HVAC Trade Schools in Pittsburgh, PA – Technical Training Programs

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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 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster growth than the average of 7 percent for all occupations in the U.S. However, Pennsylvania is growing slightly slower than the nationwide rate in this occupation. Projections Central predicted an 11.4 percent statewide increase for the decade ending in 2024.

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

The BLS (May 2017) reports that HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics and installers nationally receive a median salary of $47,080 annually. Pittsburgh technicians receive an annual median salary of $45,810.

Below are the hourly and annual salary comparisons as calculated by the BLS in May 2017:

Annual salary Hourly salary
United States Pennsylvania Pittsburgh United States Pennsylvania Pittsburgh
Average $49,530 $51,360 $50,570 $23.81 $24.69 $24.31
10th percentile $29,120 $30,940 $27,910 $14.00 $14.88 $13.42
25th percentile $36,150 $38,450 $34,340 $17.38 $18.49 $16.51
50th percentile $47,080 $49,310 $45,810 $22.64 $23.71 $22.03
75th percentile $60,270 $60,840 $60,800 $28.98 $29.25 $29.23
90th percentile $75,330 $74,970 $86,530 $36.22 $36.04 $41.60

Accredited HVAC and HVAC/R Schools 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 a U.S. citizen living within the area served by the local, 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 1,400 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.

Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania

The Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania, based in Pittsburgh, is a cooperative effort between unions and the construction trades to train workers. Apprenticeship programs range from three to five years, depending on the trade. Classwork is tuition-free, and apprentices are paid while completing their on-the-job training. Currently, there isn’t a specific HVAC apprenticeship; however, related trades such as plumbing and sheet metal are available.

Apprenticeship programs are also available through national industry associations.

When choosing a school, it is essential to determine if it is accredited and which organization has 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 seven 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. Students learn the principles of thermodynamics, electrical applications, controls and motors, electric, gas, water-based, and oil heating systems, heat pumps, commercial and industrial refrigeration, and residential and commercial troubleshooting. They receive hands-on classroom training on industry-standard equipment as well as additional training that prepares them for the EPA Universal certification and NATE exams.

  • Location: West Mifflin, PA (11 miles from Pittsburgh)
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $17,413
  • Program length: 48 weeks

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. The certificate program includes studying the basics of electricity and HVAC/R. Students learn how to install, service, and maintain equipment, troubleshooting, brazing and welding, and green technology concepts. The program begins with the basics, then adds industrial mathematics, circuits, and controls, calculating thermal loads, technical communication, duct and hydronic system design, and industrial science. Students in both programs attend classroom lectures and receive hands-on training. The certificate program requires the completion of 32 credit-hours, and the degree program requires the completion of 66 credit-hours to graduate.

  • Location: Oakdale, PA (15 miles from Pittsburgh)
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $110 per credit for Allegheny County residents; $228.50 per credit for other Pennsylvania residents; $336.50 per credit for out-of-state students. Online students pay an additional $20 per course.
  • Program length: One year for the certificate; two years for the degree

Dean Institute of Technology

Dean Tech offers an HVAC diploma and an HVAC/R Associate in Specialized Technology (AST) degree. Students learn through classroom lectures and hands-on lab training that can be taken through evening classes. Coursework for the diploma program teaches the basics of HVAC with the goal of preparing students for entry-level positions as installers. The associate program builds on the basics with coursework in technical mathematics and electronics, electro-mechanics, sheet metal fabrication and duct design, wiring, energy management principles, and troubleshooting. Graduates of both programs must pass the EPA exam. Job placement assistance is available for all graduates.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Format: On campus
  • Tuition: Diploma $9,950; degree, $24,500
  • Program length: 40 weeks for the diploma; 60 weeks for the degree

Pittsburgh Technical College

The college offers two HVAC programs. The certificate program includes classroom and hands-on training in customer service, reading blueprints and design drawings, ductwork, air distribution, control systems, troubleshooting, and installation, testing, and servicing of residential and commercial equipment. The associate program builds on the certificate program with advanced coursework in those subjects and adds training in psychometrics, load calculations, hydronics, chillers, ethics, and human relations. 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.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: Council for Higher Education
  • Format: Online and on-campus
  • Tuition: $23,000 for the certificate; $32,300 for the degree
  • Program length: 15 to 18 months for the certificate; 21 months for the degree

Rosedale Technical College

Rosedale offers an associates degree in HVAC. The curriculum includes the basics of HVAC and HVAC/R. Additional coursework includes electricity, hydronic heating systems, heat pump diagnostics, troubleshooting, how to read blueprints, thermodynamics, design, sheet metal, and how to analyze control systems. Students receive hands-on training in a fully-equipped lab as well as classroom lectures. The lab includes residential and commercial equipment and tools.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career School and Colleges
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $22,150
  • Program length: 18 months

Triangle Tech

Triangle Tech offers an HVAC/R associate’s degree that combines theory with hands-on training. 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
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $36,724
  • Program length: 16 months

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in Pittsburgh

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

  • Type I: small appliances
  • Type II: high-pressure refrigerants
  • Type III: low-pressure refrigerants

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 & 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 annual fee is $100.

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. The initial fee is $371, and the annual renewal fee is $278. Renewals also require proof of ICC certification for Pennsylvania Standard Master Mechanical Contractor – Exam #670 (Pittsburgh).