Cleveland, Ohio HVAC Trade Schools & Certification

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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.

U.S. Climate Data reported that the average high in July was 83 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average low in December was 26 degrees, figures which underscore the need for skilled heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) professionals.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) reports that 2,430 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 (May 2019), the demand for technicians is expected to increase by 4 percent between 2019 and 2029—about as fast as the average 4 percent projected for all occupations in the U.S.

There’s evidence that Ohio is predicted to need new technicians at a much faster rate. Projections Central (2020)—a data organization partnered with the US Department of Labor—reported that there would be a 12.6 percent increase in HVAC positions across Ohio between 2018 and 2028. With the predicted addition of 1,550 fresh HVAC positions in OH and 42,800 openings nationwide, there is ample evidence that this is a promising profession in MO and across the country.

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.

The BLS (May 2019) states that HVAC/R workers incur one of the highest rates of illness and injury among American professions for several reasons: They may be expected to lift heavy equipment, travel to job sites in all weather conditions, occasionally work in cramped conditions, and deal with refrigerants. This can lead to a higher-than-average incidence of electric shock, muscle strains, frostbite, burns, and other work-related complications. As long as HVAC professionals in OH don proper safety equipment and have rigorous training prior to completing projects in the field, these risks can generally be kept to a minimum.

As proof of the booming industry in HVAC, Indeed (Nov. 2020) had 119 relevant HVAC openings in Cleveland, including positions with Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland State University, University Hospitals, Homee, Arco Comfort Air and more. Monster (Nov. 2020) had 197 HVAC openings in Cleveland with varied employers such as Integrity Technical Services, Odin Properties, and Nesco Resource, LLC, to name a few.

HVAC Salaries in Cleveland, OH

Not only is HVAC a high-growth profession, but it is also relatively lucrative, especially for a profession requiring only one to two years of postsecondary training.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019), there were 342,040 HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $51,420, and 12,100 HVAC mechanics and installers in Ohio with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $48,350. Cleveland had 2,430 HVAC mechanics and installers with an annual mean wage of $50,160. In more detail, here were the salary percentiles of HVAC professionals across the US and in Cleveland specifically:

United States Ohio Columbus, OH
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 12,100 2,430
Annual mean wage $51,420 $48,350 $50,160
10th percentile $30,610 $29,600 $32,010
25th percentile $37,660 $36,200 $38,440
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $47,270 $51,030
75th percentile $62,070 $59,510 $60,790
90th percentile $77,920 $70,150 $70,740

Another source, Indeed (Nov. 2020), stated that HVAC workers in Cleveland, OH made $54,381 per year on average. Also, Salary.com found that HVAC mechanics made an average of $47,205 annually as of September 25, 2020.

It is important to note that HVAC professionals in OH enjoy a more affordable cost of living than in most other US states. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2020) reported that OH had the 15th lowest cost of living in the United States for 2020.

HVAC Apprenticeships 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 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.

Accredited HVAC Programs in Cleveland, OH

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 provide accreditation to 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:

Great Oaks Career Campuses

Great Oaks, one of the largest technical and career education districts in the US, has been providing workforce development, economic development, and career development services to businesses, individuals, communities, labor, industry, and other organizations in southwest Ohio since 1970. It offers a program in heating/ventilation & air conditioning that provides students with the knowledge and skills to repair and troubleshoot HVAC equipment. The program prepares students for various certifications such as the NATE Industry Competency Exam (ICE), the U.S. Section 608 EPA Refrigerant Recovery Certification Exam, OSHA 10 Construction, Elevated Work Platform Certification, and many more.

The program is open to students who are 18 years and above. Other than this, students are required to provide a high school diploma and have a workkeys assessment level of four or higher in the following three sections: graphic literacy, workplace documents, and applied math.

This 900-hours program will delve into topics such as concepts of refrigeration, preventive maintenance, concepts of electricity, installing refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, servicing and repairing, proper usage and maintenance of tools, and fabricate and install duct systems, among others. Students in this program will also learn about employability and entrepreneurship skills, soldering and brazing, installing and troubleshooting heating systems, and indoor air quality.

At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as service technician, installation technician, maintenance technician, design and manufacturing, sales and distribution, and energy management.

  • Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Accreditation: COE (the Council on Occupational Education) and PAHRA (Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Accreditation).
  • Expected Time to Completion: 45 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $7,695

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. Students are prepared to successfully enter the HVAC/R field and learn to install, service, and maintain complex HVAC/R systems in commercial, residential, and light industrial buildings.

