HVAC Trade Schools in Austin, TX – Degrees, Certification & Pay

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“Austin has the strongest metropolitan economy in the nation,” according to a March 2018 report. The economy is expected to continue growing, too. The city has earned the nickname the Silicon Hills as a result of the technology companies that have made Austin their headquarters. It is also home to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, two examples of businesses in Austin which depend on specialized equipment for climate control.

Additionally, Austin’s hot, often humid weather can make life uncomfortable for residents, so heating, venting, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) services are almost ubiquitous across residences and commercial buildings.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) reports that 2,460 HVAC/R mechanics and installers keep Austin-Round Rock residents comfortable in their homes and workplaces. The Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association, based in Austin, provides support to the workers and their employers.

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians work in private residences, offices, institutions, schools, and hospitals. They install, maintain, and service equipment that controls the flow, quality, and temperature of the air. Technicians must follow blueprints and design specifications. They may also be responsible for verifying that installations comply with state and federal regulations.

Read on to learn more about the career outlook for HVAC professionals in Austin, as well as to discover accredited training programs in the area.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Austin, TX

The demand for HVAC/R professionals nationwide continues to grow. According to the BLS (2019), there is expected to be a 13 percent increase in openings for HVAC workers nationwide between 2018 and 2028. That’s much faster growth than the anticipated average for all occupations during that same time period (5 percent), and Texas is experiencing even faster growth in the demand for technicians. With the anticipated addition of 46,300 HVAC positions around the country, there is convincing evidence that this field will continue to have a bright outlook into the future.

Several factors contribute to the growth of the HVAC and HVAC/R industry:

  • New commercial buildings and residences
  • Increasing sophistication of climate control systems
  • Contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution
  • Replacing, retrofitting, or upgrading older systems
  • Increase in technology that requires climate-controlled facilities

HVAC Worker Salary in Austin, TX

The BLS (May 2019) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730 as of May 2019. Technicians in Austin, TX received an annual median salary of $42,500.

The table below is a comparison of national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals:

The BLS (May 2019) reported the following salary figures in the Austin area:

United States Texas Austin, TX
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 26,690 2,460
10th percentile $30,610 $29,180 $30,700
25th percentile $37,660 $36,680 $34,940
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $45,510 $42,500
75th percentile $62,070 $56,410 $51,690
90th percentile $77,920 $67,510 $61,930

Workers in Texas may receive salaries that are less than national salaries; however, they benefit from the lower cost of living. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center reported that Texas had the 5th lowest cost of living in the United States for 2019.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Austin, TX

To prepare for a career in HVAC, many aspiring workers in Austin, TX attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. The U.S. Department of Labor (June 2020) currently offers 101 apprentice opportunities in Texas, out of which four are in Austin. Not all companies have positions at all times, and other companies may also become sponsors. The Texas Workforce Commission describes how companies and apprentices may apply for registered apprenticeships.

Local chapters of industry associations are a source of apprenticeship programs as well. These include, but are not limited to:

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

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

Another common path is enrolling in an HVAC school in Austin. When choosing a program, it is essential to determine if it is accredited, and if so, through which agency. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the curriculum and the instructors. Certain standards must be met before accreditation is granted.

Two organizations evaluate and accredited HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). HVAC Excellence has granted accreditation to Laredo Community College in Laredo and Lincoln College of Technology in Grand Prairie. PAHRA has granted accreditation to Vernon College in Wichita Falls.

As of now (June 2020), neither organization has accredited an Austin school, although most of the below options boast regional accreditation from reputable sources.

Austin Career Institute

The Austin Career Institute offers two HVAC programs. The first is a residential heating and air conditioning certification program (340-hour) and the second is a residential and commercial HVAC and commercial refrigeration certification program (720-hour). Graduates of both programs receive technician diplomas and may be qualified to apply for Texas Department of Licensing as Certified ACR Technician licensees.

Students learn job safety, the use of tools, and trade math. They then study the basics of HVAC and HVAC/R equipment and systems, electrical, reading blueprints and schematics, troubleshooting, and customer service. While core concepts and principles are taught in the classroom, students get an opportunity to apply their learning in lab sessions. Graduates may be qualified for entry-level positions. Classes are offered in English and Spanish and are available on weekends for the convenience of employed students.

  • Location: Austin, TX
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Residential heating and air conditioning program (4.5 months); residential and commercial HVAC and commercial refrigeration (nine months)
  • Estimated Tuition: HVAC ($6,995); HVAC/R ($21,995)

Austin Community College

Austin Community College offers three programs in HVAC/R technology. Students may receive an occupational skills award, a level 1 certificate, or an associate of applied science (AAS) degree.

Students in the skills award program complete 12 credit-hours of basic electricity and the principles of air conditioning controls and refrigeration. Courses in this award can be applied towards Austin Community College’s level 1 certificate and associate of applied science in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration technology.

The certificate program is made up of 25 credit-hours, including courses such as basic electricity for HVAC, air conditioning control principles, refrigeration principles, residential air conditioning, gas and electric heating, and advanced electricity for HVAC. Students participate in an internship on completion of their coursework.

