El Paso, TX HVAC Trade Schools

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El Paso, Texas (TX) sits on the Rio Grande River, which divides the U.S. and Mexico. It’s the sixth-largest city in Texas and when combined with nearby Las Cruces, New Mexico and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is known as the Borderplex. The area is globally competitive due in part to its status as a large manufacturing center.

Cultural diversity and bilingual workers contribute to El Paso’s economic strength. According to economic reports, “El Paso is a top 20 percent U.S. performing economy and continues to experience positive economic growth by attracting new businesses and helping existing companies to grow.” Multi-faceted manufacturing includes automotive, electronics, and biomedical products. Many of the businesses depend on El Paso’s modern technology and infrastructure. The region, as well, has “evolved into an urban cultural renaissance…with an assortment of outdoor sports, festival, recreation, and entertainment venues.”

Sunny days define the El Paso weather. Although monsoon weather is part of the summer months, the city experiences less humidity than other southwestern areas. Rainfall averages less than ten inches annually. Summers are hot, with daytime temperatures in the high 90s and lows in the 70s. Winter brings relief from the heat, cooling to the 70s in the day and low 40s during the night. Less than an inch of snow falls each month during the winter, except during December, which can average up to three inches. Thunderstorms and wind mark the arrival of spring.

The El Paso wind generates sandstorms that can keep residents inside. Not surprisingly, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) are essential for comfort in homes and businesses. The manufacturing and hospitality facilities often require large-scale refrigeration (HVAC/R) as well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2018) reports that 940 HVAC and HVAC/R mechanics and installers were employed in El Paso. State and local chapters of industry organizations that provide training and support to the technicians include:

  • Mechanical Contractors Association of Texas
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Texas El Paso Chapter
  • Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association
  • UA Journeymen and Apprentices in the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, Local 412

These and similar organizations coordinate with national industry groups and with government organizations to establish educational and licensing standards as well as safety and performance guidelines for the HVAC and HVAC/R industries.

Read on to discover what to expect from an accredited HVAC training program in El Paso, TX, including information on coursework and tuition.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in El Paso, TX

HVAC technicians are experiencing increasing job opportunities nationwide. According to the BLS (2018), the demand for workers is expected to increase by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. That is much faster than the average 7 percent growth projected for all occupations in the U.S. The opportunities for technicians in Texas are increasing at a much higher rate than the national average. Projections Central predicted a 23.5 percent statewide increase for the same decade.

Several factors contribute to the rapid growth of the HVAC industry. Industry standards and environmental concerns mean that older equipment and systems must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded. The complexity of modern climate control systems requires trained technicians to install, maintain, or service. Reliance on sophisticated technology in El Paso necessitates state-of-the-art HVAC equipment and systems. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution is another reason for the increased installation of new equipment and systems.

Technicians with superior troubleshooting skills as well as those who are computer- and electronics-literate generally enjoy the best job prospects. Technicians who specialize in new installations may experience seasonal unemployment if construction declines, although that is not anticipated to happen in the foreseeable future in El Paso. The economy is expanding, generating the ongoing construction of new office buildings, warehouses, hospitality venues, and residences. Maintenance and repair work continues all year, as businesses and homeowners depend on keeping their climate control systems in good operating condition regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in El Paso, TX

The BLS (May 2018) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $47,610 annually. Technicians in El Paso receive an annual median salary of $38,560, but this is regarded as a competitive wage as Texas boasts a cost of living index that is lower than the national rate.

Below is a detailed national, state, and regional salary comparison of HVAC professionals:

United States Texas El Paso, TX
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 25,290 940
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $46,070 $39,010
10th Percentile $29,460 $27,930 $26,210
25th Percentile $36,520 $35,220 $30,040
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $44,550 $38,560
75th Percentile $60,900 $55,630 $46,680
90th Percentile $76,230 $66,090 $54,150

HVAC Apprenticeship Programs in El Paso, TX

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians historically began their careers as helpers and learned their skills through on-the-job training. It is still possible to do so, but most workers now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Formal training and apprenticeships can open up more employment opportunities.

Apprenticeships typically include around at least 2,000 training hours and 144 classroom hours annually for three to five years. The Texas Workforce Commission has compiled general instructions for becoming a registered apprentice. Aspiring apprentices should first find an employer willing to train them. The employer should register with the Commission if they have not already done so. The Commission grants funding for registered programs, classroom instruction, and apprentices.

The City of El Paso has passed a resolution that requires contractors and subcontractors to sign a pledge that they will participate in a certified apprenticeship or training program on public works capital projects greater than $250,000.

Workers seeking HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs in El Paso (and nearby) can find several available through national industry associations such as:

  • 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 are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in El Paso, TX

Students who do not complete an apprenticeship may choose formal training through an accredited training program. Accreditation involves an evaluation of the quality of an educational institution’s program by an independent agency. The evaluation includes both the curriculum and the instructors, and when choosing a school, it is essential to determine if it is accredited and which organization granted accreditation.

HVAC programs are evaluated and accredited by two main industry organizations: HVAC Excellence, which has awarded accreditation to Laredo College (Laredo, TX) and the Lincoln College of Technology* (Grand Prairie, TX). The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has accredited Vernon College (Wichita Falls, TX). These colleges are included in the following profiles due to their accreditation although attending requires El Paso students to commute.

Note: According to the HVAC Excellence website, the accreditation for Lincoln College expired August 2018.

El Paso Community College

EPCC offers an HVAC residential technician certificate program and an HVAC degree program. Curriculum for the certificate program includes instruction in refrigeration principles, basic electricity, gas and electrical heating, blueprint reading and sketching, HVAC controls, and computers.

