HVAC Technical Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska

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Lincoln is the Nebraska state capital and the Lancaster County seat. It’s home to the University of Nebraska and several other colleges and universities. Government, education, and healthcare have traditionally been the primary sources of employment. The economy has become diversified and in addition to the service industry, manufacturing and construction are expanding, with continued growth expected. The City established a “Downtown Master Plan” years ago that was designed “to ensure new construction and renovation along with maintaining the natural beauty of the area.” Coordinated efforts with business organizations have kept the economy healthy. Furthermore, the growing high-tech industry has led Lincoln to become part of the Midwest Silicon Prairie.

Winters in Lincoln, Nebraska (NE) are cold, with nighttime temperatures consistently below freezing from November through March. Although there’s an occasional blizzard, snowfall tends to be light. December through February averages five to six inches of snow each month. The weather starts warming up in April and reaches the highest temperatures in June, July, and August. Daytime highs during those months are in the 80s, and nighttime lows are in the 60s. May and June experience rainfall of more than four inches each month. Rainfall, with the inevitable mugginess, starts decreasing in September. Summer thunderstorms occur frequently, sometimes accompanied by tornadoes.

Winter cold and summer heat mean that Lincolnites spend a lot of time indoors. They depend on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort, whether at home, at work, or at play. Manufacturing facilities, institutions such as hospitals, and hospitality venues typically rely on the addition of large-scale refrigeration (HVAC/R) as well. Climate-controlled rooms and specialized equipment are also often necessary for high-tech installations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) reported that 480 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in Lincoln, NE as of May 2018. Technicians and their employers received training and support from industry organizations such as the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • Associated Builders & Contractors Nebraska Chapter
  • Associated General Contractors-Nebraska Building Chapter
  • Home Builders Association of Lincoln
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of Nebraska
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association

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

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Lincoln, NE

Job opportunities for all occupations in the US are expected to increase by 7 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the BLS (2019). The outlook for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians is much brighter, as a 15 percent increase in new positions nationally is anticipated for the same decade. And Nebraska is outpacing the national average, as Projections Central predicts a 21.0 percent statewide increase in HVAC employment opportunities by the end of 2026.

The thriving economy in Lincoln continues to generate new construction, which is what drives the growth of the HVAC industry in the region. Another primary source of HVAC installations is the renovation and remodeling of older structures. The existing climate-control equipment and systems must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet current standards for energy efficiency and pollution reduction.

“Smart” buildings and technology-based companies that depend on electronics require sophisticated climate-control systems that must be installed or maintained by trained technicians that understand the technology. Technicians must also be skilled troubleshooters that know how to use computers and other electronic diagnostic tools. Those who specialize in new installations occasionally experience unemployment, although Lincoln’s growing economy makes that unlikely in the foreseeable future. Homeowners and businesses need to keep their systems in good operating condition regardless of the economy, so technicians who specialize in maintenance and repair services can expect year-round employment.

HVAC Salaries in Lincoln, NE

The BLS reports (2019) that HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide earned a median salary of $47,610 as of May 2018. Lincoln technicians earned an annual median salary of $55,700. The pay is even more favorable than it appears because the cost of living in Nebraska is lower than the national index.

The table below compares national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals:

United States Nebraska Lincoln, NE
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 2,590 480
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $48,580 $55,490
10th Percentile $29,460 $30,400 $33,940
25th Percentile $36,520 $36,720 $43,350
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $45,980 $55,700
75th Percentile $60,900 $59,550 $66,270
90th Percentile $76,230 $74,340 $78,100

HVAC Apprenticeships in Lincoln, NE

Traditionally, workers were able to find employment as assistants and learn their skills through on-the-job training. Untrained workers now seldom have that opportunity. Workers who complete an apprenticeship or obtain formal training typically have the most employment opportunities. They often start at higher wages and enjoy greater earnings throughout their careers.

Apprentices are paid during their on-the-job training, which usually takes four to five years. They also attend school for a specified number of hours each year. The Nebraska Department of Labor provides information on registered apprentices and resources for workers seeking job training.

