HVAC Training Programs in Pennsylvania (PA)

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In Pennsylvania (PA), winter temperatures can dip well below freezing while summers are hot and humid. For PA residents, this means that climate control systems are more a necessity than a luxury, and businesses depend on reliable refrigeration.

Luckily for aspiring HVAC technicians in the Keystone State, there are a wealth of accredited HVAC schools and abundant job openings as well. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022) reports that Pennsylvania employs 17,730 of these skilled professionals and is the fifth top-employing state nationwide in this field. Furthermore, HVAC techs and mechanics in PA make an average annual salary of $55,380, a high wage relative to occupations with minimal postsecondary educational requirements, since most HVAC workers have a certificate or vocational diploma prior to beginning work.

One reason this field is so promising in PA is that there are continually evolving standards for energy efficiency and rapidly changing HVAC technologies. Not only do commercial and residential systems require regular maintenance, but as equipment becomes more sophisticated, there is an increased interest in system upgrades and demand for professionals who are trained on the latest systems.

There are also several professional networking organizations and trade associations to support HVAC workers in PA. For example, the Air Conditioners Contractors of Western Pennsylvania (ACCWPA) protects the interests of people in the industry and strives jointly with groups such as the EPA to increase energy efficiency in these systems. Its core values include: “quality, honesty, integrity and good faith,” and above all, the ACC-WPA endeavors to promote business growth safely and ethically.

So what do HVAC technicians and mechanics in PA do? The BLS details some of the common tasks in this line of work, such as identifying problems in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems; inspecting system components (e.g., air ducts, building exhaust fans, heating units, etc.); installing, repairing, and maintaining HVAC equipment; complying with local, state, and federal legislation; maintaining records from residential and/or commercial jobs; ensuring one’s licensure or certifications remain current; staying on top of technological and methodological developments in the HVAC industry; and educating consumers on the best practices for maintenance.

Read on to discover the bright occupational outlook in the HVAC industry and learn about the salary prospects in the field, professional certification options, and accredited HVAC programs in Pennsylvania.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Pennsylvania (PA)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2023), the HVAC industry is expected to grow in the coming decade, with data anticipating a 6 percent increase in job openings in HVAC nationwide between 2022 and 2032, which is as fast as the average growth rate projected in all occupations (3 percent). With the addition of 37,700 positions in this industry across the US, aspiring HVAC professionals can enjoy relative job stability into the future.

As mentioned in the introduction, Pennsylvania is one of the top five employing states in HVAC, with 17,730 workers in the field (BLS May 2022).

One objective way to view the demand for these professionals in PA is through a simple job search. For instance, Indeed (Oct. 2023) listed more than 1,000 local opportunities at Pennsylvania companies such as Captive-Aire Systems Inc, Walton & Company, The Hershey Company, Redstone Highlands Communities, and Marriott International, Inc. Job site Monster (Oct. 2023) posted additional openings at Peirce-Phelps, C.F. Acri & Son, and DeLattre Corporation, to name a few. In sum, the opportunities are rich for HVAC workers in PA.

For entry-level positions, typical qualifications include achieving the mandatory EPA Section 608 certification, having one to five years of experience or comparable training, lifting 25 to 50 pounds, passing a background check, and having a driver’s license. While educational requirements for HVAC jobs differ by employer and region of PA, those with greater training and certifications typically have more access to employment opportunities.

Interestingly, the BLS found that as of May 2023, 8 percent of HVAC techs and mechanics were self-employed and worked in many environments, including schools, homes, hospitals, commercial buildings, and factories. Unfortunately, this field does have a relatively high rate of injury and illness due to the physical nature of the occupation. All prospective HVAC workers are encouraged to invest in the proper safety equipment and training to minimize these possibilities. Refrigerants pose especially great risks, not only to human health but also to the environment. It makes sense that the sole mandatory credential in PA is the aforementioned EPA Section 608 certification, which is discussed in the “Certification” section below.

While some HVAC professionals work typical business hours, others may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, holidays, or overtime hours, particularly during peak seasons of extreme temperatures.

HVAC Technician Salary in Pennsylvania (PA)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022), HVAC mechanics and installers enjoy comfortable wages, particularly in an occupation that generally requires only six months to two years of postsecondary education.

Among the 374,770 HVAC workers around the US, the BLS (May 2022) found an average annual salary of $57,460. In Pennsylvania specifically, the 17,730 HVAC professionals employed there earned an average of $55,380. In more detailed terms, here were the salary percentiles in this occupation in the US and Pennsylvania specifically:

United States Pennsylvania
Number of HVAC professionals employed 374,770 17,730
Average annual salary $57,460 $55,380
10th percentile $36,170 $36,620
25th percentile $44,100 $45,330
50th percentile $51,390 $50,860
75th percentile $65,630 $62,940
90th percentile $82,630 $79,090

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in Pennsylvania is somewhat on par with that of the rest of the nation. 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 2023) found that PA was the 25th most affordable state, with some relative savings in housing. For HVAC technicians, this means high salaries will go a little bit further than they would in some costlier nearby states like Massachusetts (50) and New York (47).

