HVAC Training Programs in Pennsylvania (PA) – Education, Certification & Salary

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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 necessity than luxury, and businesses depend on reliable refrigeration.

Luckily for aspiring HVAC technicians in the Keystone State, there is a wealth of accredited HVAC schools and abundant job openings as well. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) reports that Pennsylvania employs 15,630 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 $51,880, 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 as well as 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 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 in a safe and ethical manner.

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, as well as to learn about the salary prospects in the field, professional certification options, and accredited HVAC programs in Pennsylvania.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Pennsylvania (PA)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019), the HVAC industry is expected to grow in the coming decade with data anticipating a 13 percent increase in job openings in HVAC nationwide between 2018 and 2028, more than double the average growth rate projected in all occupations (5 percent). With the addition of 46,300 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 15,630 workers in the field (BLS 2019).

One objective way to view the demand for these professionals in PA is through a simple job search. For instance, Indeed (May 2020) listed more than 400 local opportunities at Pennsylvania companies such as Triad Services, R.S. Bortner, Inc., Adam Mechanical, Lowry Services, and Stark Tech Group. Job site Monster (May 2020) posted additional openings at Central Heating and Plumbing, Synerfac Technical Staffing, Boyd Heating & Cooling, Inc., 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, being able to lift 25-50 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 2019, around one in ten 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 post especially great risks, not only to human health, but also to the environment. It makes sense that in PA, the sole mandatory credential 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 2019), HVAC mechanics and installers enjoy comfortable wages, particularly in an occupation which generally requires only six months to two years of postsecondary education.

Among the 342,040 HVAC workers around the US, the BLS (May 2019) found an average annual salary of $51,420. In Pennsylvania specifically, the 15,630 HVAC professionals employed there earned an average of $51,880. 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 342,040 15,630
Average annual salary $51,420 $51,880
10th percentile $30,610 $32,710
25th percentile $37,660 $39,360
50th percentile $48,730 $50,060
75th percentile $62,070 $62,930
90th percentile $77,920 $75,850

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in Pennsylvania is somewhat higher than 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 2020) found that PA was the 33rd most affordable state, with some relative savings in healthcare. For HVAC technicians this means higher than average salaries will go a little bit further than they would in some costlier nearby states like Massachusetts (47) and New York (49).

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.

Prior to 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 32 states, including seven in PA as of May 2020. PAHRA’s program accreditation body is “the only one that is supported by the major industry associations” (e.g., ASHRAE, NATE, ICE) and has accredited two programs in PA as of April 2020. 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 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.

  • Location:Oley, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Duration: 180 hours
  • Tuition: $3,850

Bucks County Technical High School

Bucks County Technical High School offers two HVAC introductory courses: refrigeration / air conditioning / heating, level one program, and residential electricity, level two program. In the 15-week level one program (which is a prerequisite to the level 2 program), students learn the fundamentals required to take the mystery out of working as an HVAC tech. In the 10-week level two program, students will be introduced to light commercial HVAC systems. Both courses are offered as four-hour classes, one night per week.

  • Location:Oley, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Duration: 25 weeks
  • Tuition: $550 per level

Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center

The Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center offers a full- time HVAC 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 controls 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, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Duration: One year
  • Tuition: $11,060 for the program

Lancaster County Career & Technology Center

One program accredited by HVAC Excellence is available at the Brownstown campus of the Lancaster County Career & Technology Center. Working side-by-side HVAC professionals, students can take targeted short-term courses such as heating & AC systems, refrigeration, and EPA certification.

Lancaster also prepares students for certification from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI): the Pennsylvania Builders Association Skills credential. Currently, only one course is offered for adults, which is the HVAC EPA certification course that prepares students to pass the EPA section 608 certification test.

  • Location: Brownstown, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Duration: Two Days
  • Tuition: $225

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: Landsale, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Duration: 300 hours
  • Tuition: $3,400 for the program

Western Montgomery Career and Technical Center

Western Montgomery Career and Technical Center offers an HVAC training program that has been accredited by HVAC Excellence since 2002. Students in the program learn a range of topics including how to filter and control humidity; read blueprints; overhaul, repair and adjust units and parts; and repair electric, electronic and pneumatic control systems. This program is also certified by the National Center for Construction Education Research (NCCER).

  • Location: Limerick, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence, NCCER
  • Duration: Contact school for more information
  • Tuition: $1,890 per one-course semester

York County School of Technology

The Adult & Continuing Education Center at the York County School of Technology offers an HVAC technology diploma program designed to prepare students for entry-level HVAC positions. The program is offered in a full-time evening format spanning 900 hours over 45 weeks.

Students who graduate from York’s program learn skills including how to isolate problems in heating and cooling systems; form complete circuits; study blueprints; comply with standards, policies, and procedures for HVAC; and instal auxiliary components.

  • Location: Landsale, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Duration: 45 weeks
  • Tuition: $12,200 for the program

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-hour 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 interpretation, and basic heating systems. This program has also been endorsed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA).

  • Location: Williamsport, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: PAHRA
  • Duration: BS (four years); AAS (two years)
  • Tuition: $489 per credit-hour (in state); $734 per credit-hour (out-of-state)

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. Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: PAHRA
  • Duration: Three years
  • 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 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, and can be ideal for working HVAC professionals looking to advance their skills in a supervised environment with industry professionals.

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 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 varies, but generally involves 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.

Becca Brewer

Becca Brewer is building a better future on a thriving earth by healing herself into wholeness, divesting from separation, and walking the path of the loving heart. Previously to her journey as an adventurer for a just, meaningful, and regenerative world, Becca was a formally trained sexuality educator with a master of education.