HVAC Training Programs in 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 necessity than luxury, while 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 2017) reports that Pennsylvania employs 14,120 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 $51,360, 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 (i.e., HVACR) 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

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), the HVAC industry is expected to grow in the coming decade with data anticipating a 15 percent increase in job openings in HVAC nationwide between 2016 and 2026, more than double the average growth rate projected in all occupations (7 percent). With the addition of 48,800 positions in this industry across the US, aspiring HVAC professionals can enjoy relative job stability on into the future.

As mentioned in the introduction, Pennsylvania is one of the top five employing states in HVAC with 14,120 workers in the field (BLS 2017).

One objective way to view the demand for these professionals in PA is through a simple job search. For instance, Indeed (Dec. 2018) listed more than 1,200 local opportunities at Pennsylvania companies such as Carlisle Petroleum, McCrea Heating and Air, Lowry Services, MERCK, Boeing, and Northhampton Community College. Job site Monster (Dec. 2018) posted additional openings at Mack Services Group, Weis Markets, System One, and Sunbelt Rentals, 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 2017 around one in ten HVAC techs and mechanics were self-employed and work 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 PA

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), 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 307,060 HVAC workers around the US, the BLS (2017) found an average annual salary of $49,530. In Pennsylvania specifically, the 14,120 HVAC professionals employed there earned an average of $51,360. In more detailed terms, here were the salary percentiles in this occupation in the US and Pennsylvania specifically:

Annual salary Hourly salary
United States Pennsylvania United States Pennsylvania
Average $49,530 $51,360 $23.81 $24.69
10th percentile $29,120 $30,940 $14.00 $14.88
25th percentile $36,150 $38,450 $17.38 $18.49
50th percentile $47,080 $49,310 $22.64 $23.71
75th percentile $60,270 $60,840 $28.98 $29.25
90th percentile $75,330 $74,970 $36.22 $36.04

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (Dec. 2018), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States: 881 HVAC workers responding

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,606
  • 90th percentile: $72,000

An additional 4,892 HVAC workers gave Payscale their hourly salary figures, resulting in these percentile wages:

  • 10th percentile: $12.94/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.33/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.55/hr.

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 2018) found that PA was the 27th most affordable state, ranking it almost right in the middle, with some savings noted particularly in housing. 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 and New York.

The BLS designated 23 regions within Pennsylvania for which employment data is available. The 1590 HVAC workers in the Philadelphia, PA Metropolitan Division earned the highest average salary in the state ($56,950) while HVAC workers in Johnstown, PA had the lowest average salary at $34,240 . Following are the detailed salary data for the state of Pennsylvania:

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ (700 HVAC workers): $48,230 annual average salary

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $48,230 $23.19
10th percentile $34,450 $16.56
25th percentile $42,040 $20.21
50th percentile $47,280 $22.73
75th percentile $54,450 $26.18
90th percentile $64,570 $31.04

Altoona, PA (190 HVAC workers): $39,240 annual average salary

Altoona, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $39,240 $18.87
10th percentile $30,330 $14.58
25th percentile $33,510 $16.11
50th percentile $37,380 $17.97
75th percentile $43,880 $21.10
90th percentile $54,350 $26.13

Bloomsburg-Berwick, PA (40 HVAC workers): $40,990 annual average salary

Bloomsburg-Berwick, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $40,990 $19.71
10th percentile $30,920 $14.86
25th percentile $34,370 $16.52
50th percentile $38,650 $18.58
75th percentile $45,140 $21.70
90th percentile $50,260 $24.16

Chambersburg-Waynesboro, PA (220 HVAC workers): $46,850 annual average salary

Chambersburg-Waynesboro, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $46,850 $22.53
10th percentile $29,870 $14.36
25th percentile $37,270 $17.92
50th percentile $48,150 $23.15
75th percentile $56,080 $26.96
90th percentile $61,110 $29.38

East Stroudsburg, PA (120 HVAC workers): $48,200 annual average salary

East Stroudsburg, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $48,200 $23.17
10th percentile $34,860 $16.76
25th percentile $41,540 $19.97
50th percentile $49,330 $23.72
75th percentile $55,850 $26.85
90th percentile $61,200 $29.42

Erie, PA (140 HVAC workers): $54,670 annual average salary

Erie, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $54,670 $26.28
10th percentile $32,600 $15.67
25th percentile $40,470 $19.46
50th percentile $53,150 $25.55
75th percentile $68,350 $32.86
90th percentile $80,820 $38.86

Gettysburg, PA (80 HVAC workers): $39,190 annual average salary

Gettysburg, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $39,190 $18.84
10th percentile $29,390 $14.13
25th percentile $33,350 $16.03
50th percentile $37,690 $18.12
75th percentile $44,710 $21.50
90th percentile $51,150 $24.59

Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA (460 HVAC workers): $45,130 annual average salary

Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $45,130 $21.70
10th percentile $33,230 $15.98
25th percentile $36,670 $17.63
50th percentile $43,590 $20.96
75th percentile $54,260 $26.09
90th percentile $61,150 $29.40

Johnstown, PA (number of HVAC workers unknown): $34,240 annual average salary

Johnstown, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $34,240 $27.10
10th percentile $22,580 $10.85
25th percentile $26,700 $12.84
50th percentile $31,150 $14.98
75th percentile $41,970 $20.18
90th percentile $50,170 $24.12

