HVAC Trade Schools in Worcester, MA

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Worcester, Massachusetts (MA) is booming. Billions have been spent on new construction in recent years, and “another $375 million is in the pipeline.” In addition, investors are renovating older buildings, such as a historic courthouse and adding restaurants, shops, and attractions. The population is increasing. One developer is “renovating more than 500 apartments,” and another is “on track to open 365 luxury apartments.” Railways and airlines are improving existing infrastructure and adding services. A startup incubator is generating new business. The UMass Medical School and the Massachusetts Biotechnology Research Park are centers of biomedical research and development—one of the many colleges in the city contributing to Worcester’s growing economy.

Worcester averages slightly more than 48 inches of rain annually, most of which falls during the summer months. High temperatures in the summer can spike into the 70s, and humidity reaches uncomfortable levels. The winter months average about five-and-a-half feet of snow, accompanied by temperatures that are frequently below freezing. Homes and workplaces must have heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) to keep residents comfortable. Public buildings, medical and research facilities, and entertainment venues often require the addition of advanced refrigeration (HVAC/R) systems.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2017) reports that 560 HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics and installers were employed in the Worcester MA-CT area. State and local chapters of industry organizations that provide training and support to the technicians include:

  • Air Conditioning Association of New England (ACANE)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., Massachusetts Chapter (ABCMA)
  • Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts (ASM)
  • New England Mechanical Contractors Association (NEMCA)
  • Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors of Massachusetts (PHCCMA)
  • UA Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 4

These organizations coordinate with others in the industry and with government organizations to establish educational and licensing standards. They serve all aspects of the HVAC and HVAC/R industries, including safety, performance, and promotion.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Worcester, MA

Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians is growing nationwide. According to the BLS (2018), the demand for technicians is expected to increase 15 percent around the country between 2016 and 2026. That is much faster than average of 7 percent projected for all occupations in the U.S. The demand for technicians in Massachusetts is growing at a slightly lower rate the national average. Projections Central predicted a 10.3 percent statewide increase for the same decade.

Several factors contribute to the growth of the HVAC and HVAC/R industry. The primary factor is the increasing sophistication of climate control systems and the need to replace, retrofit, or upgrade older systems. Renovations of Worcester’s historic buildings are an example of that. Industries that rely on technology, such as the research and medical facilities in Worcester, frequently require specialized systems to keep electronic equipment in operation. Also, the contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution contributes to the demand for new installations.

Technicians who are computer and electronics literate, and those with excellent troubleshooting skills, generally have the best job prospects. Technicians who specialize in new installations may experience seasonal unemployment if construction declines, although that is not anticipated to happen in Worcester. The economy is growing, requiring remodeling and new construction. The favorable economic conditions attract new workers, all of whom need homes. Adverse weather conditions can mean extensive rebuilding and repairs or replacement of equipment and systems. Maintenance and repair work tends to be stable, as businesses and homeowners depend on their climate control systems year round. They need to keep their equipment in good working order regardless of economic conditions.

HVAC Salaries in Worcester, MA

The BLS (2017) reports that HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics and installers nationally receive a median annual salary of $47,080. Technicians in the Worcester, MA-CT area receive an annual median salary of $53,080.

Here is a detailed salary breakdown of HVAC workers in the U.S., in Massachusetts, and in Worcester:

United States Massachusetts Worcester, MA-CT
Number of HVAC workers 307,060 7,230 560
Average annual salary $49,530 $59,100 $51,840
10th percentile $29,120 $39,550 $39,150
25th percentile $36,150 $47,620 $45,220
50th percentile (median) $47,080 $58,620 $53,080
75th percentile $60,270 $70,540 $59,080
90th percentile $75,330 $80,380 $63,710

Accredited HVAC Schools in Worcester, MA

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians traditionally began their careers as helpers and learned the trade through on-the-job training. It is still possible to do so, but that has become more uncommon. Most workers now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeships include around 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and approximately 144 hours of classroom work annually for three to five years. The Massachusetts Division of Apprentice Standards (DAS) is the regulatory body for apprenticeship programs within the state, and a field representative from that office is assigned to Worcester. An air conditioning mechanic apprenticeship program requires 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 150 hours of formal technical instruction annually. The cost is not disclosed on the website.

