HVAC Schools in Spokane, WA – Programs, Licensing & Certification

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Settled by Native Americans thousands of years ago, Spokane, Washington (WA) has rebounded from several economic downturns since Europeans established the first trading post in the 1800s. The region’s primary industries relied on agriculture, mining, and manufacturing but today, Spokane is a bustling city at the center of the Inland Northwest.

The economy is diversified and thrives on innovations in research, education, health, and bio-science. Mining and advanced manufacturing still contribute to the economy, but aerospace, agriculture, finance, insurance, and transportation help keep the economy flourishing. The Lilac City is home to four major universities, which are undergoing significant renovations. Local businesses are hiring, and residential construction is booming. The steady economic growth has also contributed to the construction of larger public projects.

Spokane summers are hot and dry with minimal rainfall. The highs can soar into the 90s. Winters are cold and snowy with temperatures often below freezing. Residents and local businesses need heating, venting, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) all year for comfort.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) reports that 460 HVAC/R mechanics and installers were employed in the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley. Local industry organizations, such as the following, provide training and support to the technicians:

  • Inland Pacific Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (IPC-ABC)
  • Spokane Home Builders Association (SHBA)
  • Washington State Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (WAACCA)

Additional support and resources for workers and their employers are provided by national industry associations. Local, state, and national organizations work with others in the industry and government organizations to establish educational and licensing standards. They strive to promote better relations throughout the industry and to maintain high professional standards. They serve all aspects of the HVAC and HVAC/R industries, including safety, performance, and promotion.

Read on to explore the career outlook in Spokane’s HVAC industry, including information about salaries, accredited training schools, and local credentialing.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Professionals in Spokane, WA

Demand for HVAC mechanics and installers is growing nationwide. According to the BLS (May 2019), the need for technicians is expected to increase 13 percent between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the average of 5 percent projected for all occupations in the U.S.

The growth of the HVAC and HVAC/R industry has several components. The primary factor is the increasing sophistication of climate control systems and the need to replace, retrofit, or upgrade older systems. Industries that rely on technology, such as those contributing to the growth in Spokane, frequently require specialized climate-controlled facilities.

The expansion by the universities in Spokane has created an additional need for specialized equipment and systems. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution also contributes to the demand for new installations.

HVAC Salaries in Spokane, WA

The BLS (May 2019) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730 as of May 2019. The median salary in Washington was $56,480, while technicians in Spokane, WA received an annual median salary of $46,820.

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 Spokane area:

United States Washington Spokane, WA
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 6,750
Annual mean wage $51,420 $61,300
10th percentile $30,610 $35,350
25th percentile $37,660 $44,050
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $56,480
75th percentile $62,070 $73,680
90th percentile $77,920 $97,660

HVAC Apprenticeships in Spokane, WA

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

Apprenticeships typically include at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom work annually. Apprentices are paid for the hours worked, and many programs do not charge tuition for the classroom work.

The Washington Apprenticeship and Training Council (WSATC) establishes state regulations in compliance with the federal rules. Apprentices must register with WSATC. Employees who are not, are regarded as journey-level workers and must be paid journey-level wages. Apprentices are paid based on their accumulated hours of training.

Accredited HVAC Programs in Spokane, WA

For formal degree and certificate programs, it is essential to determine if a school is accredited and by which organization. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the program, including both the curriculum and the instructors.

Two organizations evaluate and certify HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence, which has not yet accredited a Washington state program, and Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), which has accredited Bates Technical College, a public post-secondary school located in Tacoma.

Despite the five-hour drive from Spokane, Bates is included in the profiles below due to its accreditation status. Furthermore, there are other programs within Spokane and surrounding areas that boast other reputable forms of accreditation.

North Idaho College

North Idaho College offers an intermediate technical certificate in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) preparing students to take up entry-level jobs. Typical duties of entry-level HVAC/R technicians include working on light commercial and residential HVAC/R systems performing preventative service and maintenance, and equipment installations and repairing tasks.