Students in the AAS degree program complete the above coursework, and hands-on work with the addition of training in commercial refrigeration, commercial air conditioning, heat pumps, industrial air conditioning, the design of residential air conditioning systems, special HVAC/R topics, United States history, English composition, college math, and philosophy. Students also complete an internship for a combined total of 60 credit-hours.

The college has an extensive selection of online courses. After consultation with their advisor, students may be able to take their non-HVAC coursework online. The HVAC coursework and labs must be completed on-campus.

  • Location: Austin, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Occupational award (one semester), certificate (two semesters), AAS degree (four semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($85 per credit-hour); out-of-district ($361 per credit-hour); out-of-state and international students ($434 per credit-hour)

Central Texas College

Central Texas College offers four HVAC programs: a level 1 certificate for HVAC technician assistants, a level 1 certificate in residential HVAC/R, a level II certificate in HVAC, and an associate of applied science (AAS) degree for HVAC/R mechanics and repairers. All programs have an internship option, so students can acquire hands-on training. These programs prepare students to work in commercial and residential air conditioning and refrigeration. They provide students with hands-on and industry-approved training, with the latest equipment and techniques.

The 19-credit-hour level 1 residential HVAC technician assistant certificate curriculum includes instruction in refrigeration principles, basic electricity, gas and electric heating, residential air conditioning, and air conditioning control principles.

Students who earn their certificate of completion are eligible to take the coursework for the 20-credit-hour residential HVAC/R certificate. Their additional coursework includes heat pumps; air conditioning installation, startup, and troubleshooting; advanced electricity; and residential air conditioning system design.

The 45-credit-hour level II HVAC certificate curriculum includes the above courses, as well as commercial air conditioning and refrigeration. Students must also complete an internship.

The 60-credit-hour AAS degree program updates the technical information in the certificate curricula. In addition to an internship, students are also required to take contemporary mathematics, English composition, the federal government, and a humanities elective. Graduates must be prepared to take relevant industry tests and certifications.

  • Location: Killeen, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies from one to four semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($90 per credit-hour); out-of-district ($113 per credit-hour)

Southern Careers Institute

The Southern Careers Institute offers the HVAC program training students for a career in both residential and commercial HVAC services, opening up more opportunities for students. They develop knowledge and skills in installing, maintaining, restoring, and repairing equipment for temperature control for commercial and residential properties.

Made up of 74.50 credit-hours, the program prepares its graduates for a career in the field of air conditioning, heating systems, and refrigeration. Courses include an introduction to HVAC, heating and cooling, venting and ducting, diagnostics and maintenance, hydronics, and troubleshooting. Students will also receive instruction in the important aspects of green technology and the future of the HVAC field.

Graduates of the program can go on to become registered HVAC technicians through the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and can take up entry-level jobs in residential or commercial units. Students learn about various different types of heating and cooling systems, and also learn about piping using varied materials.

After graduation, students may be eligible for numerous professional certifications.

  • Location: Austin, TX
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 36 to 48 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $20,025

Skillpoint Alliance

Skillpoint Alliance is a non-profit organization devoted to workforce development. It offers HVAC training among other trade skills. Students start with instruction in construction math, job safety, and how to use tools. The HVAC curriculum includes hands-on training and coursework in commercial, industrial, and residential equipment and systems. Additionally, they learn building codes and regulations, troubleshooting, pipe fittings, and ducting.

Eligibility requirements include proof of right to work in the US; proficiency in English, reading, and math; a GED or HS diploma; and being <200% the federal poverty line.

On completion of the program, participants can sit for the Environmental Protection Agency 608 Universal exam. Graduates obtain the OSHA 10 certification during the course of the program and can apply for their ACR technician licensing through the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration (TDLR). Classes are available in Spanish and English and must be completed on-campus.

  • Location: Austin, TX
  • Accreditation: N/A
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact Skillpoint for a customized assessment

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Austin, TX

Federal law requires all HVAC technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain 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 on the size and type of equipment. The Universal certification allows technicians to work on all equipment. Various organizations offer classes and administer the exam.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations such as:

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

Details of certifications, qualifications, and fees are available on the HVAC certification guide.

As a final note, the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration (TDLR) is responsible for licensing air conditioning and refrigeration contractors. Applicants must have proof of “48 months of practical experience in air conditioning and refrigeration work under the supervision of a licensed air conditioning and refrigeration contractor within the past 72 months,” pass an exam, and pay a fee.

A Class A license allows them to work on any size unit. The Class B license restricts licensees to cooling systems of 25 tons or less and heating systems of 1.5 million BTUs/hour or less. Contractors must complete eight hours of approved continuing education units annually to renew their license.

Also, the City of Austin requires HVAC contractors to present their state license in person at their offices and pay a fee for work permitting. All HVAC professionals are encouraged to verify that they have all necessary credentials prior to working.

Farheen Gani

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).