HVAC Schools in Minnesota – Degrees & Certifications

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Anyone who has lived in Minnesota (MN) understands the necessity of installing some form of climate-control system to remain protected from the elements. US Climate Data found that the average minimum temperatures in January hover around just 8 degrees while summer averages exceed 80. These temperature extremes in the Land of 10,000 Lakes create a thriving demand for skilled professionals in heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC).

Luckily for those who decide to pursue this career in MN, there are many professional HVAC organizations and unions across the state that provide benefits for members.

For example, Minneapolis is home to Pipefitters Local 539, which has been in operation since the early 1900s. Union members have access to high-quality training and education, including an apprenticeship program outlined at length in the section below. Other benefits for union members include networking opportunities and a calendar full of events throughout the year.

Another group for HVAC professionals in the state is the Minnesota Mechanical Contractors Association, which is headquartered in St. Paul. This professional organization offers services to members such as labor negotiations, government affairs education, high-quality training, and other information useful in the industry. Members also enjoy discounted gas prices through Holiday Gas Stations throughout the state as a result of a collaboration between the two organizations.

Overall, the growing industry and the support offered for HVAC professionals may encourage many to pursue a new career in this field. For those considering that route, the following is a brief outline of typical responsibilities for HVAC mechanics and installers in Minnesota:

  • Provide education to customers on energy conservation
  • Verify compliance with necessary laws
  • Test HVAC equipment
  • Perform calculations regarding heat load and loss
  • Keep records of service
  • Braze and solder parts
  • Travel to various job locations
  • Calibrate all controls to manufacturer specifications
  • Retain all required credentials
  • Interpret blueprints

It is important to add that workers who handle refrigerants need to maintain active EPA Section 608 Certification to stay in compliance with the law. For more details on this and other certifications or licenses that may be required in MN specifically, keep reading.

Ultimately, a new career in the HVAC industry can be both lucrative and fulfilling, although those interested in this field should have a thorough understanding of the work required, as well as the requisite training. This guide provides an overview of the HVAC industry in Minnesota, including salary expectations, various training programs, and the required credentials.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Minnesota

There’s much evidence that the HVAC industry nationwide is thriving. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) found that there were 344,020 HVAC workers across the country, earning an average annual salary of $53,410. Also, the number of jobs is expected to swell 5 percent between 2020 and 2030, leading to the creation of 19,000 new positions overall. This is slightly slower than the expected average growth rate for all jobs in the country in that same decade, which sits at just 8 percent. The rate of increase in job opportunities for technicians in Minnesota exceeds national expectations.

Projections Central (2021)—a data organization partnered with the US Department of Labor—reported that there would be a 10.5 percent increase in HVAC positions across Minnesota between 2018 and 2028.

There are many reasons that the HVAC industry is thriving. First, virtually all new construction in Minnesota contains some form of a climate control system, which requires the skill and expertise of an HVAC worker to plan, install, and maintain. Furthermore, heating and air conditioning systems often need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years, requiring routine maintenance in the interim. And finally, the laws governing the HVAC industry are constantly in flux, and because of this, talented workers are always in demand to ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

A simple yet effective way to understand the demand for HVAC workers in Minnesota is by performing an online job search. For example, a simple search for “HVAC jobs in Minnesota” on Monster (November 2021) yielded results with companies such as Powerhome Solar, Honeywell, EMCOR Group, Brodin Comfort Systems, and Crescentia Global Talent Solutions. The same search on Indeed (November 2021) yielded 551 results with organizations such as Total Comfort, Seagate Technology, Bryant Staffing Solutions, and Golden Valley Heating & Air.

Minnesota HVAC Technician Salary Data

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. BLS (May 2020) states, the median salary for HVAC workers nationwide was $50,590 per year, while the median salary for HVAC technicians in MN was even higher at $59,390 per year.

In more detail, here were the salary percentiles of HVAC professionals across the US and in Minnesota specifically:

United States Minnesota
Number of HVAC professionals employed 344,020 3,730
Annual mean wage $53,410 $62,820
10th percentile $31,910 $39,130
25th percentile $39,320 $47,180
50th percentile (median) $50,590 $59,390
75th percentile $64,350 $78,650
90th percentile $80,820 $96,800

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, PayScale (November 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): $49,503
  • 90th percentile: $79,000

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 2021) found that Minnesota is ranked 30th in terms of affordability, making it about average, with the cost of health being higher. For HVAC technicians, this means relatively high salaries may still not go as far as lower salaries in other states, so that is something to keep in mind.