Lancaster, PA (760 HVAC workers): $48,820 annual average salary

Lancaster, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $48,820 $23.47
10th percentile $33,450 $16.08
25th percentile $40,330 $19.39
50th percentile $49,030 $23.57
75th percentile $58,190 $27.98
90th percentile $63,520 $30.54

Lebanon, PA (170 HVAC workers): $48,390 annual average salary

Lebanon, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $48,390 $23.26
10th percentile $33,140 $15.93
25th percentile $41,370 $19.89
50th percentile $50,070 $24.07
75th percentile $57,070 $27.44
90th percentile $61,880 $29.75

Montgomery County-Bucks County-Chester County, PA Metropolitan Division (3640 HVAC workers): $56,350 annual average salary

Montgomery County-Bucks County-Chester County, PA Metropolitan Division
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $56,350 $27.09
10th percentile $32,580 $15.66
25th percentile $42,970 $20.66
50th percentile $55,860 $26.85
75th percentile $64,770 $31.14
90th percentile $78,990 $37.98

Northern Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area (300 HVAC workers): $44,540 annual average salary

Northern Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $44,540 $21.41
10th percentile $31,990 $15.38
25th percentile $35,820 $17.22
50th percentile $43,770 $21.04
75th percentile $53,940 $25.93
90th percentile $60,840 $29.25

Philadelphia, PA Metropolitan Division (1590 HVAC workers): $56,950 annual average salary

Philadelphia, PA Metropolitan Division
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $56,950 $27.38
10th percentile $34,060 $16.38
25th percentile $43,190 $20.77
50th percentile $51,770 $24.89
75th percentile $63,730 $30.64
90th percentile $91,240 $43.87

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (7750 HVAC workers): $55,440 annual average salary

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $55,440 $26.65
10th percentile $33,220 $15.97
25th percentile $42,650 $20.51
50th percentile $54,030 $25.97
75th percentile $63,500 $30.53
90th percentile $79,100 $38.03

Pittsburgh, PA (2760 HVAC workers): $50,570 annual average salary

Pittsburgh, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $50,570 $24.31
10th percentile $27,910 $13.42
25th percentile $34,340 $16.51
50th percentile $45,810 $22.03
75th percentile $60,800 $29.23
90th percentile $86,530 $41.60

Reading, PA (590 HVAC workers): $51,090 annual average salary

Reading, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $51,090 $24.56
10th percentile $34,490 $16.58
25th percentile $41,580 $19.99
50th percentile $52,360 $25.17
75th percentile $59,880 $28.79
90th percentile $64,460 $30.99

Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA (490 HVAC workers): $51,170 annual average salary

Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $51,170 $24.60
10th percentile $33,630 $16.17
25th percentile $41,420 $19.91
50th percentile $52,740 $25.36
75th percentile $60,550 $29.11
90th percentile $67,950 $32.67

Southern Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area (430 HVAC workers): $44,030 annual average salary

Southern Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $44,030 $21.17
10th percentile $32,290 $15.52
25th percentile $35,960 $17.29
50th percentile $42,280 $20.33
75th percentile $50,310 $24.19
90th percentile $60,330 $29.01

State College, PA (270 HVAC workers): $37,480 annual average salary

State College, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $37,480 $18.02
10th percentile $22,970 $11.05
25th percentile $31,520 $15.16
50th percentile $36,700 $17.65
75th percentile $43,490 $20.91
90th percentile $52,280 $25.14

Western Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area (240 HVAC workers): $39,390 annual average salary

Western Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $39,390 $18.94
10th percentile $28,630 $13.76
25th percentile $33,170 $15.95
50th percentile $38,240 $18.38
75th percentile $45,520 $21.89
90th percentile $53,460 $25.70

Williamsport, PA (160 HVAC workers): $40,620 annual average salary

Williamsport, PA(
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $40,620 $19.53
10th percentile $23,790 $11.44
25th percentile $29,160 $14.02
50th percentile $39,610 $19.04
75th percentile $49,410 $23.75
90th percentile $61,150 $29.40

York-Hanover, PA (540 HVAC workers): $53,630 annual average salary

York-Hanover, PA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $53,630 $25.78
10th percentile $35,150 $16.90
25th percentile $43,830 $21.07
50th percentile $53,220 $25.59
75th percentile $62,200 $29.90
90th percentile $74,460 $35.80

Accredited HVAC Schools in 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 December 2018. 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 December 2018. Please consult the individual websites to learn more about the accreditation processes.

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.

Another HVAC Excellence-accredited program is available in Oley at the Berks Career & Technology Center. 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 Builder’s Association.

The Pennsylvania College of Technology of Williamsport provides various PAHRA-accredited programs in heating, ventilation & air conditioning design technology, including a bachelor of science (BS) and an associate of applied science (AAS) degree. In the AAS program, students focus on mechanical systems and get specialized instruction in hydronic heating, temperature & humidity control, air circulation, thermostats, ventilation practices, and duct & pipe design. Courses include HVAC-R electricity, mechanical systems design & operation, air conditioning systems, print reading & interpretation, and basic heating systems. This program has also been endorsed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA).

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 & domestic systems; basic principles of heating & air conditioning; blueprint reading; and more. This program takes three years and is typically completed in a student’s sophomore through senior years.

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 & starters; advanced refrigeration & pipe fitting, CFC testing; heat loss & 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 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.