Cleveland, Ohio HVAC Trade Schools

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one of the many attractions that draw visitors to Cleveland, Ohio. Arts and entertainment services are growing, as are professional and business services, leading to “noteworthy signs of improvement” in Cleveland’s economy, according to Crain’s Cleveland Business. Education and healthcare facilities are the largest employers and construction is the fastest area of growth.

Cleveland experiences clouds on most days of the year. Summers are warm with temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s and high humidity, and winter brings wind, snow, and single-digit temperatures. Not surprisingly, Cleveland businesses and residences require heating, venting, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that almost 2,000 HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics and installers were employed in the Cleveland-Elyria area. Local industry organizations such as the following provide training and support to the technicians:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of Ohio (ACCOHIO)
  • Greater Cleveland Air Conditioning Contractors Association (GCACCA)
  • Mechanical and Plumbing Industry Council – Cleveland (MAPIC)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of Ohio (MCAO)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Ohio (PHCC Ohio)
  • Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ Association of Cleveland (SMACNA)

Read on to discover the career outlook, salary, licensing standards, and educational opportunities for aspiring HVAC professionals in the Cleveland area.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Workers in Cleveland, OH

The need for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians is growing nationwide. According to the BLS (2018), the demand for technicians is expected to increase by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026—much faster than average 7 percent projected for all occupations in the U.S. Demand for technicians in Ohio matches the national rate. Projections Central predicted a 15 percent statewide increase for the decade ending in 2026.

Several factors contribute to the growth of the HVAC and HVAC/R industry. The increasing sophistication of climate control systems and the need to replace, retrofit, or upgrade older systems is a primary factor in continued growth.

Professional services in Cleveland that rely on technology often require specialized climate-controlled facilities. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution, coupled with Cleveland’s thriving construction industry, also contribute to increasing demand for new installations.

HVAC Salaries in Cleveland, OH

The BLS (May 2017) reported that HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics and installers nationally receive a median annual salary of $47,080. Technicians in Cleveland-Elyria receive an annual median wage of $50,680.

Here are the detailed salary comparisons between the U.S., Ohio, and the Cleveland area:

United States Ohio Cleveland-Elyria
Number of HVAC mechanics and installers 307,060 11,480 1,930
Average annual salary (2017) $49,530 $47,240 $52,540
10th percentile $29,120 $28,120 $32,090
25th percentile $36,150 $35,400 $41,470
50th percentile (median) $47,080 $46,150 $50,680
75th percentile $60,270 $58,260 $62,060
90th percentile $75,330 $68,070 $77,290

Accredited HVAC Programs in Cleveland, OH

Many aspiring HVAC workers in Cleveland attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeships include around 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 classroom hours annually for three to five years. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services registers apprentices through the ApprenticeOhio program.

The Ohio Board of Regents and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association now have an agreement that allows union apprentices to earn up to 60 percent of credit-hours they need for an associate degree from an accredited state college. The agreement allows apprentices to apply their math and science credits toward the college’s requirements upon completion of their apprenticeship.

Additionally, the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA-Cleveland) and the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Local #33 have joined forces to offer five-year apprenticeships, including one in HVAC. Apprentices receive 1,000 hours of classroom instruction and 9,000 hours of on-the-job training at the Cleveland Training Center, located in Parma, Ohio.

HVAC and HVAC/R workers can also find apprenticeship programs through local chapters of national industry associations. These include, but are not limited to:

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

Details are available on their websites.

Another option for prospective HVAC professionals is to complete a formal certificate or degree program. Prior to enrolling in a school, it is essential to determine if a school is accredited and by which organization. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the program, including both the curriculum and the instructors. Two organizations evaluate and accredit HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence, which has awarded accreditation to the University of Northwestern Ohio, located in Lima, and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), which has accredited eight programs in Ohio.

Here are several accredited HVAC programs in Cleveland and beyond:

Cuyahoga Valley Career Center

This public secondary school offers an HVAC program as part of their Adult Education Services. The program is divided into seven standalone courses: an introduction to electricity, certificate preparation, cooling, HVAC textbook, NATE technician certificate test, HVAC customer service, and HVAC heating. Each of these courses ranges in the number of sessions from a single session (e.g., NATE technician test) to 79 sessions (e.g., HVAC textbook class). Graduates may be qualified to apply for entry-level positions.

  • Location: Brecksville, OH
  • Accreditation: PAHRA and the Council on Occupational Education
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: Between $159 and $775 per course
  • Program length: One day to nine months depending on the course

Medina County Career Center

This public secondary school offers an HVAC certificate program as part of their adult education services. Coursework is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. The curriculum incorporates the fundamentals of HVAC and electricity, refrigeration, and piping; maintaining, servicing, and repairing systems and equipment; troubleshooting; hydronic and low-pressure steam systems; sheet metal ducting; and system and equipment installation techniques. Students also learn basic computer skills, job and work readiness skills, and customer satisfaction skills. Graduates are prepared to take industry certification exams such as EPA Section 608, ICE, and OSHA. The school also offers job placement assistance.