HVAC Apprenticeships in Minnesota

To begin working in this industry, aspiring HVAC professionals must receive training to develop the requisite skills. This typically includes completing a degree or an apprenticeship program.

For example, the aforementioned Pipefitters Local 539 offers a competitive apprenticeship program for those interested in a career in HVAC and/or construction. This four-year training program consists of 8,750 hours on the job and 1,080 hours of related classroom instruction. Participants must pay for the cost of tuition, which is set at $540 per year plus books, although they do earn a salary during the program.

Industry associations are another source of apprenticeship programs. These include, but are not limited to:

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

Details of what each offer and fees are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Programs in Minnesota

In addition to apprenticeships, aspiring HVAC professionals in Minnesota can pursue a degree or training program. When choosing a school, it is essential to determine if it is accredited, and if so, what agency accredited it. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the curriculum and the instructors. Certain standards must be met before accreditation is granted.

Two organizations evaluate and award accreditation to HVAC programs:

  • HVAC Excellence
  • Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA)

There are no PAHRA-accredited programs in MN, although there are three schools that have received accreditation from HVAC Excellence.

Hennepin Technical College

Aspiring HVAC workers interested in formal education with a shorter timeframe may consider the program offered through Hennepin Technical College in either Brooklyn Park or Eden Prairie. Hennepin offers three tracks for HVAC students: commercial HVAC-R diploma, HVAC-R associate in applied science (AAS), and residential HVAC diploma.

The residential HVAC diploma is made up of 35 credits. It includes courses such as electrical circuits, sheet metal, basic refrigeration, refrigerant transition and recovery, refrigeration certification exam, gas heat systems, electrical diagrams, residential heat pumps, and hydronic heat systems, among others.

The commercial HVAC/R diploma consists of 36 credits. It delves into courses such as packaged heating and cooling equipment, commercial HVAC/R safety and servicing procedures, commercial heat pump systems, pneumatic controls, commercial ice-making machines, refrigerated coolers and cases, low-pressure steam & water boilers, and water chiller machines, among others.

The AAS degree in HVAC/R comprises 72 credits, including courses such as electrical circuits, basic refrigeration, psychrometrics, central air conditioners, low-pressure steam & water boilers, math for the trades, interpersonal communication, introductory physics, and oil heat systems, among others.

Graduates of these programs will have the opportunity to work in sales, management, service, maintenance, and installation of refrigeration and HVAC equipment. Positions they might take up include quality control technician, installer, manufacturer’s representative, service technician, layout person, designer, and sales consultant. In addition, the AAS degree will also help them qualify for senior-level positions in the installation, service, and sales of HVAC equipment.

  • Location: Eden Prairie Campus and Brooklyn Park Campus, MN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (two semesters each); AAS degree (four semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: $172.04 per credit

Dakota County Technical College

Dakota County Technical College offers an AAS degree and a diploma in HVAC and refrigeration technology. These programs provide students with beginner-level skills and knowledge required for safely installing, maintaining, troubleshooting, and repairing today’s advanced HVAC/R systems. Involving lectures, group discussions, and practical laboratory experience with real-world HVAC/R equipment, the program helps students to succeed in the field. Students will also receive preparation to pass the refrigerant handling certification exam (EPA Section 608).

Comprising 39 credits, the diploma program includes courses such as refrigeration principles and applications, alternative heating and cooling methods, tool usage, brazing and soldering techniques, introduction to basic electricity, hydronic heating systems, ventilating systems and HVAC installation, and commercial refrigeration, among others.

The AAS degree is made up of 60 credits including all courses from the diploma with additional coursework in boiler operations & power distributions, welding basics, print reading, commercial HVAC, technical writing, and an internship.

Upon completion, students can take up roles such as residential or commercial HVAC/R service technician, sheet metal fabrication and installation, residential or commercial HVAC/R installer, and HVAC/R equipment and parts salesperson.

