HVAC Training Schools in Houston, Texas – Degrees & Certifications

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With hot summers and a booming construction industry, it’s no surprise that the demand for HVAC installers, mechanics, and technicians is reaching a fever pitch in Texas’s largest city. Consequently, it’s no surprise that Houston is touted as “the most air-conditioned city in the world.”

Not only is there a high-growth employment outlook in Houston’s HVAC industry, but there’s a wealth of professional associations and resources for these invaluable professionals as well. For example, the Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association (TACCA) offers a two-day test preparation course for the Texas ACR/HVAC-R contractors exam with lessons in mechanical code, refrigeration, and more. Since only 35 percent of people pass this exam, the TACCA classes and workbooks can serve as an important resource for qualified HVAC professionals seeking this mandatory credential from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).

HVAC mechanics and installers in Houston take on varied responsibilities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) reports that these professionals must understand the basic refrigeration cycle; test and repair various system components (e.g., humidifiers, hermetic compressors, heat pumps, ductless splits, water pumps, economizers, motors, intake valves, air ducts, electrical wiring); perform heat load calculations; use blueprints and mechanical drawings; make recommendations to clients for energy efficiency; comply with local and federal legislation; keep detailed customer service records; and maintain active credentialing through the TDLR.

To qualify as an HVAC technician in Houston, candidates typically must be at least 18 years of age, have attended a training or certification program, have a decent driving record, and pass a drug screening. While there are generalist HVAC professionals, others choose to specialize in a type of equipment (e.g., geothermal systems, solar panels) or working environment (e.g., residences, commercial structures).

This guide examines how to become an HVAC or air conditioning worker in Houston, including the employment outlook, salary information, and licensing requirements, as well as a detailed look at the array of accredited HVAC schools in the city.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Houston

For HVAC professionals in Houston and nationwide, there’s expected to be an explosion in opportunities in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019), there’s a projected 13 percent increase in openings in this field between 2018 and 2028; notably, this figure is double the average growth anticipated across all occupations during that time (5 percent).

Furthermore, the employment climate in Texas may be even more favorable in this line of work. By illustration, Texas employs 26,690 HVAC technicians and installers, the third-highest number among all US states (BLS May 2019). Additionally, the Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land region boasts the fifth-highest number of HVAC workers among all American metropolitan areas (7,650 employed).

While some of these skilled professionals work usual business hours, other HVAC workers in Houston may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, or holidays, particularly during the high summer season. Also, it’s important to note that HVAC workers incur a higher than average rate of illness and injury than other US occupations (BLS May 2019). This is due to the relatively physical nature of the work, which may expose people to burns, muscle strains, and other maladies. That said, with the proper training and safety equipment, these problems can generally be kept to a minimum.

While employment prerequisites vary, many HVAC job postings in the Houston area call for the following:

  • Associate degree or certificate in HVAC technology or a related field
  • At least two years of experience
  • EPA Section 608 and/or NATE, ICE, or other certifications (discussed in the section below)
  • Valid driver’s license
  • HVAC technician registration or a contractor’s license through the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR)

There’s no shortage of opportunities for qualified HVAC professionals in Houston. As proof of point, Indeed (2020) had 221 relevant job postings in the Houston area, including openings at Arjae HVAC and Mechanical Services, Walmart, Lennox International, Emcor, Exelon Corporation, HTS Texas, and Legacy Air, to name a few. Monster (2020) also had 102 postings at places such as ABM Industries, Weeks Service Company, Conditioned Air Mechanical, and The Kroger Company. In sum, there’s expected to be a high demand in this field in Houston in years to come.

Houston, TX HVAC Technician Salary Data

There’s excellent news for HVAC workers in Houston and beyond. Although this profession generally requires one-to-two years of postsecondary schooling, it is relatively lucrative. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) the 342,040 HVAC workers around the country enjoyed an annual average salary(annual mean wage) of $51,420 with the following detailed wage percentiles:

United States Texas Houston, TX
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 26,690 7,650
Annual mean wage $51,420 $46,840 $50,630
10th percentile $30,610 $29,180 $33,670
25th percentile $37,660 $36,680 $39,740
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $45,510 $47,810
75th percentile $62,070 $56,410 $60,890
90th percentile $77,920 $67,510 $74,020


The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2020) found that Texas had the 14th lowest cost of living in the United States for 2020. Aspiring HVAC workers in Houston are encouraged to keep this in mind.

