HVAC Programs in Baltimore, MD – Schools & Certifications

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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. 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 2019), 3,420 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 342,040 jobs nationwide in 2019, 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 4 percent nationally between 2019 and 2029—about as fast as the 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 (2020)—a data organization partnered with the US Department of Labor—reported that there would be an 10.7 percent increase in HVAC positions across Maryland between 2018 and 2028.

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

  • New commercial buildings and residences
  • The 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 (May 2019) reported that 7 percent of HVAC/R technicians were self-employed, while 66 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 (October 2020) listed 320 HVAC jobs in the Baltimore area, including opportunities at Carroll Home Services, Lincoln Technical Institute, Blue Dot Heating, Air Conditioning, Sunbelt Rentals, ARS-Rescue Rooter, and A.J. Michaels Company, to name a few. In short, there’s a strong demand for HVAC professionals in the Baltimore area.

HVAC Worker Salary in Baltimore, MD

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019), there were 342,040 HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $51,420 and 7,320 HVAC mechanics and installers in Maryland with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $60,860. It also stated that there were 3,420 HVAC mechanics and installers in Baltimore with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $64,950 and the following percentiles:

United States Maryland Baltimore, MD
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 7,320 3,420
Annual mean wage $51,420 $60,860 $64,950
10th Percentile $30,610 $36,190 $40,920
25th Percentile $37,660 $45,130 $53,730
50th Percentile (Median) $48,730 $58,710 $64,370
75th Percentile $62,070 $74,210 $77,480
90th Percentile $77,920 $91,550 $91,800

Salary figures do vary slightly by the source of data. Payscale (September 2020)—an aggregator of self-reported salaries—found the following percentiles among its HVAC respondents nationwide in August 2020:

  • 10th percentile: $30,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,723
  • 90th percentile: $75,000

The BLS figures are generally considered more reliable due to the organization’s methods of data collection and relatively high sample size. As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2020) found that Maryland was the eighth most expensive state.

HVAC Apprenticeships in Baltimore, MD

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.

Heating & Air Conditioning Contractors of MD

The Heating & Air Conditioning Contractors of Maryland offers a four-year HVAC/R apprenticeship training program. This apprenticeship provides students with the training to specialize in HVAC/R systems. They will learn to install, service, and repair HVAC systems in residential and commercial establishments.

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 or gain, electronics, blueprints, and balancing air distribution systems.

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

ABC Baltimore

Associated Builders and Contractors, ABC Baltimore, also offers a Maryland-approved HVAC/R apprenticeship program. Comprehensive training is spread over several modules. Credit for the coursework may be transferred to colleges for those who wish to earn a degree. HVAC installers and mechanics work on HVAC/R systems to control air quality and temperature in buildings.

This program delves into topics such as introduction to HVAC, trade mathematics, soldering and brazing, basic electricity, introduction to cooling, introduction to heating, air distribution systems, commercial airside systems, introduction to the hydronic systems, air quality equipment, and basic electronics, among others.

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 applicable guidelines. Two organizations evaluate and approve HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

As of October 2020, 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.

All-State Career

All-State Career offers HVAC and HVAC/R training on their Baltimore campus. Graduates of this program receive a diploma and may be qualified for entry-level jobs. Students will receive hands-on experience working with air conditioning, control systems, heat pumps, heat systems, and refrigeration. The program will prepare students for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Refrigerant Transition and Recovery Certification test, enhancing their marketability and employment prospects.

Made up of 50 credit-hours, the program involves courses such as mechanical controls, commercial refrigeration, EPA duct design, load calculations, basic refrigeration and hermetics, air conditioning, heating systems, and heat pump systems.

Upon graduation from this HVAC/R program, students will be able to work as entry-level HVAC/R technicians in both commercial and residential sites, conducting repair, installation, and troubleshooting services. They will be adept at using a variety of tools, such as hammers, metal snips, wrenches, electric drills, measurement gauges, pipe cutters and acetylene torches, to work with air ducts and refrigerant lines.