This 42- to 45-credit-hour program includes courses such as HVAC/R principles, HVACR electrical, HVACR heating, HVACR systems, refrigeration, HVAC/R codes and licenses, occupational relations and job search, fundamentals for writing, introduction to computer applications, and technical mathematics.

Graduates of this program will become proficient in applying safety procedures and techniques for servicing and troubleshooting HVACR systems, installing and repairing fossil fuel combustion systems, fixing oil combustion and electric furnace operations, troubleshooting refrigeration processes, and interpreting electrical schematics and blueprints.

  • Location: Coeur d’Alene, ID
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (the NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Nine months
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($141.50 per credit-hour); (non-resident ($364); non-district ($165)

Spokane Community College

SCC offers an associate in applied science in HVAC/R degree program. Coursework includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in a fully-equipped lab.

This 123 credit-hour program includes courses such as fundamentals of electricity in HVAC/R, HVAC/R electrical applications and lab, fundamentals of heating systems and lab, fundamentals of refrigeration and lab, HVAC/R safety, fundamentals of air conditioning and lab, system performance testing, and lab and system servicing and troubleshooting of heat pumps. Students may complete an optional internship. Graduates are prepared for industry exams and are qualified to receive their electrical trainee license.

Students learn how to troubleshoot and repair electric and gas furnaces, troubleshoot and repair commercial refrigeration and air conditioning systems, and design, install, and commission a basic Direct Digital Control system. On completion of the program, students can also sit for the EPA 608 Universal Refrigerant Handling License.

  • Location: Spokane, WA
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($10,380) non-resident ($12,422)

Bates Technical College

Bates offers an HVAC/R support technician certificate of competency and an HVAC/R technician associate degree program. Both programs require students to pass the Air Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) industry competency exams to graduate. Coursework includes exam preparation classes and graduates are qualified to take other industry exams that increase their employability. They receive 1,100 hours of credit toward the Washington State O6A electrical certificate.

The certificate program requires 99 credit-hours to complete. The program begins with training in HVAC fundamentals, job safety, and tools and equipment. Students progress to learning HVAC/R science, refrigeration systems, electrical components and systems, cooling tower basics, thermal storage, and troubleshooting. They also study heat pumps, hydronics, chilled water systems, and cooling systems, and learn skills such as soldering and brazing, drafting, and reading blueprints. They are also required to take industry math, communication, and humanities electives.

The degree program has two concentration options: welding or sheet metal. Coursework covers the same areas as the certificate program, with additional classes in the chosen option. Additional electives include practical applications and independent projects. The degree program requires 103 credit-hours to complete.

  • Location: Tacoma, WA
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (60 weeks); degree (two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: $127.93 per credit-hour

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Spokane, WA

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

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

Practice exams are available online.

Technicians may obtain additional training and HVAC certifications from industry organizations, which also offer Section 608 testing and certification. These include:

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

Details are available on their websites.

The State of Washington Department of Labor & Industries does not require a specific HVAC/R license; however, anyone working on electrical wiring or equipment must be a certified electrician or a supervised electrical trainee.

Trainees pay a fee and receive a certificate that’s good for two years. Renewal requires 16 hours of classroom education, verified work experience, and payment of a fee.

Applicants must complete an application, submit verified on-the-job experience, meet educational requirements, pass an exam, and submit the required fees. Licenses are good for three years.

Self-employed individuals are generally regarded as contractors. Contractors are required to register with the state. HVAC/R contractors are included as specialty contractors. They may be required to obtain electrical licensing or plumbing certification in addition to their HVAC/R enrollment.

Finally, the City of Spokane requires all businesses located or doing business within the city limits to obtain a license. Applicants must first obtain their state business license, then complete the city business license application. The basic fee for city licensing will be applicable. An additional fee based on the number of employees is also due. Business facilities must also pass a safety inspection by the fire department.

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).