HVAC Programs in Nebraska

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Eastern Nebraska (NE) is humid, while the western region is semiarid with windy winters. Statewide, the summers are hot and the winters are cold, and not surprisingly, Nebraskans depend on heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) services for comfort when the weather keeps them indoors. It’s also worth noting that agriculture dominates in many areas, creating a constant demand for refrigeration (HVAC/R) services as well.

Three local chapters of national HVAC associations provide Nebraska technicians and contractors with resources: the Heating and Cooling Contractors Association – Omaha (HACCA), the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of Nebraska (PHCCA), and the Mechanical Contractors Association of Omaha (MCA). These organizations not only work to establish and maintain professional standards for workers, but also offer educational resources, legal advocacy, and even some discounts on work related expenses.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), 2,420 Nebraskans were employed as HVAC installation, mechanical, and maintenance workers. This guide explores the abundance of HVAC training schools in Nebraska, as well as the salary prospects, career outlook, and how to become certified.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Nebraska

The demand for HVAC technicians nationwide continues to grow. According to the BLS (2017), the number of openings in this field is expected to grow 15 percent nationwide between 2016 and 2026. That’s more than double the anticipated average growth among all fields in that time period Furthermore, Nebraska is experiencing an even more robust growth in its demand for HVAC professionals. In fact, Projection Central (2017) predicted a 20.9 percent statewide increase in positions for the decade ending in 2026.

Several factors contribute to the growth of the HVAC industry:

  • Construction of new commercial buildings and residences
  • Increasing complexity of climate control systems
  • Contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution
  • Replacing, retrofitting, or upgrading older systems

Technicians in NE who understand electronics and have superb troubleshooting skills are likely to enjoy the best job prospects.

HVAC mechanics and installers held 307,060 jobs nationwide in 2016. The BLS (October 2017) reported that nationwide, the largest employers of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers were contractors. About nine percent of technicians were self-employed. Most technicians work full time and often have overtime during peak seasons.

While the employment growth prospects both across the country and NE are promising, the profession is not easy. HVAC equipment is installed indoors and outdoors. Technicians must service the outside equipment, regardless of the weather. Additionally, indoor work can be uncomfortable when the equipment malfunctions and repairs sometimes must be made in awkward or cramped spaces. Therefore, technicians have a relatively high rate of job injuries. They may suffer electrical shock, burns, or muscle strains from moving heavy equipment. Training includes safety procedures to minimize injuries.

That said, the demand for qualified HVAC workers is strong in Nebraska. By illustration, Indeed (Nov. 2018) had 357 listings for technicians of all experience levels with companies such as Goodwin Tucker Group, Hamilton Service Company, and Pegasus Support Services, LLC all seeking technicians. Also, Monster’s (Nov. 2018) 166 Nebraska-based listings included organizations like Johnson Controls, the US Army and the Army National Guard.

HVAC Worker Salary in Nebraska

The BLS (2017) reported that HVAC-R mechanics and installers received an average salary of $49,530 annually around the country. Nebraska-based technicians, by contrast, received a $47,120 annually, roughly on par with the national figures. Although Nebraskans earn marginally less than their counterparts in other states, their wages go farther. The cost of living index for Nebraska is 94.8. That means that Nebraskans only pay $94.80 for what costs $100.00 in the average state. Additionally, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2018) found that NE was the twentieth most affordable state in the country, boasting particular savings in housing.

More granularly, the BLS (2017) found the following average salaries and percentiles among HVAC professionals in the US and Nebraska in particular:

Annual salary Hourly salary
United States Nebraska United States Nebraska
Average $49,530 $47,120 $23.81 $22.65
10th percentile $29,120 $29,510 $14.00 $14.19
25th percentile $36,150 $35,290 $17.38 $16.96
50th percentile $47,080 $43,720 $22.64 $21.02
75th percentile $60,270 $57,990 $28.98 $27.88
90th percentile $75,330 $73,360 $36.22 $35.27

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (Nov. 2018), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States: 889 HVAC workers responding

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $36,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,532
  • 75th percentile: $56,000
  • 90th percentile: $71,000

An additional 4,873 HVAC workers gave Payscale their hourly salary figures, resulting in these percentile wages:

  • 10th percentile: $13.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.24/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.00/hr.

