HVAC Schools in Pittsburgh, PA – Programs & Certifications

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (PA) has recovered from the Great Recession and is on its way to becoming a global destination for technology and innovation, according to Brookings. Shale gas drilling accounted for much of the early recovery, but as gas and oil prices dropped, industries such as energy, technology, and manufacturing grew. Research has also played a role in Pittsburgh’s strong and growing economy.

Summers in Pittsburgh are not excessively hot (apart from high temperatures in July), but the winters can be quite cold, with daytime temperatures staying below freezing during the coldest months. However, with a booming tech sector, the demand for climate-controlled facilities increases. Residents also need climate control for comfort in their homes and workplaces. Many of the service industries require refrigeration as well, creating a growing demand for heating, venting, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) technicians.

These skilled professionals can seek support from various local organizations. For example, the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) is headquartered in Pittsburgh. The organization supports workers who fabricate and install sheet metal in HVAC systems. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) also has a chapter in Pittsburgh. The organization is dedicated to providing training for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians. Other industry associations that provide training and support to workers and the companies that employ them include:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Pennsylvania Air Conditioning Contractors Association (PAACCA)
  • Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA)

Associations such as these work with others in the industry and with government organizations to establish educational and licensing standards. They serve all aspects of the HVAC and HVAC/R industries.

Read on to discover HVAC training programs in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas, including information about coursework and credentialing.

Occupational Demand for HVAC/R Technicians in Pittsburgh, PA

Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians is growing nationwide. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for technicians is expected to increase by 4 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is as fast as the average for all occupations in the U.S. However, Pennsylvania is growing faster than the nationwide rate in this occupation. Projections Central—a data organization partnered with the US Department of Labor—reported that there would be an 8.9 percent increase in HVAC positions across Pennsylvania between 2018 and 2028.

Factors contributing to increases in HVAC employment include:

  • Construction of new commercial buildings and residences
  • Increasing demand for climate control
  • Increasing complexity of modern climate control systems
  • Requirements that older systems be replaced, retrofitted, or repaired
  • Focus on improving energy efficiency and reducing pollution

The growth of industries that depend on climate-controlled facilities or specialized equipment, such as the technological focus in Pittsburgh, contribute to the local demand for trained technicians.

Technicians who are computer- and electronics-literate, and those with excellent troubleshooting skills, generally have the best job prospects. Workers who specialize in new installations may experience seasonal unemployment if construction declines. Maintenance and repair work can be more stable. Homeowners and businesses want to keep their HVAC and HVAC/R systems in good working order year-round, regardless of economic conditions.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019), there were 342,040 HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide with an average annual salary of $51,420, and 15,630 HVAC mechanics and installers in Pennsylvania with an average annual salary of $51,880. It also stated that there were 3,220 HVAC mechanics and installers in Pittsburgh with an average annual salary of $53,860. Following are the more detailed salary percentiles:

United States Pennsylvania Pittsburgh, PA
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 15,630 3,220
Annual mean wage $51,420 $51,880 $53,860
10th Percentile $30,610 $32,710 $31,980
25th Percentile $37,660 $39,360 $39,610
50th Percentile (Median) $48,730 $50,060 $51,030
75th Percentile $62,070 $62,930 $68,020
90th Percentile $77,920 $75,850 $79,500

Salary figures do vary slightly by source of data. Payscale—an aggregator of self-reported salaries—found the following percentiles among its HVAC respondents nationwide in September 2020:

  • 10th percentile: $30,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,963
  • 90th percentile: $74,000

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in Pennsylvania is slightly 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 ranked 34th in affordability, making it more expensive than the majority of states. 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.

HVAC and HVAC/R Apprenticeships in Pittsburgh

Inexperienced workers can begin their HVAC careers as helpers and learn the trade through hands-on training, but there are significantly more opportunities for those who attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Coursework and apprenticeships can open up more employment positions. Trained workers also start at higher wages and earn more throughout their career.

Steamfitters Local 449

Steamfitters sponsors a mechanical equipment service apprenticeship program in Pittsburgh, which includes residential, commercial, and industrial HVAC and HVAC/R. Applicants must be U.S. citizens living within the area, at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license, have a high school diploma or GED, pass an exam, and pass substance abuse testing. Apprentices attend classroom lectures and receive hands-on training under the supervision of a journeyman. They are paid a percentage of journeyman wages and receive fringe benefits. The program takes five years to complete.

