Iowa HVAC Training Schools

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Hot summers with rain and thunderstorms and cold, snowy winters define the weather in Iowa (IA). No wonder Iowans rely on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and refrigeration (HVAC-R) for comfort. Two national trade organizations have Iowa chapters: the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Iowa Association (PHCCIA) and the Mechanical Contractors Association of Iowa (MCAI). These and other industry associations provide support and training for HVAC-R technicians in the Hawkeye state.

HVAC-R technicians install, test, and service systems designed to control air quality and temperature. Their work takes them to commercial and residential job sites, where they use a variety of basic and specialized tools. Technicians know how to install and maintain systems that include heat pumps, water pumps, boilers, economizers, compressors, humidifiers, and other equipment. They troubleshoot and repair or replace defective parts. Repairs can include brazing or soldering leaking pipes or replacing broken wires. They have to know how to adjust valves, motors, fans, belts, and other components in large and small HVAC systems. When installing new equipment, technicians follow blueprints, install pipes or wiring, and test the system. Technicians also test circuitry and calibrate controls. If necessary, they perform heat loss and load calculations. The job includes helping customers practice energy conservation and providing customers with complete service records. HVAC-R workers travel to their job sites and are responsible for keeping their certifications and licensing current.

This page serves as a guide to the HVAC-R profession in Iowa, including job growth predictions, salary expectations, and training programs that are available to those in the state that choose to pursue this rewarding career.

Career Outlook for HVAC Workers in Iowa

The demand for HVAC technicians nationwide is growing. Indeed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), the number of openings in HVAC for the period 2016 to 2026 is expected to grow by 15 percent nationally. That’s more than double the expected average growth of all U.S. occupations in that same decade. And Iowa is experiencing even faster growth in the demand for technicians. By illustration, Projection Central predicts an 19.2 percent statewide increase for the decade ending in 2026. Several factors contribute to the growth of the HVAC-R industry:

  • New commercial buildings and residences
  • Increasing sophistication of climate control systems
  • Contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution
  • Replacing, retrofitting, or upgrading older systems

Technicians who have computer, electronics, and troubleshooting skills may have the best job prospects. According to the BLS (2017), 64 percent of HVAC-R technicians work for contractors whereas nine percent are self-employed. The remaining workers are employed by schools or retail and wholesale organizations. Technicians usually work full time, with overtime hours during peak seasons.

Although the work is often indoors, some systems require technicians to work outdoors, even in adverse weather. Indoor work does not guarantee comfort, as buildings can be too hot or too cold when systems stop working. Technicians may also need to work in awkward or cramped spaces. It’s important to note that technicians experience a relatively high rate of injuries such as:

  • Electrical shock
  • Burns
  • Muscle strains
  • Injuries from moving heavy equipment
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals

All training includes safety procedures to minimize injuries.

There’s perhaps no better evidence of the thriving HVAC industry than an examination of local job postings. A company in Ankeny has a listing on Indeed (Oct. 2018), for example, for a technician with two years of experience and offering a pay range of $50,000 to $90,000 per year. An Iowa Falls company wants an apprentice. Hundreds of companies in different locations throughout IA are looking for experienced HVAC-R technicians. Monster (Oct. 2018) has a listing for a Des Moines service technician, offering a $500 signing bonus and a Sioux City company is seeking a technician for residential-specific work.

HVAC Salaries in Iowa

The BLS (2017) reported that nationally, HVAC-R mechanics and installers receive a median salary of $49,530 annually. Iowa technicians receive a mean annual salary of $50,570, slightly higher than the national average. Furthermore, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2018) indicates that Iowa is the 16th more affordable state in the country, meaning that a dollar in Iowa will go much further than in many parts of the country. The hourly and annual salary comparisons as calculated by the BLS (2017) include these percentiles:

Annual salary Hourly salary
United States Iowa United States Iowa
Average $49,530 $50,570 $23.81 $24.31
10th percentile $29,120 $29,870 $14.00 $14.36
25th percentile $36,150 $37,380 $17.38 $17.97
50th percentile $47,080 $49,110 $22.64 $23.61
75th percentile $60,270 $63,460 $28.98 $30.51
90th percentile $75,330 $75,760 $36.22 $36.42

Notably, the average salary for HVAC workers within IA was higher than the national average.

Finally, the BLS designated 12 regions within Iowa. Here were the numbers of HVAC workers, average annual salaries, and all percentiles:

Ames, IA (190 HVAC workers): $49,310 average annual salary

Ames, IA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $49,310 $23.71
10th percentile $31,280 $15.04
25th percentile $40,040 $19.25
50th percentile $51,470 $24.74
75th percentile $59,180 $28.45
90th percentile $63,940 $30.74

Cedar Rapids, IA (190 HVAC workers): $57,000 average annual salary

Cedar Rapids, IA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $57,000 $27.41
10th percentile $27,900 $13.41
25th percentile $40,360 $19.41
50th percentile $59,780 $28.74
75th percentile $72,910 $35.05
90th percentile $81,100 $38.99

Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA (530 HVAC workers): $53,890 average annual salary

Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $53,890 $25.91
10th percentile $29,630 $14.24
25th percentile $42,100 $20.24
50th percentile $55,130 $26.51
75th percentile $67,740 $32.57
90th percentile $76,930 $36.99

Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA (1,320 HVAC workers): $52,460 average annual salary

Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $52,460 $25.22
10th percentile $29,830 $14.34
25th percentile $38,050 $18.30
50th percentile $50,020 $24.05
75th percentile $68,720 $33.04
90th percentile $78,150 $37.57

Dubuque, IA (110 HVAC workers): $38,620 average annual salary

Dubuque, IA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $38,620 $18.57
10th percentile $32,400 $15.58
25th percentile $34,310 $16.49
50th percentile $37,490 $18.02
75th percentile $41,300 $19.85
90th percentile $49,440 $23.77

Iowa City, IA (120 HVAC workers): $54,990 average annual salary

Iowa City, IA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $54,990 $26.44
10th percentile $41,770 $20.08
25th percentile $47,590 $22.88
50th percentile $55,560 $26.71
75th percentile $61,920 $29.77
90th percentile $70,670 $33.97

Northeast Iowa Nonmetropolitan Area (220 HVAC workers): $49,970 average annual salary

Northeast Iowa Nonmetropolitan Area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $49,970 $24.02
10th percentile $33,930 $16.31
25th percentile $38,260 $18.40
50th percentile $46,770 $22.48
75th percentile $60,520 $29.10
90th percentile $75,580 $36.34

Northwest Iowa Nonmetropolitan Area (310 HVAC workers): $46,450 average annual salary

Northwest Iowa Nonmetropolitan Area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $46,450 $22.33
10th percentile $31,010 $14.91
25th percentile $35,400 $17.02
50th percentile $44,230 $21.26
75th percentile $57,440 $27.62
90th percentile $65,800 $31.64

Sioux, IA-NE-SD (250 HVAC workers): $57,440 average annual salary

Sioux, IA-NE-SD
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $57,440 $27.62
10th percentile $35,420 $17.03
25th percentile $48,550 $23.34
50th percentile $58,440 $28.10
75th percentile $66,730 $32.08
90th percentile $77,870 $37.44

Southeast Iowa Nonmetropolitan Area (270 HVAC workers): $40,840 average annual salary

Southeast Iowa Nonmetropolitan Area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $40,840 $19.64
10th percentile $19,040 $9.15
25th percentile $31,130 $14.97
50th percentile $42,900 $20.62
75th percentile $50,130 $24.10
90th percentile $58,870 $28.30

Southwest Iowa Nonmetropolitan Area (210 HVAC workers): $42,060 average annual salary

Southwest Iowa Nonmetropolitan Area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $42,060 $20.22
10th percentile $26,400 $12.69
25th percentile $31,400 $15.10
50th percentile $41,350 $19.88
75th percentile $48,740 $23.43
90th percentile $63,900 $30.72

Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA (150 HVAC workers): $48,730 average annual salary

Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $48,730 $23.43
10th percentile $30,870 $14.84
25th percentile $36,360 $17.48
50th percentile $47,090 $22.64
75th percentile $60,180 $28.93
90th percentile $73,670 $35.42

Accredited HVAC Schools in Iowa

Although it is possible to work in some entry-level HVAC-R positions without formal training, most companies in Iowa and beyond prefer to hire those who have completed an apprenticeship or formal course of study. Ideally, coursework should be completed through an accredited program, meaning that the school has met certain standards as established by the accrediting agency.
For institutions offering HVAC/R training, accreditation from the following industry organizations may be important:

Information on the accreditation process is available on the organizations’ websites.

The Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC) offers an HVAC apprenticeship through their Iowa chapter. The program takes four years to complete. It includes 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 576 hours of technical instruction. Applicants with experience may “pass through” the first two levels of training. Students learn the basics as well as how to install and service specialized equipment. The program is recognized by the United States Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship and the Veterans Administration. Fees are not disclosed on the website; however, qualifying students may be eligible for financial aid.

The Scott Campus of Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, located in Bettendorf, offers an HVAC diploma. The program requires 39 total credits and includes coursework in:

  • Safety practices
  • Use of tools
  • System design
  • Trade skills
  • Construction techniques
  • Control systems

The curriculum has been awarded accreditation by HVAC Excellence, making it the only accredited program in the state. The tuition for 2018-19 was $162 per credit hour for in-state students, $184 per credit hour for nearby Illinois county students and $229 for out of state students.

Other schools that offer various levels of training include:

Complete information about the curriculum and fees are available on their websites. The schools listed above all have institutional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission but have not earned programmatic accreditation for their HVAC programs specifically.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in IA

Federal law requires that all technicians who work with refrigerants obtain the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing exams on the safe handling of refrigerants. Four levels of certifications are available that apply to the size and type of equipment. The Universal certification allows technicians to work on all equipment.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations. These include:

Technicians working in the state of Iowa in the plumbing and mechanical trades (hydronic, HVAC, refrigeration, sheet metal) or contracting for services in these trades, are required to be licensed by the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board. Contractors must be licensed by the Board, as well as registered with Iowa Workforce Development Division of Labor.

The Service Technician HVAC specialty license is a sublicense under an HVAC-refrigeration or mechanical license that “allows licensees to perform work from the appliance shutoff valve to the appliance and any part and component of the appliance, including the disconnection and reconnection of the existing appliance to the gas piping and the installation of a shutoff valve no more than three feet away from the appliance.” Fees and requirements for obtaining licenses are available on each department’s website.