They will also become proficient in using thermometers, voltmeters, manometers, pressure gauges, and other testing devices for checking the airflow, electrical circuits, burners, refrigerant pressure, and other components.

  • Location: Baltimore Campus, MD
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $18,914

North American Trade Schools

North American Trade Schools HVAC/R program provides students with HVAC/R training and beginner-level skills for installing and repairing heating, air conditioning and residential refrigeration equipment. The program focuses on HVAC/R electrical requirements, repairing, diagnosing, and installing HVAC/R equipment systems, metal fabricating, ductwork, and understanding of HVAC/R accessories and parts.

The program is made up of 68 credit-hours. The curriculum includes courses such as electricity for HVAC, practical HVAC applications, basic cooling systems, heating systems/heat pumps, air systems/planned maintenance, sheet metal, and print reading, to name a few.

Graduates of the program will receive the EPA 608 Certificate and similar industry certifications. They will gain a basic understanding of HVAC/R and fundamental knowledge needed to ensure customer satisfaction. They will be ready to take up positions such as air conditioning installation and service technician, building maintenance, parts and counter person, furnace installer, including sheet metal fabricating and refrigeration technician.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Accreditation: ACCSC (Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 40 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $18,418

Community College of Baltimore County

The Community College of Baltimore County offers an associate of applied science (AAS) degree in HVAC and energy technology and the following three certificates:

  • Advanced HVAC and Energy Technology certificate
  • Basic HVAC and Energy Technology certificate
  • Building Automation Systems certificate

Combining theory and hands-on experience, the programs are designed to prepare students for careers in HVAC and related energy technologies industry.

The curriculum for the advanced HVAC and energy technology certificate comprises 13 credit-hours. It includes courses such as EPA refrigeration certification, residential load calculations and air distribution, advanced HVAC electricity, residential estimates and sales, and commercial refrigeration systems.

The basic HVAC and energy technology certificate is made up of 17 credit-hours. It includes courses such as HVAC/R safety, tools and methods, fundamentals of refrigeration, EPA refrigeration certification, heating systems, comfort cooling systems, and basic HVAC electricity.

The building automation systems (BAS) certificate comprises 26 credit-hours. Sample some of the coursework: commercial HVAC systems, commercial control systems, Introduction to CAD, construction blueprint reading, introduction to data communications, basic HVAC electricity, and advanced HVAC electricity.

Finally, the AAS degree program consists of 60 credit-hours including all courses from the basic HVAC and energy tech certificate, with the addition of residential load calculations and air distribution, construction blueprint reading, advanced HVAC electricity, fundamentals of communication, and finite mathematics and modeling, among others.

Students taking up these programs will be able to identify components of more advanced HVAC systems and manipulate them, calculate and design cooling and heating internal loads for residential and commercial installations, recognize proper servicing and installation methods, and describe the refrigeration cycle.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Advanced HVAC and energy technology certificate (one semester); basic HVAC and energy technology certificate (two semesters); building automation systems certificate (two semesters); AAS (four semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: Baltimore County, Maryland residents, in-county ($122 per credit-hour); Maryland residents, in-state, out-of-county ($241 per credit-hour)

Lincoln College of Technology

Lincoln Tech offers a certificate in HVAC technology with day and evening classes available. This HVAC program includes coursework featuring energy auditing and green technology, designed for improving the marketability of technicians.

Students learn through hands-on experiences in fully-equipped classrooms and labs. This 45 credit-hour program includes courses such as introduction to climate control systems, electricity, basic refrigeration systems, air conditioning systems, air conditioning design and layout, commercial refrigeration control, commercial and industrial refrigeration and air conditioning lab, warm air heating, and energy efficiency and green technology systems. Graduates of this certificate will be qualified to take industry exams, such as EPA Section 608 certification, and seek entry-level positions as technicians.

Students in this program will gain the skills and confidence to troubleshoot, repair, and service residential and commercial indoor HVAC air management systems. They will also learn techniques such as refrigerant recovery and recycling.

  • Location: Columbia, MD
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Day (40 weeks); evening (74 weeks)
  • Estimated Tuition: $23,220

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 types of equipment (Universal)

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.

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.