HVAC Training Schools in Des Moines, Iowa (IA)

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Located at the junction of two rivers, Des Moines, Iowa (IA) has been occupied by humans for more than 7,000 years. A variety of settlers, trappers, and soldiers arrived in the 1800s and since then the area has become urbanized.

Des Moines is currently the capital of Iowa, the Polk County seat, and the largest city in the state. It is now an insurance, finance, and publishing center. Des Moines has been noted for its favorable business climate, and the economy continues to grow. Manufacturers such as Maytag and communications companies such as Meredith help diversify the economy. Research is another contributor as “Many area firms are active in biotechnology, conducting research in such fields as human, plant, and animal disease cures; safer pesticides and herbicides; and new, higher crop yields.” Technology industries such as those developing fiber optic communications and traditional service industries such as healthcare round out the economy.

Des Moines is generally hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Although the average temperatures during the summer hover in the upper 80s F, on occasion they can soar much higher. July and August have experienced record-setting highs of 110 degrees F. Even on the hottest days, the nights cool to the comfortable mid-60s F.

Rainfall is close to five inches monthly from May through July, and slightly more than four inches in August, creating humid conditions. Winter is short, lasting from November through February. December and January are the coldest months, with the high temperatures barely above freezing, and the lows dropping into the teens. The record low is -34 degrees F. Snow usually begins falling in November, with eight to nine inches falling from December through February. The annual snowfall totals around three feet.

The hot and humid summers and cold and snowy winters keep many residents of Des Moines indoors. They depend on heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort whether relaxing at home or while at work. Reliance on technology means that many companies require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R) to keep the electronic equipment operating efficiently. The research and communications facilities often need specialized climate-control systems and equipment to maintain specified air quality, temperature, and humidity levels.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) records for the period ended May 2018, show that 1,390 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in the Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA area. The technicians and their employers received support and services from industry organizations such as the following:

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • Associated Builders and Contractors of Iowa
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of Iowa
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Iowa
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association
  • UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 33 Des Moines

Associations such as these work with others in the industry and governmental agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards to ensure the safety of technicians and the public.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Des Moines, IA

The BLS (2019) workforce data indicates that HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can expect a 13 percent increase in new positions nationwide between 2018 and 2028. BLS data also indicates that new jobs for all US occupations during the same decade will only increase by 5 percent. The demand for Iowa HVAC technicians is even more favorable. Projections Central predicts a 19.3 percent statewide increase in new positions between 2016 and 2026.

Modern industries continue to keep the economy strong in Des Moines. Old and new companies expect sophisticated climate-controlled facilities. The city is growing, creating a demand for additional workplaces and residences. Many of the new structures are “smart buildings” that rely on technologically advanced HVAC and HVAC/R equipment and systems. Renovation of older buildings often means that obsolete equipment and systems must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet contemporary energy efficiency and pollution reduction standards. In some instances, technological advances or changes in regulations mean that new equipment must be installed even if the structure was recently built. Many of the businesses in Des Moines require specialized climate-controlled areas.

Climate-control systems and equipment continue to increase in complexity. HVAC and HVAC/R technicians must have extensive training to install, maintain, or service contemporary systems. Technicians are expected to be skilled in using computers, understand electronics, and be proficient troubleshooters if they want the best job opportunities. Those choosing to specialize in new installations may occasionally experience unemployment if construction declines.

Iowa’s prominence in politics, especially during election years, contributes to a thriving hospitality industry in Des Moines. The venues serving visitors create an on-going need for HVAC and HVAC/R installations. The overall prosperity and growth of the area also make a decline unlikely in the foreseeable future. Technicians who focus on maintenance and service can expect year-round employment as businesses and homeowners want to keep their systems in good operating condition regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in Des Moines, IA

According to the BLS, as of May 2018, HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide received an annual median salary of $47,610. The data also shows that technicians in the Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA area received an annual median salary of $55,130 during the same period. The difference in earnings isn’t as great as it appears as the cost of living in Iowa is lower than it is in most other states.

The table below compares national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals:

United States Iowa Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 4,190 1,390
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $51,330 $54,830
10th Percentile $29,460 $32,020 $34,390
25th Percentile $36,520 $39,150 $42,440
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $50,690 $55,130
75th Percentile $60,900 $62,980 $68,790
90th Percentile $76,230 $74,740 $76,830

HVAC Apprenticeships in Des Moines, IA

In years past, workers could seek employment as helpers and gain their technical skills through on-the-job training. Few opportunities exist for doing so today. Workers need to obtain training by participating in an apprenticeship program or by attending formal classes. Appropriate training not only gives workers more employment opportunities, it also potentially allows them to start at higher wages and earn more throughout their careers.

