HVAC Schools in Columbus, OH – Programs & Certification

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Columbus goes by many names—the Arch City, the Indie Art Capital, and the Biggest Small Town in America, to name a few—and is the largest city in OH. This state capital has a humid continental climate and hot summers, and consequently, it boasts a high demand for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) services, a need reflected in the abundance of professional associations in the city to assist skilled HVAC professionals in their occupation.

By illustration, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ohio holds a majority of its meetings in Columbus to discuss industry-impacting legislation, regulations, technologies, and other worker advocacy issues. The MCA is dedicated to protecting Ohio’s Prevailing Wage Laws, the value of competitive bidding and open contracting, reforming city tax laws, workers’ compensation, and providing an apprenticeship program to impart the fundamentals of the trade.

So, what are those fundamentals? HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers in Columbus and beyond take on responsibilities such as laying piping or wiring for HVAC systems; installing and calibrating equipment to manufacturer standards; performing maintenance on systems and HVAC components (e.g., fans, ducts, humidifiers, economizers, motors, filters, compressors, condensers, refrigerant controls, heat pumps, etc.); soldering or brazing parts; interpreting blueprints or mechanical diagrams; keeping detailed customer service records; calculating head loads and losses; checking the chemical compositions of parts; ensuring all credentialing and permits are up-to-date; and making recommendations to clients for energy efficiency or upgrades.

Some HVAC workers in Columbus work with a variety of systems and others may specialize in a particular type of equipment such as commercial, residential, or gas systems. Additionally, all HVAC professionals who deal with refrigerants must have an active EPA Section 608 certification, the sole mandatory federal credential in the industry.

This guide examines accredited HVAC schools in Columbus, OH, as well as the occupational demand, salary prospects, and credentialing procedures in the city.

Demand for HVAC Workers in Columbus, OH

According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019), there’s expected to be a strong demand for HVAC professionals nationally in the coming decade. In fact, the BLS (2019) predicted a 13 percent explosion in fresh openings in this field between 2018 and 2028—the addition of 46,300 openings—double the average growth projected across all US occupations during that same decade (5 percent).

What are the forces contributing to the thriving employment climate for HVAC professionals in Columbus? First, as with any city with a steady stream of new development, there’s a need for climate control systems across most new structures. Second, HVAC systems generally need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. Also, HVAC units generally come with service contracts which provide for regular maintenance throughout the year. Finally, as regulations continually evolve, sometimes old equipment will need to be modified or replaced in accordance with safety protections.

Some HVAC professionals in Columbus work normal business hours, and others are called upon to work weekends, evenings, or holidays, especially during the high summer season.

It’s important to note that compared to other occupations, HVAC workers suffer a higher-than-average rate of injury and illness largely due to the physical nature of the work, which puts them at increased risk of muscle strains, electrical shock, burns, and other complications. With the donning of proper safety equipment and rigorous training, however, these problems can generally be kept at bay.

As evidence of the thriving employment climate in Columbus, OH, one need not look further than common job posting sites. For example, Indeed (2020) currently has 93 HVAC openings. Monster (2020) has an impressive 333 relevant job postings in the Columbus area.

HVAC Technician Salary in Columbus, OH

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) reports that HVAC technicians make relatively attractive salaries, particularly for a career which typically does not require a four-year postsecondary degree. The BLS (May 2019) reported that the 342,040 HVAC workers nationwide earned an annual average salary(mean wage) of $51,420 and the following wage percentiles:

United States Ohio Columbus, OH
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 12,100 2220
Annual mean wage $51,420 $48,350 $50,080
10th percentile $30,610 $29,600 $30,520
25th percentile $37,660 $36,200 $37,110
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $47,270 $50,840
75th percentile $62,070 $59,510 $60,880
90th percentile $77,920 $70,150 $71,270


Another source, Indeed (2020), stated that HVAC workers in Columbus, OH made $43,567 per year on average, roughly on par with the national figure. Also, Salary.com found that HVAC mechanics made an average of $56,023 annually as of June 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 16th lowest cost of living in the United States in 2019.

HVAC Apprenticeships in Columbus, OH

To become an HVAC professional in Columbus, OH, there are varied pathways. First, some aspiring workers in this field choose to enroll in an apprenticeship program.

For example, the TP Mechanical Contractors offers apprenticeship programs in the HVAC industry, which include at least 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 576 hours of classroom learning. This apprenticeship program takes four years to complete. Another association offering apprenticeship programs in Ohio is the Associated Builders & Contractors – Central Ohio Chapter.

Accredited HVAC Programs in Columbus, OH

Other aspiring HVAC mechanics and installers may enroll in accredited HVAC programs in Columbus, OH and the surrounding areas. There are two predominant accreditation agencies for HVAC programs: these are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). To learn about how programs are approved, please check out the websites themselves or the detailed section on the HVAC programs homepage.

As of June 2020, there were eight PAHRA-accredited programs and one HVAC Excellence-accredited program in Ohio.

