HVAC Training Schools in Seattle, WA

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The home of the first Starbucks Coffee is blessed with relatively moderate weather. Summer temperatures in Seattle, WA are in the 60s and 70s with an occasional spike into the 90s. Winter temperatures hover in the 40s and as any Seattleite knows, freezing conditions and snowfall are rare, but rainfall is frequent. In fact, the Emerald City receives around 37 inches of rain a year and as a result, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) companies flourish, as do those providing refrigeration service (HVAC/R).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2016), 3,350 Seattleites were employed as HVAC installation, mechanical, and maintenance workers. To support these professionals, there’s an array of organizations offering training and support in the area, including the Mechanical Contractors Association of Western Washington and the Local 32 Plumbers and Pipefitters Union of Seattle. Additionally, there are local chapters of renowned national associations, including the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA); the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC); the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES); and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). These organizations work with people in the industry and government organizations to establish educational and licensing standards. Furthermore, they serve all aspects of the HVAC and refrigeration industries by offering continuing education, professional advocacy, apprenticeship programs, networking opportunities, discounts on services, and other benefits.

HVAC professionals in Seattle have a variety of responsibilities. They travel between job sites installing, servicing, maintaining, and repairing commercial and residential equipment. Their typical responsibilities include:

  • Installing wiring, ducting, and piping
  • Reading and following blueprints
  • Ensuring that equipment complies with local and federal regulations
  • Testing circuitry and components of equipment
  • Calibrating controls
  • Performing heat load and loss calculations
  • Educating customers on energy conservation
  • Maintaining complete service records
  • Soldering or brazing parts

This guide details the bright employment outlook for HVAC professionals in Seattle, WA, including discussions of salary prospects, educational programs, and local licensing information.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Workers in Seattle, WA

The demand for HVAC technicians nationwide continues to grow. According to the BLS (Oct. 2017), the number of openings for HVAC professionals is expected to swell 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, substantially faster than the average growth expected across all occupations during that time period. It’s worth noting that Washington state is expected to have even more robust growth in industry. In fact, Projections Central predicted a 22.1 percent statewide increase in openings for HVAC mechanics and installers between 2014 and 2024, and most of the state’s growth is expected in the Puget Sound region, which includes King County and Seattle. By illustration, WalletHub (June 2017) gave Washington state the #1 position in its economic ratings, which included the number of jobs available. Not surprisingly, the economic growth was primarily in the urban parts of the state, with Seattle leading the growth.

HVAC growth is fueled by several factors, including the economy. Every new office or residence requires climate control. Existing buildings need to have obsolete equipment replaced or retrofitted. The emphasis on energy conservation and pollution reduction means that systems have to be regularly serviced and maintained. HVAC professionals work indoors and outdoors, sometimes in adverse weather conditions. They may also have to work in cramped areas that force them into awkward positions. It’s worth noting that technicians may experience a higher rate of injury than workers in other trades. Injuries can include electrical shocks or muscle strains from moving heavy equipment.

The BLS reported that approximately nine percent of HVAC/R technicians are self-employed. The remaining technicians are employed by contractors, schools, or retail and wholesale companies. Technicians usually work full time, although many put in overtime hours in evenings or on weekends during seasons of peak demand.

The city of Seattle is often included as part of two larger BLS-designated metropolitan areas: Seattle-Bellevue-Everett and Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue. The population and new jobs in these areas are increasing daily, according to a feature article in The Atlantic (Nov. 2017). Participation in global markets and the digital economy contribute the vitality of Seattle businesses. The Seattle metropolitan areas are home to numerous lucrative corporations, including Amazon, Boeing, Costco, Expeditors International, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Paccar (Makers of Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks), Starbucks, and Weyerhaeuser. Notably, these are all Fortune 500 companies.

To best illustrate the thriving demand for HVAC workers in Seattle, turn to an online job site. For example, Indeed (Nov. 2017) listed hundreds of local openings for HVAC/R technicians. One company was looking specifically for an entry-level apprentice, preferably one with coursework. At least two companies were offering up to $5,000 signup bonuses for experienced HVAC technicians. Most of the positions were for light commercial or residential equipment technicians. The Seattle-based listings on Monster (Nov. 2017) were for technicians with refrigeration or engineering experience. The majority of the listings were from governmental agencies and schools rather than from contractors.

HVAC Worker Salary in Seattle, WA

The BLS (May 2016) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median annual salary of $45,910. By comparison, HVAC workers in the Seattle metropolitan areas were paid annual median salaries in excess of $67,000. Of course, they need the higher pay due to the higher cost of living in the area. Here is a breakdown of the salary percentiles for HVAC mechanics and installers across the country:

United States: (294,730 HVAC workers): $48,320 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,440
  • 25th percentile: $35,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,910
  • 75th percentile: $58,960
  • 90th percentile: $73,350

In hourly figures, these equated to:

US: $23.23 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $13.67/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.04/hr.
  • 50th percentile median): $22.07/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.35/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $35.26/hr.

