semesters for the degree

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. The application fee is $50. The license must be renewed annually. Renewal requires six technical continuing education units and payment of a $10 fee.

Barry Franklin

Barry is the Editor in Chief of HVACClasses.org, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures, which he joined as partner in 2013 after almost 20 years in the financial software industry.