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 an adult workforce development program in heating/ ventilating & air conditioning providing students with the skills to troubleshoot and repair HVAC equipment. Students in this program are prepared for various certifications such as U.S. Section 608 EPA Refrigerant Recovery Certification Exam, NATE Industry Competency Exam (ICE), Elevated Work Platform Certification, OSHA 10 Construction, and many more.

For admission, students must be at least 18 years of age, provide a high school diploma, attend an information seminar, and also have a WorkKeys assessment Level 4 (or higher) in the following sections: applied math, graphic literacy, and workplace documents.

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

At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as service technician, maintenance technician, and installation technician.

  • 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 for the program

Belmont College

Belmont College offers an associate of applied science degree and a certificate program in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technology. As part of these programs, students learn to install, maintain and repair residential and commercial HVAC systems. Graduates may take up roles such as service technician, maintenance technician, controls technician, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technician, heat pump installer or mechanic, and furnace or heating equipment installer.

The certificate program consists of 35 credit-hours. Some of the courses in the curriculum are AC systems maintenance, heating and cooling fundamentals, basic electricity, power systems and motors, forced air systems & sheet metal, welding fundamentals, and piping and installation fundamentals. All courses earned in this program are applicable toward the Associate of Applied Science Degree. The program also prepares students for an on-campus certification test in refrigeration-handling

The AAS degree is made up of 63 to 64 credit-hours. Courses include A/C system maintenance, A/C and heating troubleshooting, workplace safety, refrigeration service and repair, hydronics and steam, work sequence, assignments and clients, and heating and cooling fundamentals.

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

  • Location: St. Clairsville, Ohio
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (12 months); AAS degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the school for a customized assessment

Columbus State Community College

For those seeking programs in the heart of the state capital, Columbus State Community College offers a two-year associate of applied science (AAS) degree in HVAC technology. This 65-credit program provides instruction in the principles of refrigeration, load calculations, hand tools and safety, the instrumentation and combustion process, automatic controls, business communications, and piping systems, among other subjects.

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

Additionally, Columbus State Community College also offers five HVAC certificates in subfields of the discipline: controls (13 credit-hours); high pressure boiler license (12 credit-hours); large commercial equipment (20 credit-hours); residential and light commercial equipment (21 credit-hours); and testing and balance (15 credit-hours).

  • Location: Columbus, OH
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents ($157.93 per credit-hour); non-residents ($323.03 per credit-hour)

FORTIS

FORTIS has campuses in Columbus (Westerville), Cincinnati, Cuyahoga Falls, and Centerville. The FORTIS HVAC/R program includes units on heat pumps, gas heat, A/C, commercial refrigeration, and more.

This heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC-R) program prepares students to take up entry-level jobs as HVAC technicians. Students will be trained to carry out computerized diagnostics, which will help them repair complex systems, such as heat pumps, commercial refrigerators, gas heaters, and air conditioners. They will also learn how to troubleshoot ventilation systems.

  • Location: Columbus, OH
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Not available
  • Estimated Tuition: $14,641

For aspiring HVAC workers who find it difficult to attend an on-campus program, there are various distance-based HVAC training schools as well. To learn about these, please visit the main online HVAC programs page.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Columbus, OH

As mentioned in the introduction, there is one mandatory certification for all people who work with refrigerants, the EPA Section 608 certification, and there are four subtypes: type 1 (small appliance), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal). A majority of HVAC programs include training for this credential as part of their curriculum. For those that don’t, there’s a variety of Section 608 certification programs around the country.

There are other national credentials in this field from three main entities. Here are those three organizations and some sample certifications which they offer:

  • HVAC Excellence credentials offered: heating, electrical, air conditioning technology (HEAT), HEAT Plus, heat oil combustion, systems diagnostics troubleshooting, green awareness, and residential heat load analysis.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE) credentials offered, including many in Spanish: specialties (installation, service, and senior), installation specialties (air conditioning, air distribution, heat pump [air-to-air], oil heating [air], gas heating [air]), service specialties (air conditioning, air distribution, oil heating [air], gas heating [air], heat pump [air-to-air], hydronics gas, hydronics oil, commercial refrigeration, light commercial refrigeration)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) credentials offered: commercial air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, controls, domestic service, dynamic compression, heating, heat pump, HVAC-R electrical

To learn more about how to achieve any of these competency-based national certifications, please visit the HVAC certifications page.

Lastly, before seeking HVAC work, technicians, mechanics, and installers in this field should ensure that they have all necessary state and municipal credentialing. While there is no state licensure required for general technicians, commercial contractors must be licensed through the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board (OCILB). To qualify, applicants must be at least 18 and have:

  • Five years (or more) of experience as a tradesperson under a licensed contractor (including a copy of at least one permit from a project), or be a registered engineer with three years (or more) of business experience working in HVAC
  • Passing score on the OCI Examining Board’s test
  • Background check
  • Proof of having at least $500,000 in contractor liability insurance
  • Application fee ($25)

Contractors must complete ten hours of continuing education annually. The state holds licensing reciprocity in HVAC with four states: Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

Overall, HVAC workers in Columbus, OH should ensure that they have all necessary credentialing and permits prior to agreeing to any work.

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).