Notably, these workers commanded much higher average salaries and percentiles in Washington state:

Washington (4,070 HVAC workers): $57,020 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $32,840
  • 25th percentile: $41,510
  • 50th percentile (median): $55,450
  • 75th percentile: $69,350
  • 90th percentile: $86,290

WA: $27.42 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $15.79/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $19.96/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $26.66/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $33.34/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $41.48/hr.

Finally, the BLS also designated two metropolitan regions with the following numbers of HVAC workers employed, average salaries (annual and hourly), and percentiles:

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett: (1,470 HVAC workers): $67,720 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $44,950
  • 25th percentile: $56,320
  • 50th percentile (median): $67,370
  • 75th percentile: $79,660
  • 90th percentile: $94160

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett: $32.56 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $21.61/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $27.08/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $32.39/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $38.30/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $45.27/hr.

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue: (1,880 HVAC workers): $68,910 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $44,250
  • 25th percentile: $55,820
  • 50th percentile (median): $67,420
  • 75th percentile: $80,720
  • 90th percentile: $97,450

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue: $33.13 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $21.27/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $26.83/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $32.42/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $38.81/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $46.85/hr.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Seattle, WA

Although inexperienced workers can obtain positions as trainees, there are significantly more opportunities for those who have completed an apprenticeship program. These offer the benefit of paying students as they learn. Apprentices must register with and be approved by the Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council (WSATC). Any workers who are not registered apprentices are regarded as journey-level workers and must be paid the prevailing journey-level wage. Registered apprentices are paid prevailing wages for apprentices, which are based on the number of accumulated hours. After registration, apprentices then can enter the program of their choice. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries shows 12 active programs (Nov. 2017) statewide for HVAC/R applicants. Each is designed to teach a particular skill, either through coursework or hands-on experience. The time to completion varies by program.

An increasing number of aspiring HVAC workers are enrolling in accredited programs. Accreditation ensures that what is taught meets industry standards. HVAC accreditation can be granted by:

Each sets their own guidelines for the approval process. Notably, PAHRA has granted accreditation to one school in the area. Bates Technical College of Tacoma offers a certificate of competency or an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree in HVAC/R. Both programs require passing grades in the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ACRI) exams to graduate.

The certificate program requires 99 credit-hours, which include HVAC/R fundamentals, science, and troubleshooting. Students also learn about:

  • Tools and equipment
  • Electrical systems and components
  • Soldering and brazing
  • Heat pumps
  • Drafting and blueprints
  • Chilled water systems
  • Hydronic heating systems
  • Cooling towers
  • Thermal storage
  • Commercial refrigeration
  • Industry math
  • Welding and ducting

The A.A.S. program requires 103 credit-hours and includes additional classes on system design, sizing, and layout. Tuition for 2015-16 was $120.32 per credit-hour. Books, supplies, labs, exams, and other fees are in addition to the basic tuition. The college has various programs in place to help students with tuition costs. All amounts are subject to change.

The HVAC Business & Technical Institute of nearby Kent, WA provides a wealth of technical classes in various areas. The HBTI boasts an innovative technical training lab, exceptional instructors, and employment-ready certification courses. For example, it offers a comprehensive electrical circuits and controls course for $595; gas and electrical furnaces for $595; heat-pump, A/C and refrigeration for $695; duct design and airflow troubleshooting for $495; and NATE certification courses for $425 (including relevant tests), among other hands-on instruction. Notably, the school has recognition from NATE, the ACCA, and the EPA for excellence in training.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Seattle, WA

Federal law requires all HVAC technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. Certifications are defined as follows:

  • Type I – technicians may work on small appliances
  • Type II – technicians may service high-pressure and very high-pressure appliances
  • Type III – technicians may service low-pressure appliances
  • Universal – technicians may service all types of equipment

Testing is provided by various industry organizations. The state of Washington does not require technicians to obtain an HVAC license. However, technicians are required to have a trainee or journey-level electrical license. Additionally, the City of Seattle may require refrigeration and gas piping licenses, as well as an electrical license. Technicians start with a trainee license. Applicants are not required to have experience or coursework to receive the license. Trainees must renew their license every two years until they pass the tests to achieve journey-level electrical licenses. They are required to have 24 hours of continuing education a year.

The next step is to obtain a 06b electrical license, which is a restricted journeyman license. It requires 2,000 hours of supervised work with a certified electrician and passing a test. Licensees are then able to work without supervision on 240v 120a single phase systems. Technicians performing commercial work must obtain a 06a journey-level electrical license. These applicants must have 4,000 hours of documented work and pass a test. Once licensed, they are not restricted to systems on which they may work. Both licenses require specified continuing education hours of coursework and renewal.

Seattle also has three levels of refrigeration licensing:

  • Journey refrigeration mechanic – technicians are allowed to install, repair, or alter refrigeration or air conditioner equipment
  • Refrigeration operating engineer – technicians are limited to working on systems in specific buildings that are owned or operated by their employer
  • Refrigeration and air conditioning contractor’s license – contractors may install, repair, or alter refrigeration or air conditioning equipment

Some Seattle HVAC technicians must also obtain gas piping licenses. All licenses require testing, fees, and must be renewed annually. Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations. These include, but aren’t limited to:

Requirements and fees for the various certifications vary. To learn in-depth about national certifications, please visit the main HVAC credentialing page.