Accredited HVAC Schools in Pennsylvania (PA)

In the past, HVAC professionals typically trained in apprenticeships or under the guidance of experienced workers. However, with the continuing evolution of technologies, methods, and legislation surrounding the industry, it’s becoming increasingly common for HVAC technicians, installers, and mechanics to seek training in a more formal academic environment such as a trade school, vocational school, community college, or university.

Before enrolling in a program, aspiring HVAC workers in PA are advised to verify the accreditation status of their programs. While there is no singular programmatic or institutional approval body for programs, there are two standout agencies in this space: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

HVAC Excellence has been offering accreditation since 1999 and now has accredited schools in several states, including six in PA, as of October 2023. PAHRA’s program accreditation body is “the only one that the major industry associations support” (e.g., ASHRAE, NATE, ICE) and has accredited two programs in PA. Please consult the individual websites to learn more about the accreditation processes.

Berks Career & Technology Center

Berks Career & Technology Center offers a 180-hour (60-class) trade prep certificate two nights per week, from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the East Campus in Oley. Berks prepares its students for certifications such as the HVAC Excellence Student Outcome Assessment; EPA Section 608; NCCER Core; Section 609 Certification for Refrigerant Recycling and Recovery; the Pennsylvania Builders Association Skills Certificate (NOCTI); the OSHA/CareerSafe 10-Hour Certification; and the OSHA 30-hour Certification. Additionally, this program has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania Builders Association.

Graduates will be ready for roles such as refrigeration mechanics, sheet metal workers, heating and air conditioning mechanics, refrigeration engineers, air conditioning and heating engineers, and HVAC contractors.

  • Location: Oley, PA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Expected Time to Completion: 180 hours
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact BCTC for a customized assessment

Bucks County Technical High School

Bucks County Technical High School offers an HVAC/Refrigeration technology program providing interested students with the necessary training and knowledge to have a successful career in the HVAC/R industry. Students in this program study mathematics and fundamental physics, heat transfer, pipefitting, and reading of schematics, and are given extensive practical and theoretical instruction in commercial, industrial, and domestic environmental control systems, including protocols and safe measurement, handling, and reclamation practices of refrigerants. Graduates of this program can find several employment opportunities or continue their higher education in related engineering programs.

Upon completion, graduates will be ready for certifications such as Heartsaver AED, CPR & First Aid, OSHA Certification, NCCER Credentials, and RSES Student Technician.

  • Location: Fairless Hills, PA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the school for a customized assessment

Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center

The Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center offers a full-time HVAC/R program with related learning in plumbing and electrical. The 900-hour program provides in-classroom and hands-on training that prepares graduates to become HVAC technicians.

Topics in the program include air conditioning, electrical and automated control practices, commercial refrigeration, energy management, and oil and gas boilers. Students enrolled in this program may be able to transfer units to local community colleges to earn an associate’s degree.

  • Location: Altoona, PA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: One year
  • Estimated Tuition: $13,800 for the program

North Montco Technical Career Center

North Montco Technical Career Center offers a full-time, 300-hour day training program in HVAC and individual courses in HVAC that adults can take as continuing education. HVAC courses offered by North Montco Technical Center include a 72-hour, 12-week residential air conditioning and heat pumps/split system technician course, a nine-hour refrigerant transition and recovery course that prepares students for the ESCO EPA exam, and a 72-hour, 12-week gas/oil furnace technician course.

  • Location: Lansdale, PA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: 300 hours
  • Estimated Tuition: Residential air conditioning and heat pumps/split system technician course ($1,100); refrigerant transition and recovery course ($500); gas/oil furnace technician course ($1,100)

York County School of Technology

York County School of Technology offers an HVAC/Plumbing program that trains students for the in-demand HVAC industry. Students in this program will learn to safely use hand and power tools for completing hands-on projects. They will be exposed to advanced equipment and materials in the field while completing challenging installation jobs. Students will receive instruction on electrical components and controls, electricity, and the technical aspects of HVAC, including proper setup, installation, troubleshooting, and service of commercial and residential heating and cooling systems.

Students will be prepared for certifications such as ESCO Student Outcome Assessment (HVAC Excellence); Osha 10; EPA Section 608 (Refrigerant); TracPipe Certification (gas piping); and HeartSaver First Aid.