The BLS designated seven regions within Nebraska for which employment data is available. The 360 HVAC workers in the Lincoln area earned the highest average salary in the state ($53,870). Following are the detailed salary data for the state of Nebraska:

Central Nebraska nonmetropolitan area (450 HVAC workers): $37,160 annual average salary

Central Nebraska nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $37,160 $17.86
10th percentile $27,950 $13.44
25th percentile $32,120 $15.44
50th percentile $36,160 $17.38
75th percentile $41,080 $19.75
90th percentile $48,560 $23.34

Grand Island, NE (130 HVAC workers): $45,650 annual average salary

Grand Island, NE
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $45,650 $21.95
10th percentile $33,030 $15.88
25th percentile $37,120 $17.85
50th percentile $43,540 $20.93
75th percentile $50,390 $24.23
90th percentile $61,840 $29.73

Lincoln, NE (360 HVAC workers): $53,870 annual average salary

Lincoln, NE
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $53,870 $25.90
10th percentile $33,990 $16.34
25th percentile $42,390 $20.38
50th percentile $50,420 $24.24
75th percentile $63,080 $30.33
90th percentile $81,380 $39.13

Northeast Nebraska nonmetropolitan area (240 HVAC workers): $35,120 annual average salary

Northeast Nebraska nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $35,120 $16.88
10th percentile $20,620 $9.91
25th percentile $27,100 $13.03
50th percentile $33,830 $16.26
75th percentile $41,890 $20.14
90th percentile $49,380 $23.74

Northwest Nebraska nonmetropolitan area (number of HVAC workers unreported): $39,290 annual average salary

Northwest Nebraska nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $39,290 $18.89
10th percentile $26,700 $12.84
25th percentile $29,150 $14.01
50th percentile $40,680 $19.56
75th percentile $47,430 $22.80
90th percentile $52,610 $25.29

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA (1120 HVAC workers): $52,510 annual average salary

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $52,510 $25.25
10th percentile $33,380 $16.05
25th percentile $38,940 $18.72
50th percentile $49,780 $23.93
75th percentile $67,760 $32.58
90th percentile $76,570 $36.81

Southeast Nebraska nonmetropolitan area (110 HVAC workers): $40,360 annual average salary

Southeast Nebraska nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $40,360 $19.41
10th percentile $28,640 $13.77
25th percentile $34,290 $16.49
50th percentile $42,240 $20.31
75th percentile $47,080 $22.63
90th percentile $49,980 $24.03

HVAC Schools in Nebraska

One consideration when choosing an HVAC training program is accreditation. Programmatic HVAC accreditation evaluates a school’s HVAC program for faculty, facilities, and learning standards. There are two main organizations which evaluate HVAC programs specifically: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

As of November 2018, neither organization has accredited a Nebraska-based HVAC program, but there are plenty of alternatives for training.

Although some HVAC companies in Nebraska hire workers with no experience or training, workers who have completed an apprenticeship or attended a formal training program generally are favored in hiring decisions. Trained workers may start at higher wages, advance more quickly, and earn more over the life of their career.

An apprenticeship is a paid position that combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Nebraska lists six companies as apprenticeship sponsors: four are in Omaha, one is in Lincoln, and one is located in La Vista. Openings are not always available so interested applicants should check the Nebraska Department of Labor Workforce Services site.

Metropolitan Community College offers several levels of HVAC training at their Fort Omaha campus. Students can start with earning career certificates in:

  • Heat Pump (AHPSD): Teaches working knowledge of electric heat and gas heat used as backup heat for the heat pump.
  • Refrigeration (ARFSD): Teaches electrical and refrigeration service principles. Shop practice includes soldering, brazing, flaring, and leak checking procedures. Students install and service refrigeration systems for residential and commercial units.
  • Air Conditioning (AACSD): Students learn to troubleshoot, repair, and service various types of air conditioning systems, as well as the basics of electrical theory, reading blueprints, and heat loss/heat gain.
  • Heat Systems (AHSSD): Students study electrical principles for gas heating, oil burner heating, electric heat. Learn about the insulation and servicing of various systems. Study computer-controlled environments and write computer programs for changing temperature in various locations.