HVAC Schools in Houston

Traditionally, the two main accreditation agencies for HVAC training schools are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). While HVAC Excellence has accredited programs in Laredo and Grand Prairie and there’s one PAHRA-accredited program in Wichita Falls, there were no programs approved by either of these entities in the Houston area.

That said, since graduating from a program accredited by a specific entity is not a prerequisite for state licensure or employment, there’s a wealth of alternative, affordable training options in the Houston area. Additionally, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) provides institutional accreditation. More than 130 community colleges and universities in Texas are SACSCOC accredited, and some of these are located in Houston.

Houston Community College

Houston Community College provides two one-year certificate programs for aspiring HVAC workers and an associate of applied science degree in heating, air conditioning & refrigeration. These unique programs introduce students to emerging and new technologies in HVAC/R, allowing systems and buildings to operate efficiently.

The basic certificate in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration consists of 21 credit-hours. Students are introduced to topics such as electrical calculations I, basic electricity for HVAC, EPA recovery certification preparation, air conditioning control principles, refrigeration principles, residential air conditioning, and gas & electric heating.

The advanced HVAC/R certificate comprises 42 credit-hours and includes all the above courses, with the addition of advanced air conditioning controls, commercial refrigeration, commercial air conditioning, heat pumps, air conditioning troubleshooting, commercial air conditioning system design, and residential air conditioning systems design.

The AAS in HVAC/R program is made up of 60 credit-hours. It covers coursework from the two certificates discussed above, as well as building control systems and many other electives.

All programs prepare students for the mandatory EPA Section 608 certification. Students may also have the opportunity to receive OSHA 10 certification. Through these programs, students will gain proficiency in maintaining, servicing, repairing, and troubleshooting HVAC and refrigeration equipment, refrigeration controls, and also learn about regulations and safety rules surrounding the industry.

  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (two years); certificates (one year each)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($84.50 per credit-hour); out-of-district ($180.50 per credit-hour); out-of-state ($227.00 per credit-hour)

Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center

The Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center has a location in Houston with a seven-month refrigeration technologies program for aspiring HVAC and refrigeration technicians. The school boasts flexible course scheduling and provides hands-on training. Students will gain instruction in the basics of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, climate control, and refrigeration technologies (HVACR). The school also has a welding specialist program with an option to learn pipefitting.

The curriculum is heavily focussed on hands-on refrigeration & HVAC training, offering courses such as fundamentals of refrigeration; comfort systems – residential; fundamentals of electricity; comfort systems – commercial; advanced troubleshooting techniques, refrigeration systems & practices; and fundamentals of solar.

Upon graduation, students will be well-equipped to handle HVAC projects, as well as the latest refrigeration technologies such as green tech and solar. They can take up roles such as refrigeration technician, commercial transportation refrigeration troubleshooter, commercial refrigeration installer/technician, HVAC/R service technician, refrigeration service technician, and HVAC/R installation technician.

  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Seven months
  • Estimated Tuition: Non-military students ($16,020); military students ($14,568)

San Jacinto College

San Jacinto College also has certificate and degree programs available to prepare HVAC professionals in Houston. In addition to its 16-week HVAC-R certificate program, SJC offers a two-year AAS in air conditioning technology. The program trains students with entry-level HVAC/R skills required in the field of commercial and industrial air conditioning, refrigeration, and heating. Training includes the repair, installation, and maintenance of industrial and commercial refrigeration, air conditioning, and heating equipment.

The associate of applied science degree consists of 60 credit-hours. Some of the courses included are basic electricity for HVAC; refrigeration principles; gas and electrical heating; commercial air conditioning; advanced electricity for HVAC; air conditioning troubleshooting; air conditioning and refrigeration codes; commercial refrigeration; and industrial air conditioning, among others.

Graduates of this program will have the opportunity to take up lucrative opportunities in this booming field. They can take up positions such as residential or commercial technicians, independent business contractors or owners, refrigeration technicians, and maintenance or industrial technicians.

  • Location: Pasadena, Texas
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 4 semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($78 per credit-hour); out-of-district ($135 per credit-hour); non-Texas resident or international student ($210 per credit-hour)

Lone Star College

Lone Star College offers the following HVAC programs in Houston:

  • HVAC Occupational Entry Certificate Level I
  • HVAC & Refrigeration Residential Servicing Certificate Level I
  • HVAC & Refrigeration Commercial Servicing Certificate Level I
  • HVAC & Refrigeration AAS Degree

These programs are designed to prepare students for careers in the technical service of residential or light commercial climate control systems. Individuals will be prepared for basic, entry-level employment in the residential or light commercial HVAC/r service industry.