  • Location: Rosemount, MN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (two semesters); AAS (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: $185.49 per credit

Dunwoody College of Technology

Dunwoody College of Technology offers the following two associate of applied science degrees:

  • HVAC Installation and Residential Service (HEAT) – This hands-on program teaches students to conduct load calculations and read blueprints. They also learn about designing warm air systems, performing proper installation, and fuel and mechanical codes. Learning from seasoned professionals, students in this program also receive internship offers from HVAC companies after their first year in the program.
  • HVAC/R Systems Servicing (SERV) – Students in this program will learn how to maintain the latest HVAC/R systems and will also learn about troubleshooting, diagnosing, and correctly repairing stand-alone cooling systems. Students in this program will also conduct lab experiments using state-of-the-art equipment and use computer simulations for understanding topics like cooling systems, heating systems, HVAC control and systems operations, and commercial and industrial refrigeration service. After completing the program, students will be closely familiar with the functioning of boilers, furnaces, refrigerators, and chillers.

Consisting of 72 credits each, the common courses in both programs include HVAC electrical I and II, heating systems I, II, and III, cooling systems I, II, and III, HVAC design, and basic motor technology.

The HVAC installation and residential service program include additional courses such as HVAC ducts and fittings, transitional fittings, HVAC trunk-line construction, fundamentals of pattern development, advanced pattern development, welding fundamentals, residential HVAC installation, and commercial blueprint reading.

The HVAC/R systems servicing program includes additional courses such as domestic refrigeration, commercial refrigeration I and II, HVAC piping and state mechanical code, metal fabrication, HVAC commercial controls I and II, steam and hydronic heating, and commercial air conditioning.

Students will be prepared to take EPA Section 608 Certification by Esco Institute. Upon completion, graduates can take up roles such as HVAC/R service technician, pipefitter, building engineer, refrigeration mechanic, building controls technician, residential systems designer, and sheet metal fabricator.

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission; HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: HEAT ($46,317); SERV ($46,437)

Minneapolis Community & Technical College

Minneapolis Community & Technical College offers a 42-credit HVAC/R diploma, a 72-credit HVAC/R AAS degree, and an 18-credit generalist certificate in HVAC/R. The faculty of the program includes knowledgeable instructors who prepare students for a high-paying career in HVAC/R and provide the necessary training they need in this industry.

The HVAC/R generalist certificate includes courses such as basic electricity, refrigeration fundamentals, HVAC sheet metal, trade tools and test equipment, refrigeration management, and copper fabrication among others.

The HVAC/R diploma includes coursework that emphasizes residential HVAC systems. Students learn about troubleshooting and diagnosing problems and about installing, servicing, and repairing systems. This program builds on the certificate involving additional coursework in heat pumps, indoor air quality, gas-fired furnaces, oil-fired furnaces, central air conditioners, and residential boilers.

The AAS program adds training in commercial refrigeration, supermarket refrigeration, commercial air conditioners, and commercial ice machines. Among other courses, students also learn about advanced electrical controls, air-cleaning devices, air measurement and testing equipment and tools, and thermal solar energy.

Graduates can take up roles such as indoor air quality specialist, HVAC service technician, HVAC/R building maintenance specialist, and commercial refrigeration service technician.

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (18 months); degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: $196.05 per credit

Minnesota HVAC Certification and Licensing

As mentioned in the introduction, anyone who works with refrigerants in the US, including Minnesota, has to obtain the EPA Section 608 Certification. There are four types, which vary by type of appliance serviced: type 1 (small appliances), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal). Virtually all degree and certificate programs will ensure graduates are prepared to sit for one of these examinations.

Additionally, several skill-specific national certifications are accessible to HVAC workers in Minnesota. These include ones through HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus); North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams or ICE); the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator); and other organizations.

To learn more about national certifications, check out the HVAC credentialing page.

Finally, anyone interested in a career in this industry should understand the local licensure requirements to perform HVAC-related work. While the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) does not specifically require individuals to hold a license in order to perform HVAC work, all professionals must file a $25,000 bond with the DLI in order to contract to perform gas, heating, ventilation, cooling, air conditioning, fuel burning, or refrigeration work in the state. As mentioned on the DLI website, the bond must be on a form approved by the DLI and written by a surety company licensed to do business in Minnesota.

Additionally, various municipalities may have individual requirements for HVAC workers; for example, the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning & Economic Development issues various types of HVAC permits for professionals, depending on the nature of the work being performed. As such, all aspiring HVAC workers in the state need to perform due diligence with licensure requirements to ensure they stay in compliance with the law.

Jocelyn Blore

Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.