Omaha, NE HVAC Schools – Training & Certification

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Omaha, Nebraska (NE) is a prosperous city that is continuing to diversify its economic base. Five Fortune 500 companies and dozens of other national companies have made Omaha their corporate headquarters.

Education, health, trade, transportation, and utilities are the largest contributors to the economy of the “Gateway to the West.” Companies responding to a recent survey reported that they were “doing as well or better financially” than in the past and that they were “optimistic about their potential to grow sales revenue in 2019.” Omaha citizens have put effort into preserving their past and boast numerous historic sites and monuments, including several on the National Register of Historic Places. Museums, music festivals, sports, and outdoor activities also draw tourists.

Omaha is hot in the summer, with daytime highs in the mid-to-high 80s. Summer nights average 20 degrees cooler. Abundant rainfall of four or more inches every summer month means that the average relative humidity hovers around 70 percent, creating mugginess. Winters are often frigid, with daytime highs barely above freezing and nighttime lows dipping into the teens. The rain changes to snow, with about six inches falling monthly.

The temperature extremes and humidity frequently keep Omaha residents indoors. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) are essential for comfort in homes and workplaces. Preservation of historical artifacts, as well as comfort in hospitality venues, often require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R). As more of Omaha’s businesses and institutions incorporate new technologies, the installation of specialized climate-control systems becomes necessary.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) reports that 1,210 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in the Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA area as of May 2018. Technicians and their employers received training and support for industry organizations that include:

  • 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
  • National Association of Women In Construction Greater Omaha Chapter 116
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of Nebraska
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association
  • Steamfitters & Plumbers Local Union #464

Associations such as these work with others in the industry and with government organizations to establish educational, licensing, and safety standards. They serve all aspects of the HVAC industry, including performance and promotion, with the goal of ensuring the safety of workers and the public.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Omaha, NE

The BLS (2019) expects that job opportunities for all occupations in the US will increase by 7 percent between 2016 and 2026. Their projections for HVAC technicians are much brighter, as a 15 percent increase nationally in new positions is anticipated for the same decade. Also, Nebraska is outpacing the most optimistic national estimates, with a 21.0 percent statewide increase in HVAC jobs predicted by Projections Central by the end of 2026.

The strong economy in Omaha calls for continued installation of new climate-control systems and equipment. That’s the primary factor behind the growth of the HVAC industry. Another vital source of HVAC installations is the renovation and remodeling of older structures. The existing equipment and systems must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet current standards for energy efficiency and reduced pollution. The overall prosperity of the area means that residences as well as commercial structures will have HVAC added to new and old buildings alike.

“Smart” buildings and companies that depend on technology require complex HVAC systems that demand trained technicians to install and maintain. Technicians must understand how to use computers and other electronic diagnostic tools. They are also expected to be skilled at troubleshooting.

Those who specialize in new installations occasionally experience unemployment, but the positive outlook of Omaha’s business leaders make that unlikely in the near future. Technicians who perform maintenance and repair services can expect year-round employment, as businesses and homeowners need to keep their systems in operation regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in Omaha, NE

According to the BLS (March 2019), HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide earned a median salary of $47,610 as of May 2018. Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA technicians earned an annual median salary of $50,040. The pay-rate is even more favorable than it appears because the cost of living in Nebraska is lower than the national index.

National, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals are as follows:

United States Nebraska Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 2,590 1,210
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $48,580 $52,320
10th Percentile $29,460 $30,400 $31,880
25th Percentile $36,520 $36,720 $40,190
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $45,980 $50,040
75th Percentile $60,900 $59,550 $66,820
90th Percentile $76,230 $74,340 $77,110

HVAC Apprenticeships in Omaha, NE

Although workers can sometimes find employment as assistants and learn the necessary skills through on-the-job training, opportunities to do so continue to decline. 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 career.

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. Information on registered apprentices and job training resources is available at the Nebraska Department of Labor.

The Steamfitters & Plumbers Local #464 offers a five-year HVAC/R apprenticeship program at their Lincoln and Omaha training centers. Apprentices attend classes on Saturdays for the first three years and on weeknights the last two years while receiving on-the-job training from sponsoring employers.

Standard Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc, a private business providing HVAC service in and around Omaha, offers a four-year HVAC apprenticeship program. Apprentices receive 8,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. They also complete 700 hours of paid classroom training during business hours.

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)
  • International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART)

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

Accredited HVAC Schools in Omaha, NE

Accreditation is an evaluation conducted by independent agencies. The curriculum and instruction at most schools undergo the process of accreditation periodically. Students should ensure that the schools they choose for 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. HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to Northeast Community College in Norfolk, NE. That school is included in the profiles below due to their accreditation, although the two-hour commute would probably make relocation necessary for Omaha students.

