Iowa (IA) HVAC Training Schools & Certifications

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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 (PHCC-IA) 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 May 2019), the number of openings in HVAC for the period 2019 to 2029 is expected to grow by 4 percent nationally. That’s as fast as 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, Projections Central (2021)—a data organization partnered with the US Department of Labor—reported that there would be an 18.5 percent increase in HVAC positions across California between 2018 and 2028.

Several factors contribute to the growth of the HVAC/R industry:

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

Technicians who have computers, electronics, and troubleshooting skills may have the best job prospects. According to the BLS (2020), 66 percent of HVAC/R technicians work for contractors whereas seven 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. For example, a job search on Monster (2021) for “HVAC jobs in Iowa” yielded over 350 results with companies like EMCOR Group, Johnson Controls, Penske, and The Judge Group. A related search on Indeed (2021) returned more than 150 results with organizations such as Metro Heating & Cooling, CaptiveAire Systems, and Golden Rule Plumbing Heating & Cooling.

HVAC Salaries in Iowa

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019), HVAC professionals earn relatively competitive salaries, particularly for positions that may require just two years of post-secondary training. BLS (May 2019) states, the annual mean wage for HVAC workers nationwide was $51,420 per year, while the annual mean wage for HVAC technicians in Iowa was $50,850 per year. In more detail, here were the salary percentiles of HVAC professionals across the US and in Iowa specifically:

United States Iowa
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 4,290
Annual mean wage $51,420 $50,850
10th percentile $30,610 $31,860
25th percentile $37,660 $38,810
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $50,590
75th percentile $62,070 $62,220
90th percentile $77,920 $73,770

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

  • 10th percentile: $31,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,058
  • 90th percentile: $75,000

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 IA had the 12th lowest cost of living in the United States. Aspiring HVAC workers in Iowa are encouraged to keep this in mind.

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:

  • HVAC Excellence
  • Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA)

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.

Some of the topics in this curriculum include basic electricity, basic safety, heat pumps, metering devices, water treatment, steam systems, indoor air quality, troubleshooting heat pumps, soldering and brazing, and troubleshooting oil heating. Fees are not disclosed on the website; however, qualifying students may be eligible for financial aid.

Eastern Iowa Community Colleges

The Scott Campus of Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, located in Bettendorf, offers an HVAC diploma. This diploma program provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary for gaining useful employment as entry-level HVAC technicians. They receive extensive high-quality hands-on training in repairing, maintaining, and installing a wide range of HVAC/R systems. Students are provided with hands-on skills through classroom lectures and laboratory experiences. The program will also provide students with the opportunity to complete several competency exams.

The program requires 39 total credits and includes courses such as HVAC trade skills I and II, refrigeration fundamentals, basic electricity for HVAC tech, domestic heating, HVAC controls and circuitry, advanced domestic heating and air conditioning, HVAC/R industry safety, computer literacy, and interpersonal communication. The curriculum has been awarded accreditation by HVAC Excellence, making it the only accredited program in the state.

  • Location: Bettendorf, IA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Three semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($175 per credit); online and nearby Illinois counties ($195 per credit); out-of-state ($242 per credit)

Des Moines Area Community College

Des Moines Area Community College offers both, an associate of applied science degree and a diploma in HVAC/R. The program provides students with the theory, skills, and knowledge of HVAC/R equipment (both light commercial as well as residential structures). Combining classroom lectures with laboratory experiences, students in this program are prepared for satisfactory advancement and entrance in this HVAC/R field.

The diploma is made up of 41 credits and can be earned by successfully finishing the first three semesters. The AAS degree is made up of 73 credits and can be earned by completing all semesters. Some of the courses in the curriculum include HVAC trade skills I, fundamentals of refrigeration, electricity, residential heating and AC, electrical controls and circuits, sheet metal fabrication, and applied heating and AC.

Students learn about the basics of installing, servicing, and repairing HVAC/R systems, putting together and installing ductwork and other related parts, checking the system and ensuring that everything is working properly, and connecting motors and compressors to control panels. Most graduates of this program go on to become service and installation technicians, while some might go into sales or start their own businesses.

  • Location: Ankeny, IA
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (three semesters); AAS (five semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: $170.00 per credit

Hawkeye Community College

The HVAC diploma program offered by Hawkeye Community College prepares students for entry-level employment in this industry. They learn to install, maintain, and repair commercial and residential HVAC/R equipment. Students in this program train in HVAC labs on equipment such as air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces, boilers, air exchangers, and more.

The program provides them with 192 hours of practical real-world experience ensuring that they have the required skills needed for succeeding in their future career. Students may take exams such as the EPA Section 608 and the 410A High-Pressure Refrigerant national certification exam.

Comprising 48 credits, the program includes courses such as introduction to HVAC/R, boiler fundamentals, operation strategies, controls for HVAC/R, hydronic heating systems, applied electricity for HVAC/R, and residential forced-air heating systems, among others.

Upon completion, graduates will have several career options such as working for distributors, commercial businesses, and dealers as service installers and technicians.

  • Location: Waterloo, Iowa
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: Three semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($192 per credit); non-resident ($217 per credit)

North Iowa Area Community College

North Iowa Area Community College offers an associate of applied science (AAS) degree and a diploma in HVAC preparing students for entry-level employment in the commercial, industrial, and residential HVAC industry.

The diploma consists of 30 credits includes courses such as residential heating systems, troubleshooting heating systems, skills and safety in the industry, applied math A, B, and C, residential air-conditioning systems, troubleshooting air-conditioning systems, communications I, maintenance shop operations, college essentials, and Ag and industrial welding.

All courses from the diploma are included in the AAS degree which consists of 60 credits. Additional courses in this program include an introduction to entrepreneurship, workplace professionalism, commercial heating systems, control systems for HVAC, Commercial air-conditioning systems, sheet metal fabrication, technical graphics, systems design, and network essentials.

At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as commercial HVAC controls technician, HVAC lab technician, HVAC sales manager, HVAC parts manager, and commercial HVAC service technician.

  • Location: Mason City, IA
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (two semesters); AAS (four semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: Iowa residents ($165.75 per credit); non-residents ($248.63 per credit)

Other schools that offer various levels of training include:

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

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Iowa

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:

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

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 the 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.

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).