Pittsburgh Technical College

The Air Conditioning Contractors Western Pennsylvania (ACCWPA) offers an HVAC/R apprenticeship program at Pittsburgh Technical College. The program takes four years to complete. Apprentices attend classroom lectures two nights a week for seven months of each year. Graduates will have completed 3,200 hours of classroom and lab training along with 8,000 hours of on-the-job training from their employer. They receive an ACCWPA diploma, a Pennsylvania journeyman’s certificate, and industry certification such as NATE.

The curriculum of this apprenticeship program includes topics such as introduction to trade, tools and safety, refrigeration cycles and basic refrigeration, fundamentals of brazing and soldering, wiring and testing, advanced refrigeration and pipe fitting, blueprint reading, boilers and hydronics, wiring diagrams, and introduction to electronics/HVACR, among others.

Apprenticeship programs are also available through national industry associations. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Details of what each organization offers and fees are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC and HVAC/R Schools in Pittsburgh

In addition to apprenticeships, aspiring HVAC professionals in Pittsburgh can pursue a degree or training program. When choosing a school, it is essential to determine if it is accredited, and if so, what agency accredited it. Accreditation is a process in which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the program, which includes both the curriculum and the instructors.

Two organizations evaluate and certify HVAC programs. HVAC Excellence has accredited six Pennsylvania programs, but currently, none are located in Pittsburgh. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has accredited two Pennsylvania HVAC schools, neither of which are located in Pittsburgh.

That said, there are several regionally accredited schools in the Pittsburgh area.

All-State Career School

The school offers an HVAC diploma program designed to prepare graduates for entry-level employment as installers or technicians. This comprehensive program includes extensive hands-on training, covering service for commercial and residential refrigeration, oil and gas furnaces, electric furnaces, heat pumps, and air conditioning equipment.

The program is made up of 64 credit-hours. It includes coursework in thermodynamics, practical applications of electricity, HVAC/R controls, controls, motors and motor controls, refrigerants, residential air conditioning, commercial air conditioning, commercial refrigeration concepts, industrial refrigeration, electric heat and heat pumps, gas heating systems, and oil heating systems, among others.

Students in the program will be adept at using a variety of tools such as voltmeters, pressure gauges, manometers, thermometers, and other testing devices for checking refrigerant pressure, airflow, burners, electrical circuits, and other components. Graduates of the program will be eligible to take the EPA Universal Certification Exam and can take up roles such as service technician, installation technician, apprentice heating technician, and many more.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 Weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $17,413

Community College of Allegheny County

The college offers a certificate in heating and air conditioning technology and an associate of science degree in heating and air conditioning. Students in both programs attend classroom lectures and receive hands-on training. They learn how to install, service, and maintain equipment, troubleshooting, brazing and welding, and green technology concepts. The program also pays special attention to the use of green technologies.

The certificate program requires the completion of 32 credit-hours. Sample some of the courses in the curriculum: basic electrical wiring, heating systems, job safety and first aid, and air conditioning systems, refrigeration systems, EPA refrigerant certification prep, HVAC installation, planned maintenance, brazing, welding, and using HVAC technical documentation.

The degree program requires the completion of 66 credit-hours and includes all courses from the certificate, with additional coursework in English composition, estimation of thermal loads, heat/air conditioning circuits/controls, mathematics, technical communications, pneumatic controls for HVAC, duct and hydronic system design, physical science for the industries, and organizational psychology. It also includes preparation for industry competency exams.

Upon completion, graduates will be able to install and maintain air conditioners and furnaces, identify and troubleshoot the components of furnaces, air conditioners, and commercial refrigeration systems, estimate thermal loads, design duct systems, analyze and troubleshoot advanced electrical and digital circuits, and apply green building concepts. They can take up employment as a HVAC installer or technician, HVAC mechanic, refrigeration mechanic or as a repairer’s assistant.

  • Location: Oakdale, PA (15 miles from Pittsburgh)
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: AS degree (four semesters); certificate (two semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: Allegheny County residents ($118 per credit); other Pennsylvania residents ($236 per credit); out-of-state students ($354 per credit)

Pittsburgh Technical College

The college offers two HVAC programs: an associate degree and a certificate. Students in both programs serve an internship and complete the testing for industry certification exams including the EPA Section 608, Industry Competency (ICE), Green Awareness, and R-410A Safety. Upon graduation, students are qualified to take the NATE exam and apply for entry-level positions.

The certificate program consists of 79 credit-hours. It includes courses such as fundamentals of electricity, heating systems, welding and sheet metal fabrication, customer service, residential refrigeration, hydronics, commercial refrigeration, load calculations and psychrometrics, troubleshooting and diagnostics, chiller systems, certification preparation, college mathematics, and HVAC-R controls.

