HVAC Trade Schools & Certifications In Philadelphia, PA

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA), home to the iconic Liberty Bell, averages 47 inches of rain and 13 inches of snowfall every year. Summers are humid and muggy, and temperatures range from July highs of 87 to January lows of 26 degrees Fahrenheit. With the range of temperatures and even severe weather events such as “snowpocalypse” in 2018, Philadelphians need climate controlled indoor spaces to help manage heat and cold.

Through the changes in weather, Philadelphia’s economy is prospering thanks to its thriving educational and health institutions. The biomedical sector, in particular, is expanding significantly. As the city transitions away from the manufacturing industry, Philadelphia has become a corporate center for finance, telecommunications, insurance, and printing and publishing. It is also home to two Fortune 500 companies, including Comcast and Aramark. What’s more, its historical and cultural attractions have made tourism an important part of Philly’s economy. These factors contribute to the construction of new buildings in the city—all of which require a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

Because of the cold, freezing winters and hot, humid summers in Philadelphia, nearly every sector of business requires climate control systems, with some needing specialized equipment and controls. Whether at work or home, all Philadelphia residents depend on HVAC to stay comfortable. There are 9,080 HVAC workers in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2023).

Employees and employers in this sector are supported by local organizations that include the Contractors Association of Eastern Pennsylvania (CAOEPA), the Mechanical & Service Contractors Association (M&SCA), and the Pennsylvania Air Conditioning Contractors Association (PACCA). These organizations work with others in the industry and with government agencies to establish educational and licensing standards. They serve all aspects of the HVAC and HVAC/R industries, including performance and promotion.

Read on to discover what to expect from an HVAC training program in Philadelphia, including discussions of the local salary prospects and job outlook.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Philadelphia

The demand for HVAC technicians continues to grow. The BLS (2023) projected an above-average growth of six percent nationwide between 2022 and 2032, which is double the expected average growth across all occupations nationwide (3 percent). In Pennsylvania, Projections Central (2024) predicted a 4.9 percent increase in the demand for technicians in the decade preceding 2030.

There are several factors contributing to the growth of the HVAC industry, including the construction of new commercial buildings and residences; the increasing sophistication of climate control systems; an emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution; the need to replace or upgrade older systems; and the local proliferation of specific industries that rely on climate control for more than personal comfort, such as the biomedical and computer-based sectors.

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) mechanics and installers held 397,450 jobs nationwide in 2023, according to the BLS. Contractors are the largest employers of HVAC and HVAC/R technicians, and others work at schools and in retail or wholesale companies. Technicians generally work full-time, with overtime during adverse weather conditions. Although most technicians work indoors, some may have to work on outdoor equipment, even in bad weather.

Technicians often work in awkward or cramped spaces and some work in buildings that are uncomfortable because the air conditioning or heating system has malfunctioned. HVAC and HVAC/R technicians have a high rate of injuries and illnesses, according to the BLS. They may experience a relatively high rate of electrical shock, burns, muscle strains, and injuries from handling heavy equipment. They are also exposed to toxic chemicals, and all training includes safety procedures.

HVAC Technician Salary in Philadelphia, PA

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2023), there were 397,450 HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $59,620 and 18,980 (5th highest in the nation) HVAC mechanics and installers in Pennsylvania with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $58,920. It also stated that there were 9.080 HVAC mechanics and installers in Philadelphia with an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $63,420. Following are the more detailed salary percentiles:

United States Pennsylvania Philadelphia Camden – Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 397,450 18,980 9,080
Annual mean wage $59,620 $58,920 $63,420
10th percentile $37,270 $38,430 $36,180
25th percentile $46,550 $47,300 $48,970
50th percentile (Median) $57,300 $58,240 $61,250
75th percentile $71,120 $68,640 $74,930
90th percentile $84,250 $80,380 $95,810

Salary figures do vary slightly by the source of data. PayScale (2024)—an aggregator of self-reported salaries—found the following percentiles among its HVAC respondents nationwide:

  • 10th percentile: $36,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $55,000
  • 90th percentile: $83,000

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in Pennsylvania is slightly lower 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 2024) found that PA was ranked 27th in affordability, making it more expensive than many other states. Interestingly, while transportation costs are significantly higher than in other states, the cost of housing is much lower. 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.

Apprenticeship Programs For HVAC Technicians In Philadelphia, PA

Outside of formal training programs, HVAC technicians can find apprenticeships through the Pennsylvania Office of Apprenticeship and Training. These registered apprenticeships comply with state and federal regulations regarding supervised on-the-job training that includes a minimum of 2,000 hours per year and 144 hours per year of related classroom instruction. Below are a few organizations that offer accredited apprenticeships:

  • The eastern Pennsylvania chapter of the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) offers an apprenticeship and craft training program that provides HVAC on-the-job training and coursework. Graduates are qualified to enter the job market as journey-level workers.
  • The Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 19 also offers a four-year HVAC apprenticeship that includes paid training with cooperating employers.
  • Worth & Company, in Pipersville, Pennsylvania, offers a four-year HVAC apprenticeship program, and students may be chosen to compete in the National ABC Craft Championship.