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 can take up roles such as furnace A/C installer, HVAC wholesaler, HVAC/R service technician, HVAC/R contractor, and similar positions. 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
  • Expected Time to Completion: 20 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $9,394

Remington College

Remington (Cleveland, OH campus) offers a heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) diploma program and a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning associate degree program. Combining practical training with classroom education, these hybrid programs provide training in HVAC systems, demonstrating hands-on skills that are needed for successfully maintaining and troubleshooting complex HVAC/R systems.

The diploma program consists of 59 academic quarter credit-hours. It includes courses such as career development principles, career development fundamentals, basic refrigeration theory, motors and motor control, basic electricity, introduction to air conditioning and major components, residential heating, fundamentals of HVAC maintenance, and commercial refrigeration systems, among others.

The degree program comprises 95 academic quarter credit-hours. It includes all courses from the diploma, with additional coursework such as small business principles, business applications, recordkeeping and financial statement basics, small business basics, introduction to psychology, college algebra, English composition, and oral communication.

These programs prepare graduates for entry-level positions in the HVAC industry, such as in commercial or industrial heating and cooling, residential, commercial, or industrial refrigeration and freezers, and residential heating and cooling, and introduces them to the basic concepts of starting and/or managing a small business.

After completing the program, graduates have career opportunities at refrigeration equipment installation and repair, contracting companies, commercial and residential HVAC, manufacturers, commercial air conditioning and freight, and residential/light commercial cooling, heating, and refrigeration.

  • Location: Cleveland, OH
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (12 months); degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: $21,520 per year

Belmont College

Belmont College offers an AAS degree program and a certificate in HVAC technology. These programs prepare students to install, repair, and maintain residential as well as commercial HVAC systems. Upon completion, graduates can take up roles such as maintenance technician, service technician, ventilation, heating, and air conditioning technician, controls technician, furnace equipment installer, and heat pump installer or mechanic.

The HVAC certificate program comprises 35 credit-hours including courses such as AC systems maintenance, basic electricity, heating & cooling fundamentals, power systems & motors, welding fundamentals, forced air systems & sheet metal, and piping and installation fundamentals. All courses in this program are applicable to the AAS degree. Students are also prepared for an on-campus certification test in refrigeration-handling.

The associate in applied science degree consists of 63 to 64 credit-hours. Sample some of the coursework in the curriculum: A/C system maintenance, workplace safety, A/C and heating troubleshooting, refrigeration service and repair, work sequence, hydronics and steam, assignments & clients, and heating and cooling fundamentals.

The AAS program prepares students for a 160-hour internship with a local HVAC contractor, the refrigerant-handling License (EPA), and similar credentials. Graduates can expect to learn how to analyze effective and efficient systems, create schematic diagrams and blueprints, and test, analyze, repair, and troubleshoot components, basic industrial systems, and circuits.

  • Location: St. Clairsville, Ohio
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion:Certificate (12 months); AAS degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($169.75 per credit-hour); out-of-state ($274 per credit-hour)

Vatterott College

Vatterott offers an HVAC/R mechanic diploma program preparing students with the theory and working knowledge of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration in order to secure entry-level positions in the industry as a maintenance or service technician. Students may receive nationally-recognized certifications through the National Center for Construction Education and Research.

The program is made up of 72 credit-hours. 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 apply 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.

  • Location: Broadview Heights, OH
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 60 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $25,745

Columbus State Community College

Columbus State Community College offers an associate of applied science degree in HVAC technology preparing students for a wide variety of occupations in the HVAC industry. The program provides them the training that is needed for developing technical proficiency, as well as the ability to work independently.

Comprising 65 credit-hours, the program provides instruction in load calculations, the principles of refrigeration,hand tools & safety, automatic controls, the instrumentation & combustion process, business communications, and piping systems, among other subjects.

Students will learn how to create designs for industrial and commercial piping systems, create manual and computer graphic representations of HVAC projects, test and calculate airflow through system equipment, assist in designing preventative maintenance programs for various HVAC systems, and calculate heat loss and heat gain loads for residential and commercial structures.

Columbus State Community College also offers the following HVAC certificates: controls (13 credit-hours), high-pressure boiler license training program (12 credit-hours), large commercial (20 credit-hours), residential & light commercial (21 credit-hours), and test & balance (15 credit-hours).

  • Location: Columbus, OH
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents ($162.93 per credit-hour); non-residents ($333.25 per credit-hour)

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 of 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. 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..

Farheen Gani

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).