Also, the Steamfitters & Plumbers Local #464 offers a five-year HVAC/R apprenticeship program at their Lincoln and Omaha training centers. Apprentices receive on-the-job training from sponsors. They attend classes on Saturday for the first three years and weeknights the last two years.

Various industry organizations, including the following, offer training:

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

Details as to schedules, online availability, and fees may be found on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Lincoln, NE

Several independent organizations evaluate the curriculum and instruction of HVAC and HVAC/R training programs. The process of evaluation is known as accreditation, and students should ensure that the schools they choose for their training are accredited.

Two industry organizations evaluate HVAC and HVAC/R programs: the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has not accredited a Nebraska school, but HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to Northeast Community College. That school is included in the profiles below due to the accreditation although the commute would probably make relocation necessary for Lincoln students.

Please note that all other featured schools are regionally accredited.

Northeast Community College

The college offers an HVAC degree program that includes classroom lectures and 1,000 hours of lab time for hands-on practice. “Go green” procedures are integral to the coursework. Students also can complete internships with local businesses. The technical curriculum includes instruction in electricity, basic refrigeration principles, sheet metal, HVAC/R controls, residential air conditioning, heating technology, commercial refrigeration, heat pump technology, and commercial HVAC/R.

Students are required to complete general education classes in behavioral science, oral and written communication, mathematics, science/technology, and social science for a total of 78 credit-hours to earn their degree. Students wishing to continue their studies can transfer up to 66 credit-hours from Northeast toward a bachelor’s in technology.

  • Location: Norfolk, NE
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $99 per credit-hour
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Two years

Southeast Community College

The SCC offers an HVAC/R degree program in which students spend half of their time in the classroom learning theory and principles and half of their time applying what they have learned with hands-on practice in the lab. Students prepare for the EPA certification exam and the Industry Competency Exam (ICE) as part of their coursework.

The curriculum includes courses in electricity, refrigeration systems, piping practices, hydronic heating, sheet metal fabrication, heat pump systems,
residential installations, residential controls, troubleshooting, commercial HVAC systems, computer essentials, welding, an internship (unpaid on-the-job training), and a cooperative experience (paid on-the-job training).

Additional general education requirements include instruction in communication, English, physics, math, and choices from numerous electives that include philosophy, psychology, economics, geography, and history, among others. Students complete 76 credit-hours of technical coursework and 24 hours of general education classes to earn their degree.

  • Location: Milford, NE
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $69.50 per credit-hour
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 18 months

Lincoln students may prefer to make the short commute to Omaha for their training. Check this page for information on the nearby Omaha schools.

Finally, students with time or travel constraints may find that an online institution will best meet their needs. More information on accredited online HVAC training programs is available on this site.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Lincoln, NE

Federal law requires technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain Section 608 Certification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. The four certifications are:

  • Type 1: small appliances
  • Type II: high-pressure refrigerants
  • Type III: low-pressure refrigerants
  • Universal: all types of equipment

Further information and practice exams are available on the EPA website.

Industry organizations offer training, 608 certifications, and additional certifications. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) offers comprehensive industry training and educational programs to HVAC/R technicians.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is the industry’s largest HVAC/R certification organization.
  • HVAC Excellence validates HVAC/R technical education and competency of technicians.

There is more information on the HVAC certifications page.

As a final note, the Nebraska Department of Labor requires contractors with one or more employees to register annually and submit proof of workers compensation insurance. The registration fee is $40. HVAC technicians and apprentices are not required to register.

The City of Lincoln requires contractors, journey-level technicians, and apprentices to register. Contractors and self-employed technicians must be registered with the state, be bonded, and carry insurance. Journey-level technicians and contractors must have a minimum number of hours of work experience and pass a written HVAC exam. They also need to complete continuing education credits to renew. Apprentices must document their work hours. The registration fee for apprentices is $15; for journey-level technicians $25; and for contractors $350. Registrations must be renewed annually.

Licensing and registration requirements are always subject to change. HVAC technicians are encouraged to ensure they comply with state, county, and city agencies before working on any project.

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.