The occupational entry certificate is made up of 15 credit-hours. It includes courses such as basic electricity for HVAC; refrigeration principles; gas and electric heating; residential air conditioning; learning framework.

The HVAC/R residential servicing certificate consists of 30 credit-hours. Students will study all of the above-mentioned courses, with the addition of EPA recovery certification preparation; residential air condition systems design; air conditioning troubleshooting; heat pumps; and advanced electricity for HVAC.

The HVAC/R commercial servicing certificate comprises 36 credit-hours. It includes all courses from the two certificates mentioned above. In addition, students will also receive instruction in advanced air conditioning controls; commercial air conditioning; commercial refrigeration; industrial air conditioning; and special topics in heating, air conditioning & refrigeration technologies/technician.

Finally, the AAS degree is made up of 60 credit-hours and includes all courses from all the certificates mentioned above. The additional courses included in this program include principles of sociology; composition & rhetoric I; college algebra; and creative arts/language, philosophy & culture.

  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Occupational entry certificate (nine months); HVAC/R residential servicing certificate (one year); HVAC/R commercial servicing certificate (one year); AAS degree (two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: $862 per semester

Lastly, for students residing in rural regions of Texas or who have commitments that prevent them from attending an on-campus program, there are distance-based HVAC training programs available. In addition to online coursework, students typically receive some hands-on training and testing at various sites close to their homes.

To learn more about the web-based training for HVAC workers, check out the online HVAC programs page.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Houston, TX

HVAC training Houston can lead to many different certification options. Eligibility will vary for these certifications, but applicants need to understand that certification is different from a certificate, which may be given as a result of completing an HVAC program, typically a year or less in length. Certification, on the other hand, attests to proven skill sets or knowledge. Some of the certifications that may be available to HVAC school graduates are listed below.

  • HVAC Excellence, founded in 1994, offers certifications for students, experienced technicians, and educators. Its employment-ready certifications may be available to students completing HVAC programs in Houston, but there are also specialty areas, such as in green awareness, that can be pursued.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE), founded in 1997, has certification levels that include installation, service, and senior technician. These can be sought in specialty areas such as air conditioning, heat pumps, and hydronics oil.
  • EPA 608 certification is necessary for those wanting to work with refrigerants, which are ozone-depleting substances. There are four categories of this credential which vary by equipment: type I (small appliances), type II (high-pressure refrigerants), type III (low-pressure appliances), type IV (Universal – for technicians who work with all equipment).

Typically, students have to show proof of their skills through a written exam, but a hands-on test of skills may be required in some cases. There are many organizations beyond HVAC schools in Houston that offer specific skills training or practice tests to prepare applicants for certification exams. The Esco Institute is one such organization. To learn in-depth about these offerings, please visit the main HVAC certifications page.

Also, Texas law requires all HVAC workers to seek registration or licensure through the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). The first level credential is TDLR’s Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (ACR) Technician Registration, which is required for anyone who wants to install, repair, or maintain HVAC systems while working under a licensed HVAC contractor. There is also an ACR certification which is optional and requires passing an exam.

Lastly, for those who seek to advertise their HVAC services in Houston and beyond, an Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractor License is necessary. To qualify for a TDLR contractor license, candidates must pass a comprehensive examination after submitting the following:

  • Proof of 48 months of practical experience under the supervision of a licensed contractor in the previous 72 months
  • $115 application fee

There are various types of HVAC contractor licenses available in Texas which vary by type and size of the system. There are licenses available for specialists in Environmental Air Conditioning and Commercial Refrigeration/Process Heating & Cooling, as well as a combined license for people with abilities in both of these areas. Additionally, there are Class A and Class B licenses; the former allows the licensee to work with any size unit, and the latter allows the licensee to service cooling systems of 25 tons and under and heating systems of 1.5 million BTUs/hour and under.

Finally, Texas has licensing reciprocity with South Carolina and Georgia, and Texas HVAC contractors may provide service work in those states after seeking a letter of good standing from the TDLR. To learn more about how to obtain these credentials, check out the full details on the TDLR website.

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).