Additionally, UA Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 4 offers a five-year HVAC technician apprenticeship program at their training facility in West Boylston. Apprentices receive on-the-job training during the day. They attend classroom lectures combined with hands-on shop training in the evening. The cost is not disclosed on the website.

Workers seeking HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs can find several available through national industry associations such as:

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

Details are available on their websites.

Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of an educational institution’s program. It includes both the curriculum and the instructors. When choosing a school, it is essential to determine if it is accredited and which organization granted accreditation.

Two industry organizations evaluate and accredit HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence, which has not awarded accreditation to a Massachusetts school, and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), which has accredited Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, located in Harwich, MA, and Shawsheen Valley Technical High School, located in Billerica, MA.

Coursework in both those schools is designed for high school students. Cape Cod is included in the profiles below as their HVAC program is also available through their adult ed services. Shawsheen is excluded as the HVAC classes are not available through their adult ed services.

Cape Cod Regional Technical High School

CapeTech offers a certificate HVAC program through its adult education services. The program is divided into two sessions. The first is an introductory program emphasizing servicing systems. It’s designed for students with little to no understanding of HVAC.

The curriculum includes basic electricity, wiring, circuitry, and the components of HVAC systems. Students learn how to bend, cut, and solder copper tubing, as well as about pressure testing, gauges, and leak detection. As the program is new for the school, the curriculum for the second session is not yet available, other than preparing students for EPA certification.

  • Location: Harwich
  • Accreditation: PAHRA
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: Contact program representative for estimate
  • Program length: Ten weeks

The Peterson School

Peterson, a private school, offers a variety of HVAC/R programs. Coursework is presented in classroom lectures and hands-on training in labs. Programs include:

HVAC/R commercial and industrial refrigeration prep course: This is designed for beginners with no prior experience and individuals with experience who want to meet the education required to obtain an HVAC/R license. The emphasis is on EPA rules and regulations, and students are qualified to take the EPA certification exam upon completion. They also receive 70 hours credit of theory needed for the state refrigeration license. The program takes 15 weeks to complete. Tuition is $4,220, plus $350 for books and fees.

HVAC/R electrical code prep course: This is designed for students who plan to take the state refrigeration exam. The focus is on the electrical code and theory and the fundamentals of HVAC/R. It meets the state requirements for 150 hours of electrical code. Students who complete the program are prepared to work on residential and some commercial HVAC/R units that are ten tons and under. The program takes 20 weeks to complete. Tuition is $1,320, plus $300 for books and fees.

HVAC/R refrigeration code prep course: This is designed to meet the requirements for the state license exam. It focuses on HVAC/R theory. The program takes ten weeks to complete. Tuition is $520, plus $175 for books and fees. This program is not currently offered at the West Boylston campus.

HVAC controls and energy management: This is designed to teach troubleshooting and installation of HVAC equipment and system controls. Students learn energy management principles that focus on efficiency and cost reduction. They also study building automation and how systems interact. The program takes 17 weeks to complete. Tuition is $2,000, plus $200 for books and fees. This program is currently available only at the Westwood campus.

  • Location: West Boylston, Westwood, Woburn
  • Accreditation: None disclosed on their website; licensed by the state’s Office of Private Occupational School Education
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: Varies, as described above
  • Program length: Varies, as described above

Porter and Chester Institute

The PCI offers an HVAC/R certificate that prepares graduates to work on residential, commercial, and industrial equipment and systems. Coursework is presented in classroom lectures and through hands-on training. The curriculum includes training in gas, oil, and electric HVAC/R systems; reading schematics and wiring diagrams; installation, maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair of equipment; and electricity and controls. Students also learn “soft skills,” such as customer service and employability. Coursework may be completed during the day. PCI also offers the full curriculum in evening classes for the convenience of employed students.