Industry associations such as the following offer apprenticeship programs, local training, and online resources nationwide. Details and fees for each are available on their websites.

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA)
  • International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART)

HVAC Training Schools & Programs in Philadelphia, PA

While HVAC technicians can begin their careers as apprentices and learn the trade through hands-on training, this has become less common and more competitive over the years.

To break into HVAC, most people will complete a diploma, certificate, or vocational program, or earn an associate of applied science (AAS) or bachelor of science (BS) in HVAC. This HVAC training route opens up a range of employment opportunities, allows workers to start with higher wages than those without classroom-based training, and may result in higher wages for both entry-level HVAC jobs and throughout an HVAC tech’s career.

Individuals seeking HVAC training should make sure that the institution they choose is accredited. “The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality,” according to the Department of Education. Various agencies determine whether schools have met the applicable guidelines. Two organizations, in particular, evaluate and certify HVAC programs:

  • HVAC Excellence
  • Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA)

As of April 2024, there are several accredited programs in cities within 100 miles of Philadelphia:

Berks Career and Technology Center

The Berks Career and Technology Center offers an HVAC/R certificate of competency. The program is accredited by HVAC Excellence to assure that the curriculum taught meets or exceeds the national skill standards.

Additionally, this BCTC program has also been accredited by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) through the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Finally, the program is also endorsed by the Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA), and competent students have the chance to be certified through this organization as well. The program is designed to provide students with defined career paths in the HVAC industry through the use of project-based methods and national performance standards.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as the basic principles of HVAC, controlling of humidity, motors, tubes & pipes, compressors, valves & thermostats, control devices, blueprints & schematics, and energy management control technology, among others.

Upon successful completion, graduates can pursue opportunities such as refrigeration mechanic, energy auditor, refrigeration engineer, heating and air conditioning mechanic, air conditioning and heating engineer, stationary engineer, factory service representative, and HVAC contractor.

  • Location: Oley, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than a year

Bucks County Technical High School

In this HVAC Excellence-accredited program, students are taught the basics of HVAC/R, including theoretical and practical coursework for domestic, commercial, and industrial systems. The courses prepare students for employment in HVAC or higher education. Students study basic physics and mathematics as well as the theoretical and practical solutions in domestic, commercial, and industrial environmental control systems.

Graduates will have several certifications available to them, such as the RSES Student Technician, OSHA Certification, NCCER Credentials, and Heartsaver AED, CPR & First Aid.

  • Location: Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than a year

Lancaster County Career & Technology Center

The Lancaster County CTC campus offers an EPA certification course. The program prepares students for the required EPA Section 608 certification test (for more information, see the “certification and licensing” section below). The program is offered two days a week for six hours a day in the evenings, making the program accessible to full-time employees.

Students in this program are provided with the necessary information that HVAC/R service personnel needs for successfully becoming certified as universal technicians.

  • Location: Willow Street, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two days

North Montco Technical Career Center

The HVAC program at North Montco Technical Career Center (NMTCC) teaches students the basic and advanced skills to install and service residential systems. The program offers certification options such as the OSHA Certification, RSES Student Technician, EPA 608 Refrigeration Recovery, Step Ladder, Single & Extension Ladder, and Counterstrike CSST, among others.

Students are trained in electrical principles, plumbing, oil and gas heating, air conditioning, heat pumps, and basic refrigeration systems. This program is certified by HVAC Excellence, which will allow students to enter higher-level positions with some of the country’s premier contractors.

At the end of the program, graduates can take up roles such as air conditioning or heat pump technician, installation or service technician, pipefitter technician, gas heating service technician, refrigeration mechanic, and oil heating service technician.

  • Location: Lansdale, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than a year

Orleans Technical College

OTC offers an eight-month and a 14-month HVAC program. Classes are taught during the day for the eight-month program and during the day or at night for the 14-month program, giving students the flexibility they need to complete it. Both include coursework and hands-on training. Graduates can receive industry-recognized certification from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI).

Students in this program will learn about the basics of diagnosing, maintaining, and repairing commercial & residential HVAC equipment, and about refrigeration through work with cold rooms, ice machines, and freezers. They also learn about central air conditioning and window units, gas and oil-fired furnaces, heat pumps, and alternative energy principles.

Graduates will be ready to take up positions such as air conditioning technicians, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics or helpers, general maintenance personnel, and refrigeration technicians.

