Brownsville, Texas HVAC Degrees & Schools

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Brownsville, Texas (TX), was founded in the 1800s on the northern side of the Rio Grande River. It’s located on the southern tip of land that eventually became the state of Texas. That tip extends into the Gulf of Mexico, putting Brownsville on the Gulf Coast and making it a port city. Matamoros, Mexico, borders the southern side of the Rio Grande. The region is also known as the Rio Grande Valley. The town has grown from a few struggling settlers to one of Texas’s largest cities. It’s part of the Matamoros-Brownsville Metropolitan Area and is the county seat of Cameron County.

The Port of Brownsville, a deep-water port, plays a significant role in the area’s economy. It’s a “foreign trade zone” and supports international import and export trade for a vast range of products. The aerospace industry is another significant contributor to the economy, particularly since the establishment of the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site. Education, gas and oil, governmental services, healthcare, manufacturing, retail trade, and technology keep the economy diverse. The area’s history has led to numerous listings on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also the site of two nature preserves, which draw additional visitors to Brownsville.

Although Brownsville is close to the Chihuahua Desert, its proximity to the Gulf Coast has a greater influence on its climate. It’s designated as a humid subtropical area. The long summers are hot and muggy. Winters are shorter and cooler. The average highs during the summers reach the mid-90s F during June and don’t start cooling until October. Record highs have spiked into the 100s every summer month. Winters are relatively cooler, with average highs in the 70s. Spring and fall are consistently in the 80s. The lows drop into the mid-50s during December and January. Rain falls every month, ranging from one to two inches during most months. However, more than five inches falls during September. The total annual rainfall averages almost 27 inches. The average relative humidity rarely sinks below 75 percent. The UV index is in the moderate exposure range (3-5) only during December and January. It’s in the extreme risk (11+) range from April through August and in the high to very high (6-10) range during the remaining months.

The high humidity during the summer heat and winter coolness frequently keep Brownvillians indoors. The high UV index ratings also limit the time they can spend outside. They rely on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort in their homes and workplaces. Educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and manufacturing complexes frequently add refrigeration (HVAC/R) to improve their climate control. Historic sites often need enhanced climate control to protect their artifacts and structures. The hospitality and entertainment venues and the retail businesses typically add refrigeration for the comfort of their customers. Technology-related businesses and facilities often require specialized systems and equipment to keep their electronics operating correctly.

Workforce data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2023) shows that 280 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed in the Brownsville-Harlingen area as of May 2022. The technicians and their employers receive resources and support from the following national, state, and local industry groups:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of Texas (MCATexas)
  • Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association (TACCA)
  • TEXO, The Construction Association
  • UA Local 211 Welders & HVAC Service Techs

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

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Brownsville, TX

The BLS (2023) predicts a 6 percent increase in the nationwide openings for trained HVAC and HVAC/R technicians between 2022 and 2032. That’s faster than the average for all occupations (3 percent) and equals an average of 37,700 new positions.

The construction of new commercial and residential buildings is the primary reason for the growth of the HVAC industry. Renovating and remodeling existing buildings also contribute significantly to increased employment opportunities. Aging or obsolete climate control systems and equipment typically must be updated, retrofitted, or replaced. Brownsville “is experiencing an economic boom” and is encouraging growth with a “start-up incubator and entrepreneurial resource center” for new businesses. New industries, especially those based on technology, and evolving regulations occasionally make it necessary to replace systems in recently built structures. The emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction additionally contributes to industry growth.

Many homeowners and businesses also expect “smart” buildings, whether they are constructing a new structure or remodeling/renovating an existing one. Installation of high-tech HVAC and HVAC/R systems is usually incorporated as part of all construction. The increasing complexity of contemporary climate-control equipment and systems requires trained installation, service, and maintenance technicians. Brownsville technicians need superior troubleshooting abilities and comprehensive computer and electronics skills to obtain the best job opportunities.

If new construction declines, technicians specializing in new buildings may occasionally experience unemployment. A decline is unlikely in the foreseeable future in Brownsville due to the City’s encouragement in providing entrepreneurship opportunities and its ongoing efforts to attract new businesses. Additionally, increasing quantities of products continue to move through the Port of Brownsville, making the port “a significant driver of opportunities today and in the future.”

Technicians specializing in maintaining, servicing, and repairing equipment and systems rarely experience unemployment regardless of the economy, as the weather makes year-round climate control essential for businesses and homeowners.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Brownsville, TX

The BLS (May 2022) workforce data indicates that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally earned an annual median salary of $51,390. Technicians in the Brownsville-Harlingen area earned an annual median salary of $37,650. The wage difference isn’t as significant as it appears, as the 2023 cost of living in Texas is lower than in other American states, and the cost of living in Brownsville is more than 25 percent lower than it is nationally.

