HVAC Trade Schools in Wichita, KS

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Wichita, like most of Kansas, traditionally based its economy on agriculture. The discovery of oil in Kansas created an economic boom throughout the state, and oil companies and supporting industries still make a significant contribution to the local economy. Wichita, however, has diversified.

Today, “agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare and energy are major drivers of the region’s economy.” The city has implemented incentive programs and economic development policies designed to “provide the economic growth and welfare of the region.” The manufacturing and construction industries are expected to continue growing.

Wichita is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Located in the Great Plains, the city is far from large bodies of water or mountains that could moderate the weather. Temperatures begin climbing in May and spike into the 90s by July and August before cooling down in October. In addition to the heat, summers are humid with frequent thunderstorms and occasional hail. May receives nearly five inches of rainfall and June gets more. The remainder of the summer averages three or more inches each month.

Winters are typically very cold, with nighttime temperatures dipping well below freezing. Less than two feet of snow falls during the winter, with the greatest amounts arriving during December, January, and February. Wichita’s relatively central location subjects it to Arctic blasts from the north and warm air masses from the south, especially during the winter months.

The weather often keeps Wichita residents indoors. They depend on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort in their homes and offices. Institutions such as those providing healthcare research and services and manufacturing facilities require the addition of large-scale refrigeration (HVAC/R) in their structures. Specialized climate-controlled rooms are frequently needed for electronic equipment as well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020) reports that 840 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in Wichita. Technicians and their employers receive training and support from industry organizations that include:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America
  • Associated General Contractors of Kansas
  • Kansas Contractors Association
  • Kansas Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 441
  • Wichita, Kansas Chapter of American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association

Associations such as these coordinate with others in the industry and with government organizations to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards to ensure the health and safety of workers and the public.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Wichita, Kansas

Job opportunities for all occupations in the US are expected to increase by 8 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS (May 2020). Nationwide, new positions for HVAC technicians are expected to increase by 5 percent during the same decade. That said, the demand for HVAC professionals in Kansas is growing at a faster rate than at the national level. Projections Central predicts a 6.4 percent statewide increase in employment opportunities between 2018 and 2028.

Continued growth in new construction in Wichita provides employment opportunities for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians. Another source of climate-control installations is the renovation and remodeling of older structures. Current standards for energy efficiency and reduced pollution mean that the existing equipment and systems must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded.

“Smart” buildings and companies that depend on electronics require sophisticated climate-control systems that must be installed or maintained by trained technicians who understand the technology involved. Troubleshooting and knowing how to use computers and other electronic devices are required skills.

Technicians who specialize in new installations occasionally experience unemployment, although the healthy economy in Wichita makes that unlikely in the foreseeable future. Homeowners and businesses need to keep their systems in good operating condition regardless of the economy, so technicians who specialize in maintenance and repair services can expect year-round employment.

HVAC Salaries in Wichita, Kansas

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020), HVAC professionals earn relatively competitive salaries, particularly for positions that may require just two years of post-secondary training. HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide earned a median salary of $50,590 as of May 2020 (BLS). Wichita technicians earned an annual median salary of $54,080.

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) reported that KS was the second most affordable state in the country. The relatively low cost of living in Kansas makes the pay rate even more favorable.

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

United States Kansas Wichita, KS
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 344,020 3,850 840
Average Annual Salary $53,410 $54,130 $54,260
10th Percentile $31,910 $33,980 $37,020
25th Percentile $39,320 $41,390 $44,380
50th Percentile (Median) $50,590 $52,400 $54,080
75th Percentile $64,350 $64,340 $63,610
90th Percentile $80,820 $79,450 $74,320

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

  • 10th percentile: $32,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,655
  • 90th percentile: $78,000

HVAC Apprenticeships in Wichita, KS

Workers in construction trades, including HVAC, traditionally began as assistants and learned their skills through on-the-job training. That has changed, and untrained workers have few employment opportunities now. Workers who complete an apprenticeship or obtain formal training typically obtain employment with higher starting wages and earn more during their careers.

Apprentices are paid during their on-the-job training, which usually takes four to five years. They also attend school for a specified number of hours each year. The State of Kansas provides registered apprenticeship information and resources for workers seeking training. Students select a trade, find employment, and register. The employer must also register as a sponsor if they have not already done so.

Kansas Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 441 offers a five-year HVAC/R apprenticeship in Wichita. Apprentices are matched with an employer for on-the-job training. They also attend 280 hours of classroom training each year.

Workers may obtain training from industry organizations such as the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Details as to schedules, online availability, and fees may be found on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Wichita, KS

School programs and instructors are often evaluated by independent organizations. The evaluation process is known as accreditation—the purpose of which is to establish standards and accountability that students can trust.

