Providence, RI HVAC Training Schools

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Providence, Rhode Island (RI) was founded in 1636, making it one of the oldest cities in the US. It is now Rhode Island’s largest city and the state capital. The economy of early Providence was based on manufacturing, particularly textiles, silverware, and jewelry. It is still a major supplier of those goods nationally and internationally but has expanded into service industries. Education and healthcare facilities, as well as financial and commercial services, are now the mainstays of the economy. The technology-based sector is increasing, and the city’s history and diverse culture have led to a growing hospitality industry.

Summers in Providence are warm, with highs in the upper 70s and low 80s. The summer lows average about 20 degrees cooler. The area receives slightly less than 50 inches of rain annually, with up to five inches falling in March. The summer months average three to four inches of rainfall each month, resulting in high humidity. Temperatures begin dropping in October. January is the coldest month, with highs barely above freezing. The lows from December through February sink into the 20s. Snow begins falling in November in small amounts, increasing to nine inches during January and eight and one-half inches in February before decreasing in March to less than an inch during April. Providence’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean means that “Nor’easters” can generate winter blizzard conditions.

Humidity, especially during the summer, keeps Providence residents indoors, even when the temperatures are moderate. The winter storms and cold weather also keeps them indoors. They rely on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) all year long for comfort in their homes and workplaces.

The manufacturing facilities, as well as the expanding hospitality venues, often need the addition of large-scale refrigeration (HVAC/R) to meet their climate control requirements. Educational and healthcare institutions, especially those conducting research, typically require specialized equipment and systems. The technology utilized by many businesses also necessitates additional climate control systems not only for human comfort, but also to keep the electronics operating correctly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 2,140 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed in the Providence-Warwick, RI-MA area as of May 2019. Industry associations such as the following provided resources and support to the technicians and their employers:

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Rhode Island Chapter
  • New England Mechanical Contractors Association (NEMCA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Rhode Island Master Plumber & Mechanical Association (RIMPMA)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)
  • UA Plumbers, Pipefitters and HVAC Local 51

These and similar organizations coordinate with others in the industry and with government agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards for the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Providence

The BLS (May 2019) continues to show an increase in the demand for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians. They project a 13 percent increase in new positions for technicians nationwide between 2018 and 2028. Their predicted growth for all US occupations during the same years is less than half that, at only 5 percent. The outlook for Rhode Island technicians is also favorable, as Projections Central (2020) expects a 10.7 percent increase in new opportunities statewide for the decade ending in 2028.

Construction of new homes and commercial buildings is the primary factor in the growth of the HVAC industry. The renovation and remodeling of existing structures also contribute to industry growth. Aging climate-control systems and equipment must be retrofitted, updated, or replaced to meet current environmental standards. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction is another factor driving the continued growth of the HVAC industry.

New structures, as well as upgraded older buildings, are frequently expected to be “smart.” Smart buildings incorporate sophisticated climate-control systems that require trained technicians to install, maintain, and service. Technicians who are expert troubleshooters, understand high-tech, and are skilled in using computers will have the best job opportunities. If they specialize in new installations, they may occasionally experience unemployment if construction declines.

The economy of Providence remains stable due to its long-standing manufacturing base combined with its contemporary growth of service industries. Although the economy of Rhode Island took a hit from coronavirus pandemic restrictions, the state and the city Providence are recovering.

Developing more housing is part of the recovery, making a decline in construction unlikely in the foreseeable future. Technicians who maintain, service, and repair equipment can expect full-time employment, as businesses and homeowners depend on year-round climate control regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in Providence, RI

The BLS (May 2019) workforce data shows that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730. Technicians in the Providence-Warwick, RI-MA area received an annual median salary of $56,740. Although this is a substantial difference, it’s important to keep in mind that Rhode Island has a high cost of living when compared to other American states.

National, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals as per the BLS (May 2019) are compared in the table below:

United States Rhode Island Providence-Warwick, RI-MA
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 1,610 2,140
Average annual salary $51,420 $57,320 $56,960
10th percentile $30,610 $34,750 $34,580
25th percentile $37,660 $43,830 $43,250
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $57,020 $56,740
75th percentile $62,070 $69,310 $69,680
90th percentile $77,920 $81,550 $80,900

HVAC Apprenticeships in Providence, RI

Although untrained workers may obtain employment as helpers and learn their skills through on-the-job training, opportunities for doing so are decreasing. Workers are now expected to acquire training either by participating in an apprenticeship program or by attending classes. Their training opens up more job opportunities, and trained technicians potentially start at higher wages and earn more throughout their career.