The BLS (May 2022) data for regional, state, and national HVAC professionals are as follows:

United States Texas Brownsville- Harlingen, TX
Number of HVAC professionals employed 374,770 30,670 280
Average Annual Salary $57,460 $51,790 $40,040
10th Percentile $36,170 $34,940 $27,560
25th Percentile $44,100 $39,330 $30.800
50th Percentile $51,390 $48,720 $37,650
75th Percentile $65,630 $59,790 $44,970
90th Percentile $82,630 $74,980 $55,790

HVAC Apprenticeships in Brownsville, TX

In years past, aspiring technicians sought employment as helpers and learned the trade through hands-on training. That’s no longer feasible as few positions are available for untrained workers. Most workers now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Formal training gives workers increased job opportunities. They potentially start at higher wages and earn more throughout their career.

Time invested in classes varies according to the level of expertise sought. Apprenticeships include specified hours of on-the-job training, typically 2,000 hours, and classroom work, usually 144 hours, annually for three to five years.

The Texas Workforce Commission Office of Apprenticeship provides information and resources for apprentices and employers. When this article was written in November 2023, they were testing a program designed to provide tax refunds to employers who hire apprentices. They additionally have grants in place for training programs. They also sponsor ApprenticeshipTexas, which helps create opportunities to become registered apprentices. maintains a database of apprenticeships nationwide. They don’t currently list apprenticeships near Brownsville, but the listings are continually updated.

UA Local 211 offers apprenticeship training at three locations, including a five-year program at Harlingen. Apprentices are placed with contractors for on-the-job training and attend classes two nights a week. Graduates are awarded journeyman status.

Workers unable to attend a local HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship program may find that training offered by industry associations such as the following will meet their needs:

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

Each organization provides details of programs offered, schedules, and fees on its website.

Accredited HVAC and HVAC/R Schools in Brownsville, TX

Aspiring apprentices who are seeking formal schooling should select an institution that has been accredited. Accreditation means that an independent agency has evaluated the curriculum and instructors of the institution for quality. HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) accredit HVAC programs.

HVAC Excellence has accredited Laredo College, Laredo, and Lincoln College of Technology, Grand Prairie. PAHRA has accredited Vernon College, Wichita Falls. All the schools would require lengthy commutes for Brownsville students; however, Laredo is included in the profiles below due to its accreditation. Other reputable agencies have accredited the remaining profiled schools.

Laredo College

Laredo College offers three HVAC/R certificate programs via the industrial technology pathway, as follows:

  • HVAC/R assistant certificate I – 15 credits (four months)
  • Residential HVAC/R certificate II – 28 credits (one year)
  • Commercial HVAC/R certificate II – 41 credits (18 months)

The programs include classroom studies coupled with hands-on practice in the lab.

The HVAC/R assistant certificate program prepares students to seek employment as entry-level technicians. The coursework includes refrigeration principles, basic electricity, refrigerators, freezers, window A/C, and preparation for the EPA 608 certification exam.

Students in the residential HVAC/R program and the commercial HVAC/R program first complete the same coursework as those in the HVAC/R assistant program. Additional coursework for the residential HVAC/R program includes gas and electrical heating, advanced electricity, residential air conditioning, and HVAC/R technology cooperative education.

Additional coursework for the commercial HVAC/R program includes heat pumps, commercial air conditioning, air conditioning installation and startup, energy management, air conditioning troubleshooting, commercial refrigeration, and HVAC/R technology cooperative education. Graduates of these two programs are qualified to seek various positions as HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Laredo, TX
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Estimated Tuition: $220 per credit
  • Estimated Program Length: Varies as noted above

South Texas Vocational Technical Institute

STVT offers an HVAC/R diploma program at several campuses, including Brownsville. Coursework is presented via classroom lectures and hands-on practice in a lab. Graduates are prepared to seek employment as entry-level technicians.

The curriculum includes air conditioning, electrical systems and controls, heating and heat pumps, and refrigeration for 50 credits. Students also prepare for and take the EPA 608 certification exam. The National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) recognizes the program, and students can earn NCCER credentials which increase their employability.

  • Location: Brownsville, TX
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Estimated Tuition: $18,040
  • Estimated Program Length: 10 months

Southern Careers Institute

Although SCI has a campus in Brownsville, the HVAC program is currently available only at the Harlingen campus. SCI has a dress code, and students must practice good personal hygiene and maintain a clean, neat, and professional appearance.

SCI offers an HVAC program that prepares graduates for employment as residential and commercial HVAC technicians. The coursework includes trade safety and construction basics, introduction to HVAC, heating and cooling, venting and ducting, electrical, diagnostics and maintenance, hydronics, troubleshooting, commercial and industrial systems, quality and conservation, system design and construction, and crew leadership and placement. Coursework includes classroom lectures, training on various HVAC systems, and practice with troubleshooting equipment.

