HVAC Trade Schools in Austin, TX

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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 2017) reports that 1,530 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 air. Technicians must be to 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 (2018), there is expected to be a 15 percent increase in openings for HVAC workers nationwide between 2016 and 2026. That’s much faster growth than the anticipated average for all occupations during that same time period (7 percent), and Texas is experiencing even faster growth in the demand for technicians. In fact, Projections Central predicted a 29.4 percent statewide increase for the decade ending in 2024.

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 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2018) reported that HVAC/R mechanics and installers in the U.S. received a median salary of $47,080 annually. Here are the local hourly and annual salary comparisons as calculated by the BLS (May 2017):

State of Texas: (23,520 HVAC workers): $45,410 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,900
  • 25th percentile: $34,310
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,260
  • 75th percentile: $53,870
  • 90th percentile: $65,340

$21.83 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $13.41/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.49/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $20.80/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $25.90/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $31.41/hr.

Austin-Round Rock (1,530 HVAC workers): $41,880 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,410
  • 25th percentile: $34,550
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,310
  • 75th percentile: $49,170
  • 90th percentile: $56,720

$20.13 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $13.66/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.61/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $20.34/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $23.64/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $27.27/hr.

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 was the 11th most affordable state in the country, boasting particular savings in housing and groceries relative to other regions.

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. Twenty-two Texas companies are currently listed as HVAC apprentice sponsors (2018), two of which 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 accredit 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 mid-2018, however, neither organization has accredited an Austin school, although most of the below options boast regional accreditation from reputable sources.

The Austin Career Institute offers two HVAC programs. The first is a residential heating and air conditioning certification program and the second is a residential and commercial HVAC and commercial refrigeration certification program. 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. Students learn the concepts and principles, then practice what they’ve learned in lab classes. Graduates may be qualified for entry-level positions. Classes are offered in English and Spanish and is 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 HVAC, 4.5 months; commercial HVAC/R nine months
  • Estimated Tuition: HVAC $6,995; HVAC/R $21,995

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 award program complete 12 credit-hours learning basic electricity and the principles of air conditioning controls and refrigeration. The certificate program includes the basic principles, with the addition of residential air conditioning, gas and electric heating, and advanced electricity. Students participate in an internship at the completion of their coursework, for a combined total of 25 credit-hours.

Students in the AAS degree program complete the above coursework and hands-on experience 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: $67 per credit-hour

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.

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 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 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 may 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: $90-$113 per credit-hour

The Southern Careers Institute offers an undergraduate certificate in HVAC. Coursework includes job safety, troubleshooting, reading blueprints and schematics, air conditioning technology, heating and venting systems, refrigeration systems, green technology, and customer service. Classes are available in the evenings or during the day.

  • Location: Austin, Harlingen, San Antonio
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 36 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $19,925

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.

Graduates are qualified to apply for OSHA 10 certification and ACR technician licensing, which is available through the Texas Department of Licensing. 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: Not disclosed

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 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 available, qualifications, and fees are available on their websites.

As a final note, the Texas Department of Labor Relations 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.