Apprenticeships typically include specified hours of on-the-job training (2,000) and classroom work (144) annually for three to five years. The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training and Apprenticeship Rhode Island both offer information and resources for apprentices and employers.

The Rhode Island Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors sponsors an HVAC apprenticeship at their Rhode Island Construction Training Academy in Pawtucket, RI. The program is accredited by NCCER as meeting their standards for construction education. Apprentices working for ABC members receive a tuition discount.

UA Plumbers, Pipefitters and HVAC Local 51 provides a five-year HVAC Refrigeration Service apprenticeship at their training center in East Providence.

Aspiring workers can find additional HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs from industry associations such as the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Details of programs available, schedules, and fees may be found on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Providence, RI

When selecting a school, it’s essential that students choose one that is accredited. Accreditation is the process by which an independent agency evaluates the curriculum and instructors of an institution. Two industry organizations accredit HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). Neither have currently accredited a Rhode Island program.

Note: The information in this article was compiled in July 2020 during the “shelter-in-place” and “social distancing” restrictions. The schools profiled below have temporarily suspended classes or are transitioning to online options to comply with the restrictions. Questions as to timing and format should be directed to the school administration.


MTTI offers an HVAC/R technician diploma program. Coursework is available during days and evenings. Students learn through intensive classroom lectures followed by hands-on experience. The curriculum includes an introduction to the HVAC industry, safety, tools, electrical circuits, air conditioning, heat pumps, refrigeration systems, oil and gas heating systems, maintenance, service, and troubleshooting, OSHA 10, customer service, computer skills, and job search skills.

Students also complete a 120-hour internship prior to graduation. Graduates are prepared to sit for the EPA Universal certification exam and to take the Rhode Island licensing exams for oil burner technician and gas technician.

  • Location: Seekonk, MA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Tuition: $18,100
  • Program Length: Seven months

New England Institute of Technology

NEIT offers an HVAC/R degree program that prepares graduates to take industry exams and seek entry-level employment as technicians. Students attend classroom lectures followed by hands-on practice in the lab.

The curriculum includes an introduction to the HVAC/R industry, the fundamentals of refrigeration, electricity, commercial and industrial refrigeration, controls, air conditioning, modern heating systems, gas heating systems, blueprints, pipefitting, duct layout, construction safety and health, welding, oil heating systems, renewable energy systems, small business and the law, college writing, service industry communications, and technical math.

Students must also complete general education electives from communication, math, humanities, and science to earn their degrees.

  • Location: Greenwich, RI
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Tuition: $15,750 per year
  • Program Length: Two years

New England Tractor Trailer Training School

The HVAC/R technology program at NETTTS provides training via classroom lectures and hands-on practice with tools and equipment. The coursework includes commercial and residential heating systems, hydronics, air distribution, commercial and residential air conditioning systems, commercial and industrial refrigeration, and HVAC/R electricity.

Students learn how to install, service, maintain, and repair a variety of climate control systems and equipment. Graduates are prepared to sit for EPA certification exams. They also qualify for the school’s job placement assistance service.

  • Location: Pawtucket, RI
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Tuition: $22,345
  • Program Length: One year

Aspiring HVAC professionals in Providence, RI who are unable to attend on-campus schools may find that online institutions can better meet their needs. More information on accredited programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Providence, RI

Technicians who work with refrigerants are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pass an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. The EPA Section 608 certifications are based on the size and types of systems on which the technicians work, as follows:

  • Type I – for servicing small appliances
  • Type II – for servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and automotive air conditioning
  • Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances
  • Universal – for servicing all types of equipment

The EPA provides details and additional information on its website.

Training and certifications, including 608 exams, that increase a technician’s employability are available from industry organizations such as the following:

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
  • HVAC Excellence

Further information is available on the HVAC certifications page.

Rhode Island requires HVAC apprentices to register. Information and resources are available from the Department of Labor and Training Office of Apprenticeship.

The Department of Labor and Training Division of Workforce Regulation and Safety requires HVAC technicians and contractors to obtain licenses. Applicants must first complete an apprenticeship program, pass a trade exam, submit details of their work experience, and pay the relevant fees. Technicians licensed in other states may have the apprenticeship requirement waived under reciprocity agreements, but testing, documented experience, and payment of the fees are not waived.

The Contractor’s Registration and Licensing Board additionally requires HVAC contractors to obtain licensing. Applicants must complete five hours of continuing education, submit proof of liability insurance in the amount of $500,000, and pay a fee.

As licensing guidelines are subject to change, HVAC professionals are encouraged to ensure that they have all necessary state and local licenses before beginning any projects.

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.