  • Location: Harlingen, TX
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Estimated Tuition: $18,450
  • Estimated Program Length: 36 weeks

Texas Southmost College

The college offers an HVAC/R certificate program and a degree program. Both programs include classroom lectures and hands-on practice with current technology in the lab.

The curriculum for the HVAC/R certificate of proficiency level one program includes duct fabrication, electricity, refrigeration principles, shop practices and tools, residential air conditioning, air conditioning controls principles, refrigerators, freezers, window air conditioners, and preparation for the EPA Section 608 exam. Students are awarded their certificate after 24 credits.

Students seeking a degree complete all the coursework in the certificate program. They then complete additional technical coursework that includes gas and electric heating, air conditioning installation and startup, air conditioning and refrigeration codes, commercial refrigeration, residential air conditioning systems design, heat pumps, and HVAC/R maintenance technology/technician internship. They also add general education coursework that includes a social and behavioral science elective, composition, public speaking or interpersonal communication, mathematics, language, philosophy, and a culture/creative arts elective. Students receive their degree after 60 credits.

  • Location: Brownsville, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Estimated Tuition: $302 per credit
  • Estimated Program Length: Certificate one year; degree two years

Texas State Technical College

TSTC offers the following programs:

  • HVAC residential service technician certificate – 27 credits (eight months), $5,568
  • HVAC technician certificate – 36 credits (12 months), $8,352
  • HVAC technology certificate – 48 credits (16 months), $11,136
  • HVAC technology degree – 60 credits (20 months), $13,920

The HVAC residential service technician certificate program curriculum includes electricity, refrigeration principles, shop practices and tools, gas and electric heating, air conditioning control principles, residential air conditioning, air conditioning installation and startup, air conditioning troubleshooting, and heat pumps.

The HVAC technician certificate program builds on the residential technician program by adding coursework that includes commercial refrigeration, advanced electricity, and commercial air conditioning. The HVAC technology certificate program adds industrial air conditioning, residential air conditioning systems design, advanced air conditioning controls, and testing, adjusting, and balancing HVAC systems.

Students enrolled in the degree program complete all the technical curricula of the certificate programs. They then add general education coursework that includes composition, a social/behavioral science elective, a humanities/fine arts elective, and an elective of the student’s choice.

  • Location: Harlingen, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Estimated Tuition: As noted
  • Estimated Program Length: As noted

Brownsville students who are unable to attend one of the above schools may find that online institutions can meet their needs. Information on accredited online programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in Brownsville, TX

Federal law requires HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who handle refrigerants to obtain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. Certification is based on the type and size of equipment on which a technician works. The four levels of certification each require technicians to pass a specific exam on refrigerant safety 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

Testing details for each certification are available on the EPA website.

Section 608 certification, as well as other certifications that can increase a technician’s employability, are available from industry organizations such as the following:

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

Details of scheduling and fees are on each organization’s website. There is also more information on the HVAC certifications page.

Texas HVAC technicians must register with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). Certain exceptions, such as building maintenance, are exempt from registration. Technicians must work only under a licensed HVAC contractor and may not advertise their services. Applicants must complete an application, undergo a criminal history check, and pay a fee. The registration must be renewed annually. Renewal requires a completed application and payment of a fee.

All technicians must be either registered or certified. Certified technician is an additional voluntary registration. Applicants must submit the following:

  • Proof of at least 24 months of experience under a licensed HVAC contractor, or
  • Proof of 2,000 hours of an approved certification training program
  • A completed application
  • A $50 fee

Once the documents are approved, applicants must pass a licensing exam and pay relevant fees. Licenses are valid for one year. Renewal requires a completed application and payment of a fee.

Certified technicians may upgrade to a contractor’s license. Applicants must:

  • Have 48 months of practical experience under a licensed HVAC contractor within the past 72 months, or
  • Held a technician certification license for the past 12 months and have at least 36 months of practical experience under a licensed HVAC contractor within the past 48 months, or
  • Have a degree, diploma, or certification in air-conditioning and refrigeration, or
  • Are a licensed engineer or have a degree in mechanical engineering, or
  • Have military training in HVAC or HVAC/R, or
  • Are employed in an industrial operation performing process cooling or heating work for the operation
  • Submit a completed application
  • Pay a $115 fee
  • Pass an exam
  • Meet the minimum requirement for insurance coverage

Two classes of licenses are available: Class A permits contractors to work on any size project; and Class B, which limits projects to cooling systems of 25 tons and under and heating systems of 1.5 million BTUs/hour and under. Endorsements for environmental air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, and process heating or cooling may be added.

Licenses must be renewed annually. Renewal requires eight hours of continuing education, an application, and paying a fee.

The City of Brownsville requires contractors to register. HVAC contractors register as mechanical contractors. They must submit an application, proof of insurance, valid ID, and a copy of their state license. The city does not require payment of a fee.

As regulatory agencies may change licensing requirements, HVAC professionals must confirm that they comply with current state and local guidelines before starting a project.

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.