Apprenticeship programs often differ in the details, but participants typically make a three- to five-year commitment, during which they receive 2,000 hours of on-the-job training along with an average of 144 hours of classwork each year. Iowa Workforce Development has resources and information on registered apprenticeships for workers seeking training.

The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Iowa offers a four-year HVAC apprenticeship in Des Moines. Apprentices receive 144 hours of face-to-face and online classroom instruction. They also receive 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. The Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 33 offers apprenticeships that include HVAC at the Des Moines training center. The five-year program includes 246 hours of classroom training and 1,700 – 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.

The Associated Builders and Contractors of Iowa sponsors a four-year HVAC apprenticeship that includes a total of 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 576 hours of classroom instruction.

Service Legends, a Des Moines contractor, sponsors service/maintenance technician and HVAC installation technician apprenticeship programs. Several levels of formal instruction and on-the-job training are available.

Workers in Des Moines may obtain training from industry associations if they are unable to attend local programs. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc (ABC)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

Details of their programs, schedules, and fees are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Des Moines, IA

Workers choosing to learn their skills through classroom training rather than participating in an apprenticeship should ensure that they attend a school that is accredited. To become accredited, the institution undergoes an evaluation of its curriculum and instructors by an independent agency.

HVAC programs are accredited by two industry organizations. HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to Scott Community College, Bettendorf, IA. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has not accredited an Iowa school. Although the commute to Scott Community College is too long to be practical for most Des Moines students, the college is included in the profiles below due to its accreditation.

Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC)

DMACC offers an HVAC/R technology diploma program and an HVAC/R degree program. Both programs include classroom lectures and hands-on practice in a lab. Students in the diploma program complete 41 credits during three terms of attendance. The curriculum includes HVAC trade skills, refrigeration, electricity, trade math, residential HVAC, controls and circuits, sheet metal fabrication, communication skills, composition, and an internship.

Students seeking a degree complete the above curriculum and add two more terms of coursework. The additional curriculum includes advanced HVAC, air distribution, blueprint reading, technical physics, commercial HVAC/R, load calculations, environmental controls, interpersonal communication, and a psychology/sociology elective. They complete a total of 73 credits to earn their degree.

  • Location: Ankeny, IA
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $160 per credit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Diploma one year; Degree two years

Eastern Iowa Community Colleges

The colleges offer an HVAC diploma program at the Scott campus. The curriculum includes computer literacy, HVAC trade skills, fundamentals of refrigeration, electricity, domestic heating, controls and circuits, interpersonal communication, advanced domestic HVAC, and industrial safety. The coursework is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. Students complete a total of 39 credits and are qualified to take industry competency exams in residential and light commercial HVAC.

  • Location: Bettendorf, IA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $168 per credit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: One year

Des Moines workers who are unable to attend one of the above colleges may find that online HVAC training at an accredited online school will meet their needs.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Des Moines, IA

Technicians who work with refrigerants are required by Federal law to obtain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. The four levels of certifications are:

  • Type 1: small appliances
  • Type II: high-pressure refrigerants
  • Type III: low-pressure refrigerants
  • Universal HVAC certification: for technicians who will work on all types of equipment

Practice exams are available on the EPA website.

Section 608 testing and certification is available from industry organizations such as Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence. These and similar organizations also offer additional training and certification programs. Further information is available on the HVAC certifications page.

The State of Iowa Department of Public Health requires anyone working in the mechanical trades (which includes HVAC) or contracting for services in the mechanical trades to obtain a license. Apprentices are also required to be licensed. Apprentices must be in a registered program. Journey-level technicians must submit proof of education and experience, and pass a trade exam. Contractors must submit proof of general liability insurance, a surety bond, workers compensation insurance, and be a master of record. The license fees vary. Licenses are valid for up to three years. Contractors are additionally required to register with the Iowa Workforce Development Division of Labor.

A service technician HVAC specialty license is available as a sublicense under an HVAC/R or mechanical license that “allows licensees to perform work from the appliance shutoff valve to the appliance and any part or component of the appliance, including the disconnection and reconnection of the existing appliance to the gas piping and the installation of a shutoff valve not more than three feet away from the appliance.” Applicants must submit proof of certification from North American Technician Excellence (NATE) or other board-approved organization.

The City of Des Moines does not require business licenses for contractors or HVAC technicians.

As licensing agencies can change their guidelines at any time, HVAC professionals are encouraged to confirm that they are in compliance 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.