  • Location: York, PA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than a year
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the school for a customized assessment

Pennsylvania College of Technology

The Pennsylvania College of Technology of Williamsport provides various PAHRA-accredited programs in heating, ventilation & air conditioning design technology, including a 131-credit-hour bachelor of science (BS) and a 70-credit associate of applied science (AAS) degree.

In the AAS program, students focus on mechanical systems and get specialized instruction in hydronic heating, temperature and humidity control, air circulation, thermostats, ventilation practices, and duct and pipe design. Courses include HVAC/R electricity; mechanical systems design and operation; air conditioning systems; print reading and automated design, and basic heating systems. The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) has also endorsed this program.

  • Location: Williamsport, PA
  • Accreditation: PAHRA
  • Expected Time to Completion: BS (four years); AAS (two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($608 per credit); out-of-state ($866 per credit)

Somerset County Technology Center

Another PAHRA-accredited program is offered at the Somerset County Technology Center. Ideal for high school students interested in the HVAC trade, Somerset imparts the fundamentals of HVAC technologies, including commercial and domestic systems; basic principles of heating and air conditioning; blueprint reading; and more. This program takes three years and is typically completed in a student’s sophomore through senior years.

  • Location: Somerset, PA
  • Accreditation: PAHRA
  • Expected Time to Completion: Three years
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the school for a customized assessment

Air Conditioning Contractors of Western Pennsylvania Apprenticeship

Finally, for those interested in a comprehensive apprenticeship, the Air Conditioning Contractors of Western Pennsylvania (ACC-WPA) provides a four-year structured training program. In addition to 8,000 hours of on-the-job training, this program features an 800-hour curriculum with units in basic math; refrigeration cycles; HVAC controls; basic electricity; AC/DC circuits; electric motors and starters; advanced refrigeration and pipe fitting; CFC testing; heat loss and gain calculations; and NATE core testing preparation.

It is held seven months per year for two nights per week. It can be ideal for working HVAC professionals looking to advance their skills in a supervised environment with industry professionals.

United Association of Steamfitters Local 449 Technology Center

Another apprenticeship opportunity available for Pennsylvania applicants is available through the United Association of Steamfitters Local 449 Technology Center. The program’s focus is to train students on all types of commercial equipment. Students will troubleshoot, repair, and service actual machines that are connected to fuel and power. With more than 150 fully functional labs, students can work with and learn from our experienced instructors, who are leaders in the industry.

As part of this five-year program, apprentices will complete an intense 10-week course at the program’s start. These first ten weeks will focus on multimeters, electrical schematics, equipment cleaning and maintenance, and the refrigeration cycle. Students will obtain the OSHA 10 safety certification and will be prepared for several other certifications such as OSHA 30, Arc Flash, ICRA 8, Aerial boom, Fall Protection, and Scissor lift. Notably, this apprenticeship is accredited by HVAC Excellence.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Pennsylvania (PA)

As mentioned above, in Pennsylvania and all over the US, there is one mandatory certification for HVAC professionals who work with refrigerants: the federally mandated EPA Section 608 certification. There are four distinct subtypes of this certification: Type 1 (small appliance), Type 2 (high-pressure appliances), Type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and Type 4 (universal).

While many HVAC schools provide preparation for the EPA Section 608 certification, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also provides a list of approved Section 608 certification programs.

North American Technician Excellence (NATE) has a wide range of certifications available for which aspiring HVAC workers must pass a core exam and one specialty exam to qualify. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) offers not only Section 608 certification, but also eight additional specialties, including heating, domestic service, and commercial air conditioning, to name a few. HVAC Excellence also provides a gamut of certifications such as heating, electrical, and air conditioning technology (HEAT) and many specialty exams.

Criteria for this extensive list of certifications vary but generally involve submitting an application, paying a fee, showing proof of experience, and passing an exam with both hands-on and written components.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, HVAC contractors do not need state licensure to operate in the state, but regulations may differ according to cities. For example, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspection provides an HVAC licensure examination and requires that HVAC contractors within the city have this credential. To qualify for the exam, candidates must be 18 or older, proficient in English, and have at least four years of experience. Additionally, they must submit the following:

  • Proof of Contractor’s General Liability Insurance
  • Proof of registration for city taxes
  • International Code Council (ICC) certification (Pennsylvania Standard Master Mechanical Contractor – Exam #670)
  • Licensing Fee

All new HVAC professionals should be sure to check with local bureaus to verify what licenses are necessary for their work. Overall, while professional certification may not be mandatory for employment in PA, it can indicate to potential employers that a candidate possesses certain skills and many HVAC employers actively seek out credentialed professionals.

To discover the array of credentials available nationwide in HVAC, please check out the main HVAC certifications page.

Jocelyn Blore

Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.