El Paso, TX HVAC Trade Schools: Programs & Licensure

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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.

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 2019) reports that 970 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 (May 2019), the demand for workers is expected to increase by 13 percent between 2018 and 2028. That is much faster than the average 5 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.

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 also 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 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730 as of May 2019. Technicians in EL Paso, TX received an annual median salary of $38,710.

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 EL Paso area:

United States Texas El Paso, TX
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 26,690 970
10th percentile $30,610 $29,180 $26,210
25th percentile $37,660 $36,680 $30,600
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $45,510 $38,710
75th percentile $62,070 $56,410 $48,520
90th percentile $77,920 $67,510 $57,730

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.

El Paso Community College

EPCC offers three HVAC programs:

Certificate of completion, residential HVAC technician – This 23-credit-hour program helps students to develop skills in the servicing of AC refrigeration, AC systems and units, and furnaces. Courses in this program include blueprint reading and sketching, basic electricity for HVAC, refrigeration principles, gas and electric heating, and air conditioning control principles. Graduates of this program can take up roles such as residential service technicians, apartment service technicians, and HVAC crew leaders.

Certificate of completion, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) – Made up of 30 credit-hours, this program helps students in learning how to service refrigeration, air conditioning, furnaces, freezers, ice machines, and AC systems/units. Graduates of this program can sit for the 410A certification (with a passing rate of 70 percent or better) and 10-hour OSHA safety certification.

Some of the courses in the curriculum are air conditioning control principles, residential air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, refrigeration principles, and gas and electric heating. Graduates of the program are well-equipped to work as HVAC/R technicians, HVAC service technicians, and HVAC crew leaders.

Associate of applied science (AAS) degree in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) – Students in this 60-credit-hour program learn to service commercial AC, domestic/commercial refrigeration, AC systems/units, furnaces, commercial ice machines, and walk-in freezers. Graduates of this program are qualified to take industry certification exams, such as the EPA Section 608 exam.

Courses include blueprint reading and sketching, refrigeration principles, commercial refrigeration, air conditioning installation and startup, cooperative education-heating, air conditioning and refrigeration technology/technician, and pneumatics and system controllers. On successful completion of the program, graduates can take up roles such as HVAC supervisors/managers, HVAC business owners, HVAC technicians, residential service technicians.

Students in these programs are prepared for working in the heat transfer industry as crew leaders or service technicians. They learn how to service commercial AC, domestic/commercial refrigeration, AC systems/units, furnaces, commercial ice machines, and walk-in freezers.

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

Laredo College

Laredo College offers two HVAC/R certificate programs:

The first program is a certificate in basic commercial HVAC/R. The curriculum includes the principles of refrigeration; HVAC/R special topics, basic electricity, refrigerators, window air conditioners, freezers, 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 is a certificate in 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: In-district ($210 per credit-hour); out-of-district ($260 per credit-hour)
  • Program length: 32-credit-hour certificate (one year); 51-credit-hour certificate (two years)

Lincoln College of Technology

Lincoln Tech offers HVAC technology diploma day and evening programs. In this 44.5 credit-hour program, 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.

This program is taught by faculty experienced in the field, and it’s goal is to nurture highly skilled HVAC technicians. The curriculum teaches students to install, maintain and repair temperature control equipment, so they are ready to join the workforce upon graduation.

Graduates of this program will be ready to sit for EPA certification testing and will be qualified for employment in entry-level positions. Students will also learn to work with commercial refrigeration control systems, repair and replace compressors, handle refrigerant piping, and plot air conditioners with psychrometric charts.

  • Location: Grand Prairie, TX
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges; HVAC Excellence
  • Tuition: $24,943
  • Program length: 47 weeks

Vernon College

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

The HVAC occupational skills award program includes classes such as basic electricity, the principles of air conditioning controls, and the principles of refrigeration. The program comprises 12 credit-hours in all.

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 associate in applied science 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: Wilbarger County resident ($180 per credit-hour); non-resident ($225 per credit-hour)
  • Program length: Certificate (32 weeks), AAS degree (two years)

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 program helps students develop skills in diagnosing, repairing and performing preventive maintenance on complex commercial and residential heating, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. The program is taught by experienced faculty with a combined experience of over 160 years in the field.

Graduates of the program are prepared to earn the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations Registered Technician License. Training in this program also includes testing for the three different industry certifications such as: R-410 Safety Certification, EPA 608 Certification, and HVAC Excellence Employment Ready Electrical Certification.

The program opens up several opportunities for graduates. They can take up roles such as air conditioning technician, HVAC controls technician, sheet metal worker, refrigeration technician, HVAC system installer, and building maintenance technician.

Coursework comprises 40 percent classroom lectures and 60 percent hands-on-training in a fully-equipped lab. The curriculum of this 60-credit-hour program includes courses in electricity, heating systems, residential and commercial HVAC, and commercial refrigeration.

  • Location: El Paso, TX
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $29,640
  • Program length: 74 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 or 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.

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.