Springfield, IL HVAC Programs – Technical Training Schools

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Residents of Springfield, Illinois (IL) can count on long summers that are hot and humid. The days start warming in April, and by June, the temperatures are in the mid- to high-80s. They don’t start cooling until September. Precipitation exceeds four inches monthly during May and June, with slightly lesser amounts falling during the remaining summer months. Although daytime highs during the winter months stay above freezing, the nighttime lows sink into the 20s and teens. Snow starts falling in September. December, January, and February each average five to six inches of snow.

Well known as the home of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield also boasts many historical sites that draw visitors to the area. Major highways, railroads, and an airport help local businesses market their products and services throughout central Illinois. Springfield is the state capital and a county seat, making government services a stable mainstay of the economy. Healthcare makes up the largest portion of non-governmental services. And a “1,090-megawatt natural gas-fueled combined-cycle facility” is under development nearby and projected to create hundreds of construction jobs.

The hot and muggy summers and the wintertime cold and snow frequently keep Springfield residents indoors. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) are necessary for comfort in their homes and workplaces. The hospitality venues often require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R), and the historic sites may need enhanced ventilation to protect artifacts and structures from the humidity. The health care facilities, especially those engaged in research, typically must install specialized climate-control equipment and systems. Newer businesses that are dependent on technology rely on systems designed to provide the conditions needed to keep their electronic components operating correctly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020) does not have current data for the number of HVAC and HVAC/R technicians employed in Springfield; however, it does report a total of 8,840 employed technicians in Illinois as of May 2019. Springfield technicians and their employers receive support and resources from industry associations that include:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Illinois Chapter
  • Associated General Contractors of Illinois (AGCI)
  • Home Builders Association of Illinois (HBAI)
  • Illinois Association of Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors
  • Illinois Mechanical & Specialty Contractors Association (IMSCA)
  • Illinois Pipe Trades Association
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association Local Union 218
  • Springfield Area Home Builders Association (SAHBA)
  • UA Plumbers, Steamfitters & HVACR Local 137

These and other industry organizations work with each other and with regulatory agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards for the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Springfield, IL

According to BLS (2019) workforce data, the demand for trained HVAC and HVAC/R technicians is expected to increase by 4 percent nationwide between 2019 and 2029. The outlook for Illinois technicians is slightly less according to Projections Central (2021). Their data indicates an increase of 2.2 percent in new positions statewide between 2018 and 2028.

The construction of new commercial and residential structures drives the growth of the HVAC industry. Additionally, remodeling and renovating existing buildings in older cities like Springfield typically necessitates repairing, replacing, or updating aging climate-control equipment and systems.

Recent studies indicate that “there was a market for more residential housing in Springfield’s downtown area” and that buildings that formerly housed workers who now work from home can be turned into residential housing. Changing regulations and technological advances can sometimes make it necessary to replace the systems in newer structures. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction is yet another factor driving industry growth.

Whether new or remodeled, most structures now frequently incorporate sophisticated climate-control systems to meet the demand for “smart” buildings. Trained technicians are needed to install, maintain, and service the systems and equipment. The technicians are expected to understand electronics and high-tech. They also must be skilled troubleshooters and proficient with computers to have the best job opportunities.

Technicians who specialize in new construction may occasionally experience unemployment if construction declines. Springfield has been named “the best city in America to relocate to after the pandemic subsides.” As Springfield also continues to diversify its economy, a decline in construction isn’t anticipated in the foreseeable future. Technicians who maintain, service, and repair equipment and systems can expect continuous employment regardless of the economy, as businesses and homeowners depend on climate control year-round.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Springfield, IL

According to the BLS (May 2019), HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730. Annual median wages for Springfield technicians were $37,700, as per the BLS. The difference in income is less significant than it appears, as the cost of living in Illinois is lower than in other American states.