  • Location: Medina, OH
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $5,944 for the full program
  • Program length: 39 weeks

Polaris Career Center

The Polaris Career Center offers an HVAC/R certificate program through their adult education services. The curriculum is based on the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) core curriculum and is taught through classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. Coursework covers job safety procedures, HVAC installation, reading schematics, troubleshooting, ducting, air flow and balancing, HVAC/R equipment and systems, controls, electrical codes, and customer service. Students also learn employability skills.

Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment as HVAC technicians. They receive NCCER certification and are prepared for industry certification exams that include R-410A Safety Training, EPA Section 608, OSHA 10-hour, apprentice PM tech, and the Industry Competency Exam (ICE) for residential HVAC.

  • Location: Middleburg Heights, OH
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $9,068 for the full program
  • Program length: 20 weeks

Remington College

Remington offers an HVAC diploma program and an HVAC associate degree program. The former requires students to complete a minimum of 59 credit hours of classroom lectures combined with hands-on training in the lab. Coursework includes HVAC and HVAC/R fundamentals, automated controls, motors, residential and commercial equipment and systems, system maintenance and troubleshooting, heat pumps and hydronic heating, ducting and airflow, and career development fundamentals and principles.

Students may continue their coursework to earn an HVAC associate degree. The curriculum consists of business applications, small business basics and principles. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment as HVAC technicians.

  • Location: Cleveland, OH
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $21,120 for the diploma program; contact department for degree tuition estimate
  • Program length: 48 weeks for the diploma; two years for the degree

University of Northwestern Ohio

The University of Northwestern Ohio offers an HVAC/R technician diploma program and an HVAC/R technology degree program. Both programs include classroom lectures in theory and working knowledge from hands-on training in labs, computer-generated simulation programs, and equipment that features the latest technology. Real-life experience is gained by installing systems with the local Habitat for Humanity organization.

Students in the diploma program gain entry-level skills through coursework on electrical and electronics, HVAC/R systems and controls, heat pumps, services and procedures, and special topics. The technical curriculum requires a capstone. Students must also complete general education subjects such as digital documents, communication, and technical math.

Students in the degree program complete the same coursework as those in the diploma program, with the addition of general education coursework on composition, politics, psychology, earth science, diversity issues, and customer relations. Graduates have both technical and management skills.

  • Location: Lima, OH
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence, PAHRA, and the Higher Learning Commission
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $1,700 per six-week session
  • Program length: 16 months for the diploma; 20 months for the degree

Vatterott College

Vatterott offers an HVAC mechanic diploma program. The curriculum covers commercial and residential HVAC/R basics, electricity and wiring, controls, low-pressure steam and hydronics, fuel combustion, customer service, and green awareness. Students learn theory in the classroom which they then practice in the lab with hands-on training. They also complete general education coursework in subjects such as creative problem solving, communication, professional development, and technical writing. Graduates are qualified to take the exams for industry certifications and to apply for entry-level positions as HVAC service technicians.

  • Location: Broadview Heights, OH
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $25,745 for the full program
  • Program length: 60 weeks

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Cleveland, OH

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 (Universal or Type IV)

Practice exams are available online.

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

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

Details are available on their websites.

Ohio does not require HVAC and HVAC/R technicians to obtain licensing. However, self-employed technicians are usually considered to be contractors, and contractors must be licensed. Licenses are issued by the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board (OCILB). Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and a citizen of the U.S. or submit proof of being in the country legally.

Additionally, they must submit documentation of at least five years experience immediately before the date of application as a tradesperson under a licensed contractor in the field on projects that required a permit or be a registered engineer with at least three years of business experience working with HVAC. They must also pass an examination and a background check and submit proof of a minimum $500,000 contractor liability coverage and payment for applicable fees.

Also, contractors must take eight hours of continuing education annually for their license. If late, they must take ten hours of continuing education. Please note that Ohio contractors have HVAC reciprocity with Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

Any contractor who performs an aggregate of $10,000 or more of business with Cuyahoga County must be registered with the county. Registrants must watch an ethics training video, sign an Ethics Certification form, submit a completed application form, and pay a $100 fee.

As a final note, the City of Cleveland requires HVAC and HVAC/R contractors to be bonded, insured, licensed with the State and registered with the city. Applicants must submit a copy of their State HVAC license, a $25,000 bond, an insurance certificate for minimum coverage of $200,000, a notarized registration application, and a fee of $150.