The associate program is made up of 109 credit-hours, and builds on the certificate program with additional coursework in English composition, effective speech, college algebra, ethics, critical thinking, and human relations in organizations.

The program teaches students about all aspects of HVAC including installing, troubleshooting and repairing furnaces, heat pumps, refrigeration units, and air conditioners, operating and maintaining commercial and residential equipment, brazing copper tubing, and about assembling and installing ducts, pipes, motors, electronics control devices, compressors, and thermostats. Graduates will be prepared to work as controls technicians, HVAC technicians, installation technicians, and refrigeration technicians.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: AS degree (21 months); certificate (15 or 18 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: AS degree ($14,300); certificate ($14,560)

Rosedale Technical College

Rosedale offers an associate in specialized technology degree in HVAC and an HVAC technician diploma program. The objective of these programs is to prepare students, through lab and classroom experiences, with the skills and knowledge to operate, manage, maintain, and troubleshoot HVAC/R systems for entry level employment as an HVAC technician in an industry that continues to grow. The curriculum for these programs consists of extensive classroom instruction and practical hands-on training in all phases of HVAC/R.

The diploma comprises 36 credit-hours, involving courses such as refrigeration principles, refrigeration system analysis, electricity, HVAC troubleshooting, forced air heating systems, hydronic heating systems, sheet metal applications, thermodynamics and design, air conditioning, and air conditioning maintenance.

The degree program consists of 1872 clock hours and 75.5 semester credit-hours. It includes all courses from the diploma, with additional coursework in heat pumps, heat pump diagnostics, control system analysis, applied math, physics and electrical science, computer concepts, problem-solving and critical thinking, and small business management.

The program also helps students earn the EPA Section 608 Refrigerant Handling Certification. Graduates of these programs can pursue entry-level career paths as heating mechanics, heating technicians, duct installers, sheet metal workers, refrigeration technicians, air conditioning technicians, and facility maintenance technicians.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career School and Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Degree (16 months); diploma (13 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Degree ($8,475 per semester); diploma ($5,500 per semester)

Triangle Tech

Triangle Tech offers an HVAC/R associate’s degree that combines theory with practical training. Graduates of the program can take up entry–level jobs as HVAC/R technicians, in both commercial and residential applications. They can also work as HVAC/R architects, project managers, and engineers.

The curriculum includes subjects such as electricity and electronics, pneumatic controls, digital electronics, environmental controls, how to read blueprints, cost estimating, sheet metal fabrication, and transport refrigeration, as well as the basics of residential and commercial HVAC and HVAC/R.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 16 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $17,370

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in Pittsburgh, PA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain EPA Section 608 Certification. The four types of certification are:

  • Type I: Small appliances
  • Type II: High-pressure refrigerants
  • Type III: Low-pressure refrigerants
  • Type IV: Universal

Technicians who will be working on all types of equipment are required to obtain Universal HVAC certification. Each certification requires passing a written exam. Students can find practice tests on the website.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations, which also offer Section 608 testing and certification. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES): Their mission is to provide opportunities for enhanced technical competence by offering comprehensive, cutting-edge education and certification to the HVAC/R industry.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE): Their certification tests represent real-world working knowledge of HVAC/R systems.
  • HVAC Excellence: Their exams and certifications are intended to validate that an individual has retained knowledge in a specific area of the HVAC/R industry.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry does not require licensing for HVAC and HVAC/R contractors or their employees, but regional credentialing requirements apply.

For example, the County of Allegheny has established a contractor information program to certify contractors. The certification must be renewed annually. Applicants need to complete the forms required for registration, show proof of identity, verify business name and legal status, show proof of liability, vehicle, and worker’s compensation insurance, and contact information. Contractors must also certify that they will not hire anyone ineligible to work in the United States.

The City of Pittsburgh Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections requires HVAC contractors to obtain a business license. Applicants must first pass the International Code Council (ICC) National Standard Master Mechanical Exam- F29 or W29 and receive ICC certification. They then submit an application form, proof of identification, proof of liability, and worker’s compensation insurance, a city tax ID certificate, and documentation of four years of HVAC experience.

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith was introduced to the HVAC industry when she worked as a bookkeeper and secretary for a small air-conditioning contractor. She eventually became a CPA and started her own practice specializing in small business taxes and accounting. After retiring from business, she began writing articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. She also authored four books. Sandra makes her home in the mountains with a rescue dog that naps on her lap as she writes.