National, state, and regional earnings of HVAC professionals according to the BLS are detailed in the following table:

United States Illinois Springfield
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 8,840 Not reported
Average annual salary $51,420 $60,350 $43,500
10th percentile $30,610 $28,480 $24,260
25th percentile $37,660 $38,910 $32,870
50th percentile $48,730 $57,250 $37,700
75th percentile $62,070 $80,400 $51,930
90th percentile $77,920 $99,540 $65,440

HVAC Apprenticeships in Springfield, IL

Although HVAC technicians traditionally acquired their skills through on-the-job training, few opportunities exist in the job markets of today for untrained workers. Most workers now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Trained workers have more employment opportunities, start at higher wages, and earn more throughout their careers.

Apprentices must commit to specified hours of on-the-job training, typically 2,000, and classroom work, usually 144 hours, annually for three to five years.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security provides information and resources for apprentices and their employers. They are actively working to develop new apprenticeship opportunities for Illinois workers. An application on the website helps apprentices select a trade and the area in which they want to work.

The Home Builders Association of Illinois sponsors trade apprenticeships, including HVAC, in several Illinois cities. Apprentices who complete the program achieve journey-level status. UA Plumbers, Steamfitters & HVACR Local 137, based in Springfield, offers five-year apprenticeships that encompass 8,500 – 10,000 hours of on-the-job training combined with formal classroom work.

Apprenticeship programs are available from industry associations such as the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

Each organization has details of available HVAC and HVAC/R programs, schedules, and fees on their website.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Springfield, IL

When selecting a school, students should ensure that it is accredited. Accreditation means that an independent agency has evaluated the quality of the curriculum and instructors of the institution. HVAC programs are accredited by HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to the following Illinois schools:

  • HVAC Technical Institute, Chicago
  • Midwest Technical Institute, Springfield
  • Richland Community College, Decatur
  • Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove

PAHRA has accredited Illinois schools as follows:

  • College of Lake County, Grayslake
  • Elgin Community College, Elgin
  • Illinois Central College, East Peoria
  • John A. Logan College, Carterville
  • Oakton Community College, Des Plaines

Additional schools in the profiles below have received accreditation from other agencies.

Note: The information in this article was compiled in February 2021 during the “shelter-in-place” and “social distancing” pandemic restrictions. The profiled schools may have temporarily suspended classes or are transitioning to online options to comply with the restrictions. Questions as to timing and format should be directed to the school administration.

Illinois Central College

The college offers an HVAC/R technology degree program and the following certificate programs:

  • HVAC residential installer – 16 credits
  • HVAC technician – 28 credits
  • Commercial refrigeration technician – 28 credits

Graduates of the programs are qualified to sit for industry exams including EPA Section 608 and various HVAC Excellence Employment Ready certifications.

Students in the HVAC residential installer program complete the following coursework: blueprint reading, introduction to refrigeration, electricity, sheet metal, residential furnaces, and residential systems installation. This program is a prerequisite for the remaining programs.

The HVAC technician program adds heat pumps and geothermal, residential hydronic systems, and residential air conditioning to the coursework. The commercial refrigeration technician program replaces the heat pumps and geothermal and hydronic systems with coursework in light commercial refrigeration, and commercial refrigeration and ice machines.

Students seeking a degree complete all of the above technical coursework. They also complete additional technical courses that include residential equipment design, duct fabrication, balancing and testing systems, and two internships. Required general education courses include English, communication, social science, mathematics, laboratory science, and humanities. Some of the credits in the degree program may be transferred to the four-year HVAC/R bachelor’s degree at Ferris State University.

  • Location: East Peoria, IL
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: District 514 residents online $150 per credit, $155 per credit on-campus; out-of-district residents online $150 per credit; $174 per credit on-campus
  • Program Length: Certificates vary, degree two years

Lake Land College

Lake Land offers an HVAC/R certificate program that prepares graduates for entry-level employment. The coursework includes applied shop computations, introduction to electricity, refrigeration, air conditioning, heat-generating systems, and energy management. Students complete 30 credits to earn their certificate.