Two main industry organizations evaluate HVAC and HVAC/R programs. HVAC Excellence has not accredited a Kansas school, but the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has awarded accreditation to Johnson Community College, in Overland Park, KS. That school is included in the profiles below due to the accreditation although the commute would probably make relocation necessary for Wichita students.

Hutchinson Community College

The college offers an HVAC/R certificate program that includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. In addition to HVAC/R and electricity fundamentals, the curriculum includes programmable logic controls, motor controls, commercial HVAC/R, Section 608 preparation and testing, load calculations and duct sizing, code requirements, low-pressure boilers, and technical math.

Students also choose technical and industrial safety electives to earn the 43 credits needed to earn their certificate. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment as residential, commercial, and industrial HVAC/R installation and maintenance technicians.

  • Location: Hutchinson, KS
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: In-state ($118 per credit); out-of-state ($149 per credit)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 18 months

Johnson County Community College

The college offers an HVAC technology certificate and degree program. Both programs include classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the lab. The certificate curriculum includes the fundamentals of HVAC and electricity, refrigerants, sheet metal layout and fabrication, workplace skills, industrial safety, load calculations and duct design, system installation and startup, advanced electrical systems, and cooling systems.

Students complete 33 credits to earn their certificate. Enrollees in the degree program complete all of the above coursework, with the addition of the following: HVAC rooftop units, plumbing fundamentals, refrigerant management, business math codes, and additional internship hours.

They also complete general education coursework in subjects such as the humanities, communication, social science, and economics, for a total of 63 credits to earn their degree.

  • Location: Overland Park, KS
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: Johnson County residents ($94 per credit); Kansas county residents ($112 per credit)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificate (12 months); degree (24 months)

Wichita State University Tech

The college offers a technical certificate program and a degree program for climate and energy control technology (HVAC). The coursework for both programs is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. Evening classes are available for students who prefer to complete either program on a part-time basis.

The certificate program includes the following: a safety orientation, HVAC and electricity fundamentals, sheet metal fabrication, workplace skills, heat loads and duct sizing, heat pumps, EPA 608 certification preparation, advanced HVAC and electricity, and commercial HVAC. Students complete 44 credits to earn their certificate.

The degree program includes the above coursework, in addition to the following: computer applications, algebra, craft skills, composition, a social science elective, and a communication elective. Students complete 62 credits to earn their degrees. All technical courses for both programs are completed on campus. Certain general education courses may be completed online.

  • Location: Wichita, KS
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: Certificate ($10,059); Degree ($12,717)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificate (10 months); degree (24 months)

Wichita Technical Institute

The school offers an HVAC/R technician program that combines classroom lectures with hands-on training in their lab. Graduates are prepared to seek entry-level jobs as HVAC/R technicians. This 60-credit curriculum includes the following:

  • Electrical refrigeration fundamentals
  • EPA training and research project
  • Heating systems installation and troubleshooting
  • Heat pump systems, preventive maintenance, and research project
  • Introduction to HVAC/R
  • Building construction and building science principles
  • AC installation, troubleshooting, and research project
  • Refrigeration controls and troubleshooting
  • Commercial refrigeration systems and research project

Students prepare and take the following industry exams as part of the coursework:

  • EPA Section 608
  • Industry Competency Exam (ICE)
  • Building Science Principles (BSP)

Passing the exams and receiving industry certifications can increase employability. Upon completion of this program, graduates will be able to take up roles such as HVAC/R technicians, appliance repair technicians, maintenance technicians, and refrigeration technicians.

  • Location: Wichita, KS
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Tuition: $20,500
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 48 weeks

Wichita students who are unable to attend an on-campus school may find that an online institution will better fit their needs. Information on accredited programs for online HVAC training is available here.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Wichita, KS

Technicians who work with refrigerants are required by Federal law to obtain U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. The certifications are based on the size and type of equipment. Certification requires passing exams on the safe handling of refrigerants as follows:

  • For servicing small appliances (Type I)
  • For servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning (Type II)
  • For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances (Type III)
  • For servicing all types of equipment (Universal)

Further information and practice exams are available online.

Industry organizations offer training and additional certifications. These include, but are not limited to:

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

Details as to certificates offered, the format, and information about fees are available on their websites. There is also more information on the HVAC certifications page.

The State of Kansas does not require HVAC contractors or technicians to be licensed. All businesses are required to register with the State. The Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Building and Construction Department is the licensing agency for the City of Wichita. Contractors must first register with the state. They then pass an exam, present a certificate of good standing, submit proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance, and pay the required fees.

A Class A license allows contractors to work on commercial and residential structures; a Class B license is limited to commercial and multi-unit structures, and a Class C license is limited to residential structures. The fees vary. Licenses are renewed annually.

State, county, and municipal agencies always have the option of changing their licensing requirements. HVAC technicians are encouraged to ensure that they comply with any requirements 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.