  • Location: Canton, Chicopee, Worcester
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC); licensed by the Office of Private Occupational School Education
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $24,920 for tuition and fees; $2,900 for books and supplies
  • Program length: Day classes 12 months; evening classes 18 months

Quinsigamond Community College

QCC offers an HVAC/R certificate program that prepares students for entry-level positions as technicians. Class size is limited to 16 students and applicants must have a high school diploma or GED, and have completed one year of high school algebra or math and three years of high school English, with a grade C or higher; or appropriate placement scores. Fall semesters are taught at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlboro and spring semesters are taught at Worcester.

Coursework is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. The first semester curriculum includes an introduction to microcomputers (students are required to supply their own laptop), basic HVAC/R theory, basic electricity, and the Massachusetts Electrical Code. The semester requires 15 credit-hours to complete. The second semester curriculum includes the Massachusetts Refrigeration Code, gas, oil, and electric heating, energy efficiency, heat pumps, control systems, system evaluation, and troubleshooting. The semester requires 12 credit-hours to complete.

Worcester State University

Worcester State University offers an online-only HVAC/R certificate program designed to prepare students for entry-level positions. The curriculum is divided into modules which include:

  • HVAC/R fundamentals
  • Math
  • OSHA
  • Hand and power tools
  • Electrical theory, components, and motors
  • Systems (including air flow)
  • Refrigeration technology
  • Refrigerant handling
  • Troubleshooting
  • Heat pumps
  • Customer service

Graduates are prepared to take various industry exams.

  • Location: Worcester
  • Accreditation: Contact program for details
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $3,795
  • Program length: Self-paced, but maximum time to complete is 12 months

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Worcester, MA

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

  • 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 (Type IV or Universal)

Practice exams are available online.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations, which also offer Section 608 testing and certification. These include, but are not limited to:

Details are available on their websites.

Massachusetts requires HVAC/R apprentices to obtain an apprentice refrigeration technician license. Applicants must submit a copy of their high school diploma or equivalent, a photo, a copy of their Division of Apprentice Standards ID card, proof that they are at least 18 years of age, an application form, and a $40 fee.

HVAC/R technicians who perform refrigeration work having a capacity over 10 tons in the aggregate are required to have a refrigeration technician license. Applicants must submit a copy of their high school diploma or equivalent, a photo, a copy of the certificate of completion of apprenticeship, a copy of CFC certification, and an application form. They must also pass a written exam and pay a $75 fee. Additional requirements are:

  1. Proof of a minimum of 6,000 hours employment in Massachusetts as a refrigeration apprentice; and
  2. Proof of completion of 250 hours in a refrigeration course at an approved school which must include 100 hours of refrigeration theory and 150 hours of electrical code training; or
  1. Proof of a minimum of 4,000 hours employment in Massachusetts as a refrigeration apprentice; and
  2. Proof of completion of 500 hours in a refrigeration course at an approved school which must include 250 hours of shop-related work, 100 hours of refrigeration theory and 100 hours of electrical code training; or
  1. Proof of a minimum of 2,000 hours employment in Massachusetts as a refrigeration apprentice; and
  2. Proof of completion of 1,000 hours in a refrigeration course at an approved school which must include 700 hours of shop-related work, 100 hours of refrigeration theory and 100 hours of electrical code training; or
  1. Proof of a licensing as a refrigeration technician, master technician, or equivalent license from another jurisdiction; and
  2. Proof of work experience and certification equal to the above prerequisites;

Otherwise the applicant must obtain approval by a majority vote of the bureau.

HVAC/R contractors are required to obtain a refrigeration contractor license. A contractor must have a place of business and may work alone or employ licensed technicians. Applicants must submit a photo, proof of a technician’s license, proof of a minimum of 2,000 hours of employment, proof of completion of 100 hours of refrigeration training at an approved school, an application, a passing score on a written exam, and a $150 fee.

As a final note, the City of Worcester requires any business using a company name within the city to obtain a business certificate. The fee is $50, and the certificate is good for four years.