  • Location: Mattoon, IL
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: In-district residents $110.50 per credit; out-of-district residents $237.96 per credit
  • Program Length: One year

Lincoln Land Community College

The LLCC offers an HVAC/R certificate program. The curriculum includes basic refrigeration, heat-generating systems, electricity, climate controls, refrigeration components, commercial refrigeration, heat pump systems, sheet metal fabrication and system design, air conditioning systems, and equipment selection and duct design.

Students complete 31 credits to earn their certificate. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Springfield, IL
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $199.50 per credit
  • Program Length: Nine months

Midwest Technical Institute

MTI, a private, for-profit trade school, offers an HVAC/R – MAR (major appliance repair) diploma program arranged in seven five-week modules. The curriculum is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the lab. The modules include electricity, air conditioning, heat pumps and electric heat, major appliance repair, gas heat, indoor air quality, and employment and certification readiness.

Students are required to take and pass the EPA 608 Type I and Type II certification exams to graduate. Graduates are qualified to take optional HVAC Excellence employment-ready exams, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification, and National Appliance Service Technician Certification (NASTEC).

  • Location: East Peoria, IL; Moline, IL; Springfield, IL
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence for Springfield campus only; Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Tuition: $15,650, which includes the tool kit that students are required to buy from MTI
  • Program Length: 35 weeks

Richland Community College

Richland students can choose from the following programs:

  • Residential HVAC/R installer – 21 credits
  • Residential HVAC/R certificate – 30 credits
  • Commercial HVAC/R certificate – 33 credits
  • HVAC/R degree – 61 credits

Coursework for all programs is presented in classroom lectures combined with hands-on practice in the lab. The programs all have “Fast Track” options.

The residential HVAC/R installer program curriculum includes occupational safety, refrigeration fundamentals, HVAC/R installation, electricity, control applications, residential air conditioning, and residential heating systems. The curriculum for the residential HVAC/R certificate program adds troubleshooting air conditioning systems, residential and self-contained refrigeration, and motors and controls to the coursework. Additional coursework for the commercial HVAC/R certificate includes commercial refrigeration and commercial HVAC/R.

Degree-seeking students take all of the technical courses in the certificate programs. Their technical curriculum also includes troubleshooting refrigeration systems, technical mathematics, supervision, computer business applications, and work experience and seminar or workplace simulation and project. They also complete general education classes that include human relations, business and professional speaking, and professional and technical writing or composition.

Graduates may transfer part of the degree credits to four-year institutions that include Franklin University in Columbus, OH or Greenville University in Greenville, IL.

  • Location: Decatur, IL
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; High Learning Commission
  • Tuition: District residents $139 per credit on-campus; $175 per credit online; out-of-district $193 per credit
  • Program Length: Certificates vary, degree two years

Aspiring technicians in Springfield who cannot attend a local or nearby school on-campus may find that online institutions can better meet their needs. More information on accredited programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in Springfield, IL

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who handle refrigerants are required by law to obtain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. Four levels of certification are available based on the equipment on which a technician works. The levels are:

  • Type I – for servicing small appliances
  • Type II – for servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and automotive air conditioning
  • Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances
  • Universal – for servicing all types of equipment

The EPA website includes information on each certification type.

Technicians may obtain various certifications, including their Section 608 certification, that can increase their employability, from industry organizations such as the following:

  • HVAC Excellence
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

Further information as to the availability, scheduling, and fees is on each organization’s website. More resources may be found on the HVAC certifications page.

The State of Illinois does not require HVAC technicians or contractors to obtain a license. Anyone conducting business in the state must register with the Illinois Department of Revenue.

The City of Springfield requires mechanical contractors to obtain licensing. Applicants for a residential (limited) license must submit verification of five years of experience, and applicants for a commercial license must have seven years of verified experience.

All applicants must also register, submit a surety bond in the amount of $5,000, certificate of insurance, certificate workers compensation coverage, and a combined license and registration fee of $70. Registration is renewed annually.

As licensing regulations are always subject to change, HVAC professionals are encouraged to confirm that they comply with current guidelines before starting a project.

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.