HVAC Training Schools in Oregon – Degrees & Certification

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The Beaver State’s climate ranges from the wet coastal mountains to the relatively dry eastern areas, and temperatures fluctuate widely throughout the year. It’s no surprise that opportunities for professionals in heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and refrigeration (HVAC-R) are on the rise in this part of the US.

Not only is HVAC a high-growth and relatively lucrative industry, but there are also plenty of trade associations to support these workers with training, networking, and legal advocacy. By illustration, the Oregon Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ORACCA) represents HVAC-R equipment manufacturers, distributors, vocational schools, and contractors in the industry. ORACCA provides valuable NATE training, seminars on management topics, a monthly newsletter, and discounts on industry essentials.

Additionally, the Oregon Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association lobbies on behalf of HVAC workers with regulatory agencies (e.g., OSHA, Building Codes Division). Its three main focuses are growth, apprenticeships, and regulatory overreach, all central to the success of people in this business.

HVAC technicians in Oregon (OR) and beyond take on tasks such as calibrating equipment; replacing filters; understanding the theoretical foundations of the discipline (e.g., Ohm’s Law, refrigeration circuits, air treatment procedures, etc.); repairing system components (e.g., hot water boilers, motors, humidifiers, economizers, fans, valves, ducts, compressors, water pumps, etc.); laying pipes and electrical wiring; monitoring the performance of equipment to manufacturer specifications; making client recommendations for system upgrades; calculating heat loads and losses; being fluent in dealing with various types of systems (e.g., gas, oil, electric, commercial, residential, industrial); soldering and brazing parts; keeping all credentials up-to-date, and maintaining detailed service records.

There’s one mandatory certification for all people who handle refrigerants, which are environmentally sensitive compounds: the EPA Section 608 certification, discussed in the credentialing section below.

This guide examines some of the HVAC training programs in Oregon, as well as the expected occupational growth, salary prospects, and credentialing in the state.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Oregon

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020), the career outlook is particularly bright for HVAC workers. The BLS projected a 4 percent growth rate in HVAC openings nationwide between 2019 and 2029, as fast as the 4 percent average growth anticipated across all American occupations during that period.

And there’s evidence that the prospects are slightly better for HVAC openings in Oregon. Projections Central (2021) reported that between 2018 and 2028, there will be an 18.5 percent increase in OR HVAC positions. With the expected addition of 690 fresh opportunities in the state, HVAC workers should have a wealth of jobs to choose from across the state.

So why is the HVAC industry booming in Oregon and beyond? There are many reasons for the high growth in this field. First, HVAC systems generally need to replaced every 10 to 15 years and require regular maintenance—typically stipulated through service contracts—which keeps work steady throughout the year. Second, a majority of all modern structures have climate control systems. Third, many older buildings require upgrades or the retrofitting of old HVAC systems. Fourth, several other industries rely on HVAC systems not only for climate control but also for safe medicine and food storage.

And lastly, the legislation surrounding climate control systems is continually evolving, and within certain jurisdictions, homeowners and commercial property managers need to ensure that they comply with all local ordinances, not to mention enjoying the most cost-effective and energy-efficient systems available.

Some HVAC workers in Oregon work typical business hours, while others may be called upon to service equipment on evenings, weekends, or holidays, especially during seasonal temperature extremes. The BLS (2020) found that roughly 7 percent of HVAC mechanics and installers were self-employed, and 66 percent were working in the plumbing, heating, and air conditioning contractors industry.

HVAC professionals suffer a higher-than-average rate of injury and illness compared to other US occupations. This is due to the physical nature of the work and equipment used as HVAC workers may lift heavy objects, deal with electrical wiring, or handle refrigerants, dangerous chemicals which can cause burns or frostbite. Also, since most systems have components outside or located in cramped, uncomfortable spaces, HVAC professionals may find themselves with muscle strains or aches. While there’s always a risk for these and other maladies, HVAC mechanics and installers can generally keep these problems to a minimum with proper training and safety equipment.

As proof of the booming employment climate in Oregon for HVAC workers, one need not look further than job post websites such as Indeed and Monster. As proof of point, Indeed (April 2021) had 182 HVAC openings in OR, including opportunities at Marshall’s Inc., Nathan Perry Heating & Air Conditioning, Heat Relief Heating & Cooling, Commercial & Industrial, and Johnson Controls. Monster (April 2021) boasted 166 positions with employers such as Jco Heating A/C Electrical, EMCOR Group, and Jobot.

Oregon HVAC Technician Salaries

As mentioned in the introduction, HVAC professionals in Oregon and across the country enjoy relatively high salaries, particularly in a job generally requiring only one to two years of postsecondary training.

By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020) reported that there were 344,020 HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide who earned an average annual salary of $53,410. In Oregon, average salaries were slightly higher, with the 3,280 HVAC workers employed in the state earning an average of $54,080 per year. Following is a more detailed breakdown of the comparison between OR salaries and those of the rest of the country.

United States Oregon
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 344,020 3,280
Annual Mean Wage $53,410 $54,080
10th percentile $31,910 $31,860
25th percentile $39,320 $38,920
50th percentile (median) $50,590 $52,320
75th percentile $64,350 $65,030
90th percentile $80,820 $80,410

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (April 2020), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $32,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,615
  • 90th percentile: $76,000

As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) found that Oregon was the fifth most expensive state in terms of affordability. For HVAC technicians, this means relatively high salaries may still not go as far as lower salaries in other states, so that is something to keep in mind.

