HVAC Programs in Baltimore, MD

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The State of Maryland has a strong economy grounded in technology, manufacturing, and trade. Despite the recent political unrest, Baltimore is also thriving. According to the Baltimore Sun (February 2017), “construction activity is happening in diverse areas of the city,” and “the economy is surging.” Baltimore is home to John Hopkins University and John Hopkins Hospital. Those institutions have specific heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) requirements, as does the National Aquarium and other historic sites. The fishing industry needs refrigeration (HVAC/R) as well, regardless of the weather. Baltimore’s hot summers and cold, snowy winters mean that residents and businesses need climate control for comfort. Overall, the expanding economy, new construction, and weather all increase the need for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2016), 2,600 people were employed as HVAC installers, mechanical, and maintenance workers in the Baltimore metropolitan area. The Mechanical Contractors Association of Maryland promotes and supports HVAC and HVAC/R contractors and technicians, and their headquarters are located in Baltimore. The Heating & Air Conditioning Contractors of Maryland, also based in Baltimore, started an apprenticeship program in 1996 to help provide trained workers. Additionally, the Maryland Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association has offices in nearby Ellicott City, where technicians can obtain training and certifications. National industry associations also provide training and other resources online and via conferences. These include the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

HVAC and HVAC/R workers in Baltimore perform a variety of jobs to control the flow, temperature, and quality of air in buildings. They travel from one work site to another, sometimes daily. Workers also install the gas and water lines, air ducts, and other components to which they’ll connect the equipment. They maintain all the necessary controls and calibrate them. Their work requires technicians to be able to read blueprints and design specifications, as well as understand trade math to be able to perform heat load and loss calculations. They also need to be aware of building codes and guidelines to know how to inspect, service, and maintain large and small systems. They must know how compressors, heat pumps, and boilers operate. When systems malfunction, technicians also must troubleshoot equipment and test components to repair or replace defective parts. All workers must be competent in using various tools, from basic hand tools like screwdrivers or wrenches, to sophisticated testing and analysis tools. Some repairs may even require welding or brazing. Technicians must test all systems to ensure proper operation. Customers are always given a complete written record of all work performed. They are also advised on how they can conserve energy and reduce pollution. Technicians are responsible for keeping their certifications current, so that work is completed in compliance with established safety procedures.

Read on to discover the HVAC industry outlook in Baltimore, as well as what to expect from a training program and the credentialing procedures.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Baltimore, MD

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers held 332,900 jobs nationwide in 2016, according to the BLS, and the demand for HVAC technicians nationwide continues to grow. In fact, the overall number of positions in this field is expected to swell 15 percent nationally between 2016 and 2026—much faster than average for all occupations. A forecast for Baltimore specifically isn’t available, but Maryland is experiencing a slightly higher-than-average growth in the demand for technicians in the latest predictions. By illustration, Projections Central anticipated a 15.1 percent statewide increase in local HVAC positions for the decade ending in 2024. Several factors contribute to the growth of the HVAC and HVAC/R industry:

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

Technicians who are computer/electronics-literate and those with good troubleshooting skills are likely to have the best job prospects.

It’s important to note that adverse weather conditions don’t stop the need for HVAC repairs or maintenance. HVAC workers experience a relatively high rate of injury, suffering electrical shocks and injuries related to moving heavy equipment. With proper training in safety, however, these risks can generally be kept to a minimum.

The BLS (Oct. 2017) reported that nine percent of HVAC/R technicians were self-employed, while 64 percent were employed by plumbing, heating, and air conditioning contractors. The remaining workers were employed by schools or retail and wholesale organizations. Also, most of the technicians worked full time. Depending on peak seasons, technicians may work evenings, weekends, and other overtime hours in homes, hospitals, offices, schools, stores, and warehouses.

To illustrate the thriving demand for HVAC services in a given area, check out local job boards. Indeed (Jan. 2018) listed an astounding 892 HVAC jobs in the Baltimore area. One company wanted a technician skilled at diagnosing, repairing, and maintaining commercial HVAC systems and controls. A different family-owned company wanted an experienced HVAC installer/service technician, while Petro Home Services wanted a technician able to install HVAC systems and Lockheed Martin was looking for a facilities engineer experienced with automated controls. In short, there’s a strong demand for HVAC professionals in the Baltimore area.

HVAC Worker Salary in Baltimore, MD

The BLS (May 2016) reported that nationally, HVAC/R mechanics and installers received a median salary of $45,910 annually. Technicians in the Baltimore metropolitan area, by comparison, received a median salary $54,300 annually.

In more detailed terms, the BLS (May 2016) found the following numbers of workers, salary averages, and percentiles among all HVAC mechanics and installers in the nation:

United States (332,900 HVAC workers): $48,320 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,440
  • 25th percentile: $35,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,910
  • 75th percentile: $58,960
  • 90th percentile: $73,350

U.S.: $23.23 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $13.67/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.04/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.07/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.35/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $35.26/hr.