The heat pump and refrigeration programs require 30 credit hours each to complete. The air conditioning and heat systems programs require 33 credit hours each to complete.

Students completing the heating, air conditioning and refrigeration technology (HARCE) program receive a certificate of achievement. They learn the principles of how HVAC-R equipment is constructed and how systems operate while gaining practical experience in servicing and installing HVAC-R equipment. The program takes 52.5 credit hours to complete.

Students may also earn an associate of applied science (AAS) degree in the heating, air conditioning and refrigeration technology (HAAAS) program. The curriculum includes coursework and hands-on-training in:

  • Refrigeration electrical theory and application
  • Refrigeration service principles and basic automatic controls
  • Refrigeration shop practices
  • Gas heat
  • Electric heat
  • Commercial refrigeration installation
  • Commercial refrigeration service
  • Air conditioning, domestic refrigeration, and appliance repair
  • All-weather systems (conventional)
  • All-weather systems (heat pumps)
  • Installation and service problems
  • Refrigeration certification
  • Advanced commercial refrigeration
  • Advanced residential air conditioning
  • Air conditioning (commercial)
  • Sheet metal layout
  • Automated building controls
  • Blueprint reading

The AAS program requires 108.5 credit-hours to complete and costs $64.00 per credit hour. Students also must pay for books, supplies, and tools, as well as other fees. The Metropolitan Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Southeast Community College offers an AAS degree in heating, ventilation, air conditioning & refrigeration technology at their Milford Campus. Their program is a balance of coursework and hands-on-training with a focus on residential and commercial HVAC equipment and systems as well as food preservation refrigeration. Students can complete the program in six quarters (18 months). One of the quarters gives students an opportunity to learn while doing through the college’s Cooperative Education Experience. Students are paid for their work during this quarter.

The program takes 132 credit-hours to complete at $67.50 per credit hour, plus additional expenses for the required tools, books, and supplies. Southeast Community College is also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Central Community College offers three HVAC programs at their Hastings Campus. The basic refrigeration certificate teaches the skills students need for entry-level employment in basic refrigeration service. It takes 12 credit-hours to earn the certificate. Students earning the 32 credit-hour heating, air conditioning & refrigeration diploma learn the following:

  • Orientation safety & hand tools
  • Principles of refrigeration cycle
  • Basic refrigeration components
  • Basic service operations
  • Universal R-410A safety & training
  • Electrical theory
  • EPA 608 certification exam
  • Soldering & brazing practices
  • Hermetic system servicing
  • HVAC lab applications

The curriculum for the heating, air conditioning & refrigeration AAS degree adds courses in:

  • Introduction to sheet metal
  • Fuel gas code & piping
  • HVAC lab applications
  • Heat pump theory
  • Troubleshooting HVAC
  • Electricity for HVAC
  • Heating service

Students must complete 62 credit hours to earn a degree at $100.00 per credit hour for in-state students. Supplies, books, tools, and fees are extra. Central Community College is also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Nebraska

Federal law requires all HVAC technicians who work with environmentally sensitive refrigerants to obtain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. Four levels of certifications are available based the size and type of equipment, and the universal certification (Type IV) allows technicians to work on all equipment.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations. These include, but aren’t limited to:

Finally, all HVAC professionals in Nebraska must ensure that they have all necessary licenses and permits before beginning work. While HVAC technicians and apprentices aren’t required to have state licenses, all contractors with one or more employees must have a state-issued contractor license from the Nebraska Department of Labor. It’s important to note that local requirements may vary. For example, the City of Lincoln requires HVAC apprentices and journey-level technicians to be credentialed, and contractors and self-employed technicians must be licensed, bonded, and insured. Journey-level masters and contractors must have completed a minimum number of hours of work experience and pass a written exam. All credentials and licenses are valid for one year and can be renewed following the completion of continuing education hours.

In order to remain in compliance with local laws, all Nebraskans in HVAC are encouraged to contact local offices to ensure they have all necessary documentation.

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.