Metropolitan Community College

The MCC offers a selection of HVAC and HVAC/R programs:

  • Career certificate in HVAC technology – 34.5 credit-hours
  • Career certificate in commercial refrigeration technology – 34.5 credit-hours
  • Certificate of achievement in HVAC technology – 52.5 credit-hours
  • Certificate of achievement in refrigeration technology – 48 credit-hours
  • Degree in HVAC/R – 108 credit-hours

The HVAC technology career certificate includes introductory coursework in HVAC/R electrical systems and components; the fundamentals of troubleshooting, repairing, and servicing HVAC/R systems; sheet metal fabrication; and shop practices.

The commercial refrigeration technology career certificate includes the same coursework as the HVAC technology certificate, with the addition of commercial installation and service and advanced commercial refrigeration.

Students enrolled in the HVAC technology certificate of achievement program complete the same coursework as the career certificate program, as well as their choice of advanced residential air conditioning or advanced sheet metal fabrication. In addition to the technical coursework (39 credit-hours), students also complete 13.5 credit-hours of general education requirements that include English, humanities, and technical mathematics.

Students enrolled in the refrigeration technology certificate of achievement program complete the same 34.5 credit-hours as in the career certificate program. They then add 13.5 credit-hours of general education requirements which include English, math, and information systems and literacy.

The HVAC/R degree program includes the technical coursework described in the certificate programs as well as the following: building automation, split systems, and construction safety. They also choose from technical electives that include: blueprint reading, business and entrepreneurship, advanced building automation, and hydronics. In addition to the technical curriculum, students complete 27 credit-hours of general education coursework that includes English, humanities, math, information systems and literacy, and human relations skills.

Coursework for all programs is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on experience in the lab. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as HVAC or HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Fort Omaha Campus, Omaha, NE
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $64 per credit-hour
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificates vary; degree two years

Northeast Community College

Northeast offers an HVAC degree program that incorporates “Go Green” procedures as an integral part of the coursework. Students attend classroom lectures and spend 1,000 hours in the lab for hands-on practice. They also serve internships with local businesses. The technical curriculum includes electricity, basic refrigeration principles, sheet metal, HVAC controls, residential air conditioning, heating technology, commercial refrigeration, heat pump technology, and commercial HVAC/R.

In addition to the technical coursework, students 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.

Graduates planning 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

Students enrolled in the SCC HVAC/R degree program spend half their time in the classroom learning theory and principles and half their time applying theory and fundamentals with hands-on practice in the lab. The coursework includes preparing for and taking the EPA certification exam and Industry Competency Exam (ICE). The curriculum includes 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).

To earn the degree, students complete 76 credit-hours of technical coursework and 24 hours of general education classes that include communications, English, physics, math, and choices from numerous electives that include philosophy, psychology, economics, geography, and history, among others.

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

Students who are unable to attend on-campus schools may find that an online institution can best meet their needs. More information on accredited programs is available online HVAC training here.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Omaha, 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:

  • 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 (Universal)

Further information and practice exams are available on the website.

Industry organizations offer training, 608 certifications, and additional certifications. These include:

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) – They provide opportunities for enhanced technical competence by offering comprehensive, cutting-edge education and certification to the HVAC/R industry.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE) – They focus on certification tests that represent real-world working knowledge of HVAC/R systems
  • HVAC Excellence – Their testing is designed to validate that an individual has retained knowledge in a specific area of the HVAC/R industry.

There is more information on the HVAC certifications page.

The Nebraska Department of Labor does not require HVAC technicians and apprentices to register, although contractors with one or more employees must register annually and submit proof of workers compensation insurance. The registration fee is $40.

As a final note, the City of Omaha requires apprentices, journey-level technicians, and master-level technicians to register annually. Apprentices pay a $25 fee and submit an application signed by either a master or union representative. Journey-level and master-level technicians initially pay $25 and pass the trades exam. Renewal requires four units of continuing education and an additional fee. Master-level technicians must also submit proof of $300,000 in liability insurance and a $10,000 surety bond.

Contractors may be licensed as commercial or residential. Applicants must submit proof of journey-level or master-level experience and at least one-year of experience with a licensed contractor, appear before the Board, submit proof of $300,000 in liability insurance and a $10,000 surety bond, and pay a fee. Applicants seeking the commercial license must pass exams in commercial air conditioning and master sheet metal. Applicants seeking the residential license must pass the residential air conditioning exam.

As governmental agencies always have the option of changing their requirements, all HVAC professionals are encouraged to confirm they are in compliance before starting a project.

Barry Franklin

Before co-founding Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, Barry Franklin was a VP at a Silicon Valley software company, and is an investor in and advisor for Impellia. Barry believes that education and lifelong learning are paramount. Barry met his wife at Carnegie Mellon University and they have two beautiful daughters. He also volunteers for various committees at his kids’ high school.