HVAC Apprenticeships in Oregon

Some aspiring HVAC workers in Oregon choose to complete an apprenticeship rather than a formal training program. The Oregon State Apprenticeship & Training Division provides opportunities in HVAC featuring 144 to 192 classroom hours of instruction annually and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training.

These positions typically pay at 45 to 60 percent of the “journey” rate at the outset, and the wages gradually rise as the HVAC worker accrues more skills. There are various apprenticeship committees throughout the state, including the Mid-Valley HVAC JAC and the Rogue Valley HVAC/Refrigeration JAC.

Lane Community College

Lane Community College of Eugene offers a standout apprenticeship in conjunction with an associate of applied science (AAS) degree program in construction trades. Students in the apprenticeship must complete 144 hours of classroom instruction and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training.

To be eligible for the apprenticeship, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED, a year of high school algebra, with a grade ‘C’ or better, and must be at least 18 years old.

The apprenticeship includes courses in electrical theory, electronics, electrical wiring for the trades, introduction to advanced technology, blueprint reading, geometry, and trigonometry.

The AAS degree program is made up of 90 credits including courses such as electrical systems installation methods, limited voltage electrical circuits, limited voltage cabling, electrical theory, and HVAC systems.

  • Location: Eugene, OR
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Apprenticeship (four years); AAS (two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: $13,758 for the AAS program

Chemeketa Community College

Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon provides HVAC-R courses and is the committee administrator for the Mid-Valley HVAC/R Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee. First and second-year courses are open to the public, though are geared towards active apprentices.

Applicants for the program must be 18 years or older, have a GED or high school diploma, and have completed algebra in high school or college (or show math placement scores at that level). Applicants receive points for set criteria, including past work experience and education in the trade. Successful applicants are linked with employers and are then registered with the committee as apprentices.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as blueprint reading, welding, construction, trigonometry, geometry, algebra, and drafting, among others.

Apprentices complete four years of related training (classes two nights a week) while working full time in the trade. They are eligible for pay increases every six months. Upon completion of the 8,000 on-the-job training hours and related training courses, apprentices are referred to Oregon Building Codes Division to sit for their LEB (Limited Electrician) license exam. This license, coupled with a journey-level card, opens the door for multiple employment opportunities.

Chemeketa offers both a certificate program and associates of applied science (AAS) in apprenticeship construction trades with an HVAC-R specialization. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.

  • Location: Salem, OR
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years for the apprenticeship
  • Estimated Tuition: Oregon students ($126 per credit); Out-of-state students ($291 per credit)

Accredited HVAC Schools in Oregon

Two main entities accredit HVAC schools nationwide: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). As of April 2021, there were no programs in Oregon accredited by either entity, but there are many alternative training options available.

Portland Community College

Other prospective HVAC workers choose to pursue a more traditional training program through an HVAC school. For example, Portland Community College provides an AAS in facilities maintenance technology (FMT) with a focus on HVAC-R equipment providing students with the skills and knowledge for enhancing their career in facilities maintenance.

This 90-credit AAS program has classes such as commercial print reading; electrical motor control; refrigeration (I-III); advanced programmable controllers; water treatment & distribution; introduction to boilers; and more.

The FMT program can also be taken as a one-year certificate which comprises 44 credits. The school provides a 14-credit HVAC-R installer career pathway certificate, as well, which has been approved by the Oregon State Bureau of Labor and Industries (pre-apprenticeship training). All courses for these certificates are contained in the AAS Degree.

Graduates will be equipped with the skills necessary for installing, operating, maintaining, and repairing control, mechanical and, piping systems in large medical, commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings. They will also be provided with troubleshooting skills, electrical concepts, and problem-solving methods.

  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (2 years); Certificates (less than 1 year)
  • Estimated Tuition: $123 per credit

For residents of more rural areas of Oregon or those who have difficulty attending an on-campus program or apprenticeship, there are some e-training options available.

To discover how to pursue distance-based education in this field, check out the online HVAC programs page.

Oregon HVAC Certification & Licensing

Before seeking employment in HVAC-R, all mechanics, installers, and technicians in Oregon must be sure they have all necessary credentialing. As mentioned in the introduction, there is one mandatory credential 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).

Various other organizations provide generalist and specialized HVAC certifications. Along with a list of sample credentials, here are three popular certifying agencies:

  • HVAC Excellence (e.g., HEAT, HEAT Plus, Heat Oil Combustion, Systems Diagnostics Troubleshooting, Residential Heat Load Analysis)
  • North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Air Conditioning, Heat Pump [air-to-air], Air Distribution, Hydronics Gas, Light Commercial Refrigeration, ICE)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (e.g., Commercial Air Conditioning, Commercial Refrigeration, Controls, Dynamic Compression)

To discover the range of certifications available from these entities as more, check out the HVAC certifications page.

In Oregon, HVAC companies and contractors completing services over $1,000 must have a license from the Oregon Construction Contractors Board. The OR CCB provides the Limited Maintenance Specialty Contractor HVAC/R, which allows a company to “maintain, service, repair or replace commercial and industrial electrical products that use fuel or other forms of energy to produce heat, power, refrigeration or air conditioning.”

To qualify for the license, candidates must provide:

  • Proof of 4,000 hours of experience in the installation and approved specialized training
  • A passing score on a comprehensive examination
  • Proof of having a CCB surety bond (amount varies)
  • Proof of general liability insurance
  • Workers compensation insurance (if a company hires employees)
  • Application fee ($250)

These licenses last for two years. Please note that since local ordinances and permitting may vary, all HVAC installers, mechanics, and technicians are strongly encouraged to check with municipal authorities before beginning work to ensure that they have all necessary credentialing.

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).