HVAC Trade Schools in Philadelphia, PA

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA), home to the iconic Liberty Bell, averages 47 inches of rain and 15 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. Even before the severe 2018 winter storms, Philadelphians stayed inside to escape the weather.

Despite the city’s severe weather conditions, 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 more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, including Comcast and AmerisourceBergen. What’s more, its historical and cultural attractions have made tourism an important part of Philly’s economy. All of these factors are contributing to the construction of new buildings in the city—all of which require a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

Because of the extreme winters and 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 depending on HVAC to stay comfortable. There are more than 7,000 HVAC installers, mechanical, and maintenance workers in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employees and employers in this sector are supported by local organizations that include: the Contractors Association of Eastern Pennsylvania (CAOEPA), 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, PA

The demand for HVAC technicians continues to grow. The BLS projects an above-average growth of 15 percent nationwide between 2016 and 2026, more than twice the expected average growth across all occupations nationwide (7 percent). And in Pennsylvania, Projections Central predicted an 11 percent increase in the demand for technicians in the decade preceding 2024.

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 more than 332,000 jobs nationwide in 2016, 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

Here are the expected hourly and annual salaries in the Philadelphia area (BLS May 2016):

Philadelphia metropolitan area Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington
Number of employees 1,220 7,210
Average annual salary $56,620 $55,250
10th percentile $34,760 $33,450
25th percentile $42,550 $42,370
50th percentile $50,040 $53,080
75th percentile $61,690 $62,460
90th percentile $99,190 $80,150
Average hourly salary $27.22 $26.56
10th percentile $16.71/hr. $16.08/hr.
25th percentile $20.46/hr. $20.37/hr.
50th percentile $24.06/hr. $25.52/hr.
75th percentile $29.66/hr. $30.03/hr.
90th percentile $47.69/hr. $38.53/hr.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Philadelphia

While HVAC technicians can begin their careers as apprentices and learn the trade through hands-on training, this has become more difficult over the years. Most workers now participate in a program or attend classes. This kind of training opens up many more employment opportunities and allows workers to start with higher wages and earn more during their career.

Individuals seeking 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 March 2018, there are several accredited programs in cities within 100 miles of Philadelphia:

Berks Career and Technology Center (Oley, Pennsylvania)

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). 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.

Bucks County Technical High School (Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania)

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 and as well as the theoretical and practical solutions in domestic, commercial and industrial environmental control systems.

Lancaster County Career & Technology Center (Ephrata, Pennsylvania)

The Lancaster County CTC campus offers a six-hour EPA certification course for $245. The program prepares students for the EPA certification test. The program is offered two days a week for three hours a day in the evenings, making the program accessible to full-time employees.

North Montco Technical Career Center (Lansdale, Pennsylvania)

The HVAC program at North Montco Technical Career Center (NMTCC) teaches students the basic and advanced skills to install and service residential systems. 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.

Western Montgomery Career & Technology Center (Limerick, Pennsylvania)

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 will also learn pipe fitting, soldering, and brazing of the different types of piping materials. HVAC Excellence and the NCCER have certified this program.

Here are three other options in Pennsylvania that are more than 100 miles away from Philadelphia:

York County School of Technology (York, Pennsylvania)

The coursework and hands-on experience of this program teaches 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.

Pennsylvania College of Technology (Williamsport, Pennsylvania)

The Pennsylvania College of Technology is a special mission affiliate of Pennsylvania State University and a national leader in applied technology education. The program offered at PCT is a bachelor’s degree in heating, ventilation and air conditioning design technology. This program requires 136 credit hours. However, the school offers additional shorter programs such as an associate’s degree in heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and a plumbing certificate. Tuition is $545 per credit hour. PCT’s HVAC program is PAHRA-accredited, and the school is a certified National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) training and testing center.

Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center (Altoona, Pennsylvania)

The CTC in greater Altoona provides comprehensive full-time and part-time programs designed to prepare students for employment as HVAC technicians. Classes are taught during the day and or evening hours, and completion of the program requires 900 hours of training. There are internships available to students, which can be applied to the program as an additional course. These internships are supervised field work experiences in which students gain practical experience in HVAC. The program is accredited by the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), HVAC Excellence, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Apprenticeship Programs for HVAC Technicians in PA

Outside of these 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 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, which is recognized and accredited by the NCCER.
  • Orleans Technical College in Philadelphia offers a six-month and a 13-month HVAC program. Classes are taught during the day for the six-month program and at night for the 13-month program, giving students the flexibility they need to complete the program. Both include coursework and hands-on training. Graduates can receive industry-recognized certification from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI). Orleans Technical College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

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)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Philadelphia

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. Four levels of certifications are available based the size and type of equipment, and the universal certification allows technicians to work on all equipment. Various organizations offer classes and administer the exam.

In addition, the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence provide skill-based, employment-ready national certifications. Their websites include details about the certifications, cost, and requirements.

As a final note, Philadelphia has recently changes its policies surrounding HVAC licensure. There is a local contractor license, which is required for contractors who perform work in excess of $500 and must be renewed annually. There’s 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 credentialing prior to beginning work.