In the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson Metropolitan Area, HVAC workers enjoyed these salary percentiles:

Baltimore-Columbia-Towson Metropolitan Area (2,600 HVAC workers): $55,530 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $33,530
  • 25th percentile: $42,480
  • 50th percentile (median): $54,300
  • 75th percentile: $66,060
  • 90th percentile: $79,280

$26.70 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $16.12/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $20.42/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $26.11/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $31.76/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $38.11/hr.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Baltimore, MD

“The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality,” according to the Department of Education. Various agencies determine whether schools have met the applicable guidelines. Two organizations evaluate and approve HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

As of January 2018, neither organization has accredited a Baltimore HVAC program. Most workers participate in an apprenticeship program or attend classes to pursue a formal degree or certificate. Training opens up more employment opportunities. Workers also start at higher wages and earn more during their careers.

The Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program registers and regulates Maryland apprenticeship programs. Registered apprenticeships comply with state and federal regulations regarding supervised on-the-job training that includes a minimum of 2,000 hours per year and 144 hours per year of related classroom instruction.

Notably, the Heating & Air Conditioning Contractors of Maryland offers a four-year HVAC/R Apprenticeship Training Program. Training includes instruction in:

  • Tools and safety
  • Heating and refrigeration cycles
  • Trade math
  • Electricity
  • Brazing and soldering
  • Electric motors, starters, and AC/DC circuits
  • Wiring and testing
  • HVAC controls
  • Pipe fitting
  • Troubleshooting
  • Heat pumps
  • Chilled water systems
  • Cooling towers and pumps
  • Boilers and hydronics
  • Heat loss/gain calculations
  • Electronics
  • Blueprints
  • Balancing air distribution systems

Apprentices are paid for the hours they work. Class work is completed at community colleges, and tuition or other fees are determined by the college.

Associated Builders and Contractors, ABC Baltimore, also offers a Maryland-approved HVAC/R apprenticeship program. Comprehensive training is spread over four modules. Credit for the coursework may be transferred to colleges for those desiring to earn a degree. Additionally, All-State Career offers HVAC and HVAC/R training on their Baltimore campus. Students receive hands-on training in the following:

  • Air conditioning
  • Control systems
  • Heat pumps
  • Heat systems
  • Refrigeration

Graduates receive a diploma and may be qualified for entry-level jobs. Total estimated cost of 2017-18 tuition, books, supplies, and other fees was $20,822. All-State Career is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

Brightwood College, formerly the TESST College of Technology, offers 48-week HVAC/R training. Class work and lab experience include units in:

  • Electrical, including tools, circuits, components, diagrams, and graphs
  • Residential and commercial refrigeration system, including retrofitting, system charging, and instrument calibration
  • Installation and operation of motors and controls
  • Installation, maintenance, repair, and updating of residential and commercial heating and air-conditioning systems, including central air
  • Safety, including first aid and CPR

Students complete 68 credit hours of classwork and are awarded a certificate upon completion. Graduates may be qualified for entry-level jobs, and the total estimated cost for 2017-18 was $19,644, which includes tuition, books, supplies, and fees. Brightwood College is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), but is expected to transition in June 2018 to accreditation from Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).

The Community College of Baltimore County offers several HVAC-related courses and programs, including but not limited to:

  • HVAC and energy technology certificate
  • HVAC/refrigeration technician
  • HVAC/R safety, tools, and methods
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) & energy technology association of applied science (A.A.S.) degree
  • Basic HVAC and energy technology certificate
  • Residential estimates and sales
  • Commercial control systems
  • Alternative and renewable energy sources
  • Fundamentals of refrigeration
  • Commercial hvac systems
  • Commercial refrigeration systems
  • Heating systems
  • HVAC electricity

Many of the courses have prerequisites, and the classes are taught at various campuses. Fees are $120.00 per credit-hour. The Community College of Baltimore County has received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Finally, Lincoln Tech in Columbia offers an HVAC certificate program that includes hands-on training as well as coursework.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Baltimore, MD

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain the EPA Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. The four certification categories are:

  • Type 1: small appliances
  • Type II: high-pressure refrigerants
  • Type III: low-pressure refrigerants
  • Type IV: all of the above

In addition, several organizations exist that provide skill-based, employment-ready national certifications. Three of them are:

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

Their websites include details about the certifications, cost, and requirements.

As a final note, the Maryland Board of Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Contractors is the licensing agency for journey- and master-level contractors in the business. To qualify, applicants must pass an exam and pay a fee. Additionally, apprentices must ensure that their sponsoring business has registered them with the state government. For more information, please visit the MD Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.