Students complete 23 credit-hours to earn their certificate and are qualified to seek entry-level employment.

The degree program adds the following coursework: residential air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, air conditioning installation and setup, composition and communication, pneumatics and system controls, math, ethics, electives in humanities and business, and a cooperative education capstone.

Students complete 60 credit-hours to earn their degree. Graduates are qualified to take industry certification exams, such as the EPA Section 608 exam.

  • Location: El Paso, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $125 per credit-hour
  • Program length: Certificate (one year), degree (two years)

Laredo College

Laredo College offers two HVAC/R certificate programs. The first program is basic commercial HVAC/R; and the curriculum includes the principles of refrigeration; HVAC/R special topics; basic electricity; refrigerators, freezers, window air conditioners; residential air conditioning; HVAC troubleshooting; gas and electric heating; and HVAC installation and setup.

A minimum of 32 credit-hours is necessary to earn the certificate. Graduates are qualified for entry-level positions as residential HVAC technicians.

The second certificate is for commercial HVAC/R. Students must complete the coursework for the first certificate. Their additional curriculum includes classes in heat pumps, advanced electricity, residential HVAC systems design, commercial HVAC/R, and a cooperative education capstone. They complete a total of 51 hours to earn their certificate. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as residential or commercial HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Laredo, TX
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $220 per credit-hour
  • Program length: One year for each certificate

Lincoln College of Technology

Lincoln Tech offers HVAC technology diploma day and evening programs. Students complete the following coursework, divided between classroom lectures and hands-on training in a lab: an introduction to climate control, electricity, HVAC/R systems, air conditioning design and layout, commercial refrigeration design and controls, warm air heating, energy efficiency, and green technology systems.

Graduates are qualified for employment in entry-level positions.

  • Location: Grand Prairie, TX
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges; HVAC Excellence (expired August 2018)
  • Tuition: $23,413
  • Program length: 47 weeks

Vernon College

Vernon College offers an HVAC occupational skills award program, an HVAC level I certificate program, and an HVAC degree program. Students learn through a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab.

The program includes classes such as basic electricity, the principles of air conditioning controls, and the principles of refrigeration. The program requires 12 credit-hours to complete.

The curriculum for the certificate program starts with the same coursework as the award program, then adds the following:

  • Residential and commercial air conditioning
  • Gas and electric heating
  • Advanced air conditioning controls
  • Air conditioning troubleshooting
  • Heat pumps

Students finish with an HVAC technology/technician practicum, for a total of 36 credit-hours.

The degree program includes the above coursework and a practicum, with the addition of required general education courses in composition, federal government, mathematics, and public speaking, among others. Students also select three electives, for a total of 60 credit-hours to earn their degree.

  • Location: Wichita Falls, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; PAHRA
  • Tuition: $100 per credit-hour for Willbarger County residents; $145 per credit-hour for other Texas residents
  • Program length: Certificate (32 weeks), degree (two years)

Vista College

Vista offers an HVAC diploma program at several of their campuses, including the main campus in El Paso. Coursework includes: basic craft skills; an introduction to HVAC; the principles of electricity; brazing, soldering, and piping; duct systems; residential and commercial HVAC; heating; commercial refrigeration; and supervisory skills and crew leadership.

The coursework is divided between theory, hands-on-training in the lab, and on-the-job training in an externship.

  • Location: El Paso, TX
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Tuition: $24,100
  • Program length: One year

Western Technical College

Western Tech, a family-owned college, focuses on career development. They offer an associate of occupational studies in HVAC/R technology. The curriculum includes courses in electricity, heating systems, residential and commercial HVAC, and commercial refrigeration.

Coursework comprises 40 percent classroom lectures and 60 percent hands-on-training in a fully-equipped lab.

  • Location: El Paso, TX
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $29,640
  • Program length: Daytime (78 weeks), evening (98 weeks)

El Paso students who are unable to complete an on-campus program may choose online HVAC training. For more information on available online programs, visit the online HVAC training page on this site.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in El Paso, TX

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires HVAC technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain EPA Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. The four types of certifications are:

  • Servicing small appliances (Type I)
  • Servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning (Type II)
  • Servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances (Type III)
  • Servicing all types of equipment (Universal o Type IV)

Practice exams are available online.

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.

Details are available on their websites.

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) requires HVAC technicians to register. Technicians must work under a licensed HVAC contractor and may not advertise their services. Applicants must complete a form and pay a $20 fee. The registration must be renewed annually. Renewal requires a completed application form and payment of $20.

Technicians may voluntarily choose to register as certified technicians. Applicants must submit:

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

Once the documents are approved, applicants must successfully pass an exam based on the type of certification desired. Certification types include:

  • Environmental Air – Class A
  • Environmental Air – Class B
  • Commercial Refrigeration – Class A
  • Commercial Refrigeration – Class B
  • Certified Technician

Each exam requires a fee. Licenses are valid for one year. Renewal requires a completed application form and a $35 fee.

To become licensed, HVAC contractors 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 and practical experience under a licensed HVAC contractor within the past 48 months
  • Submit a completed application form
  • Pay a $115 fee
  • Successfully pass an exam
  • Meet minimum requirement for insurance coverage

Two classes of licenses are available: Class A permits contractors to work on any size project; or 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 form, and a $65 fee.

Finally, the City of El Paso requires all contractors to register. HVAC contractors are classified as mechanical contractors and must be licensed by the state. In addition, they must submit the following:

  • State business registration documents
  • Proof of liability insurance
  • Construction bond
  • Completed application form
  • $102 fee

Registration must be renewed annually.