  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Eight or 14 months

Western Montgomery Career & Technology Center

This program, offered by the Western Montgomery CTC, prepares students for employment and advanced study with a combination of shop practice and HVAC theory, including HVAC safety and the installation, servicing, and troubleshooting of various heating and cooling systems. Students also learn pipe fitting, soldering, and brazing of the different types of piping materials.

Some of the topics students will delve into include steam and hydronic heating, air circulation, temperature and humidity control, duct and pipe system design and layout, ventilating equipment, thermostats, automatic controls, air & water circulators, and zoning controls. They will also be introduced to electrical wiring, refrigerant recovery & management, blueprint reading, and refrigeration technology.

Upon completion, graduates can find employment as HVAC/R mechanics and installers for working at homes, hospitals, retail establishments, factories, and office buildings.

  • Location: Limerick, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Not currently accredited by the Pennsylvania State Board for Vocational Education; Institutional accreditation through Joint Operating Committee partnership with three nearby school districts
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than a year

Future HVAC technicians also have accredited options in Pennsylvania that are more than 100 miles away from Philadelphia:

York County School of Technology

This program’s coursework and hands-on experience teach students about all aspects of the installation, servicing, and troubleshooting of commercial and residential systems. Graduates of this program can obtain the following certifications: ESCO Student Outcome Assessment by HVAC Excellence, EPA Section 608, OSHA 10, HeartSaver First Aid, and TracPipe Certification.

Students in this program receive instruction on electricity, electrical controls and components, and the technical aspects of HVAC, which include setting up, proper installation, troubleshooting, and servicing commercial and residential heating and cooling systems. They also learn to identify and use hand and power tools for completing hands-on projects.

Graduates can take up roles such as refrigeration mechanics, control technicians, service managers, HVAC instructors, installation and maintenance technicians, and oil burner technicians.

  • Location: York, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than a year

Pennsylvania College of Technology

The Pennsylvania College of Technology is a special mission affiliate of Pennsylvania State University and a national leader in applied technology education. PCT offers a bachelor of science (BS) degree in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning design technology and an associate of applied science (AAS) in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technology.

The BS program requires 131 credits, and the AAS program requires 70. The curriculum includes courses such as introduction to refrigeration, mechanical systems design and operation, air conditioning systems, basic heating systems, warm-air heating and duct design, heating and cooling system configurations, advanced heating design, and advanced HVAC control.

PCT’s HVAC program is PAHRA-accredited, and the school is a certified National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) training and testing center.

Graduates of the AAS program can hold positions as equipment mechanics, air conditioning lab technicians, sales representatives, and industrial physical plant maintenance. BS program graduates can hold roles such as applications engineers, sales engineers, design engineers, and commercial service and installation.

  • Location: Williamsport, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: PAHRA
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (four semesters); BS (eight semesters)

Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center

The CTC in greater Altoona provides a comprehensive heating, ventilation, air conditioning & plumbing program preparing students for employment as HVAC technicians. Classes are taught during the day and or evening hours.

The program prepares students for certification by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The curriculum explores electrical controls, reading schematics, electrical practices, piping practices, building circuits, furnaces, energy management, efficiency testing, reading and interpreting blueprints and drawings, soldering, welding, brazing, and threading.

After completing the program, graduates can read isometric drawings and blueprints, demonstrate a good work ethic, follow verbal and written instructions, and learn to use electric meters, electronic measuring devices, and digital thermostats.

  • Location: Altoona, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than a year

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Philadelphia, PA

Federal law requires all HVAC technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants.

Three levels of certifications are available based on the size and type of equipment, and the fourth universal certification allows technicians to work on all equipment. Regardless of training length, most HVAC programs offer preparation to sit for this exam. Some professional organizations also offer exam-specific courses to prepare HVAC techs for this exam.

In addition to the Section 608 certification, HVAC technicians can pursue professional certifications that establish competence or designate specialized knowledge, making an HVAC tech more competitive in the job field or paving the way for higher salaries. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence provide skill-based, employment-ready national certifications. Our HVAC certification guide includes details about the certifications, costs, and requirements.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry reports that HVAC contractors do not need state licensure, but there are varying municipal rules. Philadelphia has recently changed its policies surrounding HVAC licensure. There is a local contractor license, which is required for contractors who perform work over $500 and must be renewed annually.

There is no specialty license affiliated with HVAC, although historically, the city required a warm air installer license. Now, this process has been folded into the existing contractor’s license, and contractors performing warm air installation services must now get a permit. Please note that contractors conducting business within city limits also are required to obtain an “activity license” from the City of Philadelphia.

To ensure all work remains in compliance with the law, HVAC apprentices, technicians, and contractors are strongly encouraged to contact local government offices to ensure they have all necessary credentials before beginning work.

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.