HVAC Trade Schools in Madison, WI

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Summers in Madison, Wisconsin (WI) are hot and humid. Temperatures in June, July, and August stay in the high 70s and low 80s. The heat is accompanied by more than four inches of rainfall each month. Fall is cooler and less humid, giving way to frigid winters. The daytime high temperatures in December through February stay below freezing and the nighttime lows drop into the teens. Winter months average a foot of snow.

As the capital of Wisconsin and the county seat for Dane County, Madison is home to numerous governmental agencies and organizations, which along with education have long been the foundation of the economy. That’s changing, as the consumer services, biotech, health, and advertising industries are growing. Historic sites, cultural events, and winter sports draw visitors that support a thriving hospitality industry. Agriculture in Madison and surrounding Dane County areas contributes significantly to the local economy. The city has attracted entrepreneurs and startup businesses as well as companies such as Google and Microsoft. Numerous insurance companies have also established their home offices in Madison.

Summer heat and humidity and the cold winters mean that residents rely on heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort in their homes and workplaces. Hospitality venues and the agricultural industry often need the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R) as well. Businesses that depend on technology typically require climate-controlled facilities to keep their electronic equipment functioning correctly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) reports that 760 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in Madison, WI as of May 2018. Technicians and their employers receive training and support either online or from local industry organizations such as:

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc Wisconsin Chapter
  • Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin
  • Madison Area Builders Association
  • Madison Area Mechanical and Sheet Metal Contractors Association
  • Madison Association of Plumbing Contractors
  • Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association
  • Wisconsin Builders Association

These and other industry associations establish educational, licensing, and performance standards designed to ensure the health and safety of members and the public.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Madison, WI

The BLS (2019) expects an average increase of 7 percent in the demand for new employees across all occupations in the U.S. between 2016 and 2026. Opportunities for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians are expected to increase by 15 percent nationwide during the same decade. The demand for new HVAC technicians in Wisconsin is growing at a lower rate than national expectations for this field. Projections Central predicts a 10.9 percent statewide increase in the demand for technicians by the end of 2026.

Growth in the HVAC industry is primarily driven by the construction of new residences and commercial structures. The current emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution also contributes to industry growth as businesses require sophisticated equipment and systems, especially in the newest “smart” buildings.

When new systems are not installed, the old equipment and systems in existing buildings must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet contemporary environmental standards. Modern climate control systems are complex and require trained technicians to install, service, and repair.

The best job prospects generally come to technicians who have honed their troubleshooting skills and those who are proficient with computers and electronics. Workers who specialize in new installations occasionally experience seasonal unemployment. As Madison has a strong economy and continues to attract new businesses, technicians should not anticipate a decline in installations in the foreseeable future. The weather extremes mean that technicians experienced with maintenance and repair can expect to work year round. Businesses and homeowners need to keep their climate control systems in good operating condition regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in Madison, WI

The BLS (May 2019) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $47,610 in 2018. Technicians in Madison, WI received an annual median salary of $53,560. Their earnings are even more favorable when considering that Wisconsin has a lower cost of living than some other U.S. states.

The table below summarizes the national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals:

United States Wisconsin Madison, WI
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 4,900 760
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $52,020 $55,050
10th Percentile $29,460 $32,240 $35,130
25th Percentile $36,520 $40,180 $41,560
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $51,020 $53,560
75th Percentile $60,900 $62,360 $64,810
90th Percentile $76,230 $76,090 $80,510

HVAC Apprenticeships in Madison, WI

Traditionally, technicians learned their HVAC and HVAC/R skills through on-the-job training. That has changed over the years, and most workers now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Their formal training and apprenticeships can open up more employment opportunities for beginning workers. They can also start at higher wages and earn more throughout their career.

Apprenticeships include around 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom work annually for three to five years. The Wisconsin apprenticeship programs are managed by the state Department of Workplace Development. They require apprentices to register before seeking employment. Those who complete an apprenticeship program receive a nationally recognized certificate of completion and are qualified to sit for the state licensing exam.

Two state apprenticeship programs are available to HVAC and HVAC/R apprentices: Environmental Systems Technician and HVAC Installer-Technician. Local apprenticeship committees rather than individual employers accept applicants into either program. Both apprenticeships include 9,000 hours of on-the-job training, 560 hours of classroom instruction, OSHA safety training, and first aid and CPR certification. The programs take five years to complete.

The Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin sponsors a five-year HVAC apprenticeship in Madison. DaveJones, Inc, a Madison subcontractor, provides on-the-job training to apprentices. Wisconsin State Sheet Metal Workers Local 18 (SMART) sponsors five-year sheet metal and environmental service technician apprenticeships through their Joint Apprenticeship Training Commission (JATC) center in Waukesha, WI. Contact information for details is available on their websites.

Plumbers Local Union 75 and UA Steamfitters Local 601 also sponsor apprenticeships, although the programs focus on plumbing (Madison JATC) and steamfitting, (Milwaukee) respectively; HVAC training is incidental.

Additional HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs are 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 Air Rail Transportation (SMART), formerly Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Apprentices are advised to confirm with each organization that the program meets Wisconsin apprenticeship requirements.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Madison, WI

HVAC programs are accredited by two industry organizations. HVAC Excellence has not yet accredited a Wisconsin program. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has awarded accreditation to the following schools:

  • Blackhawk Technical College – Janesville, WI
  • Chippewa Valley Technical College – Eau Claire, WI
  • Moraine Park Technical College – Fond du Lac, WI
  • Western Technical College – La Crosse, WI

Blackhawk Technical College is included in the schools profiled below, as it is the closest school to Madison with industry accreditation.

Blackhawk Technical College

Blackhawk offers a residential HVAC certificate program and an HVAC/R technology diploma program. Students in both programs learn via classroom lectures and hands-on training on state-of-the-art equipment in a lab. Options include completing some coursework online and some of the lab training using the “flexlab” format.

The certificate program includes the following coursework: blueprint reading., codes, computerized HVAC/R design. electricity fundamentals, heating systems. HVAC/R fundamentals, motors and controls, piping, refrigerants, and shop math. Students complete 26 credit-hours in the technical courses as well as general education electives to earn their certificate. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment as residential technicians.

The HVAC/R technology program includes the above coursework as well as advanced classes in each subject. Additional studies include the following: communication, control circuits, electronic energy management, HVAC installation, hydronics, industry exam preparation, and service and troubleshooting.

Students complete 55 credit-hours to earn their diploma and are qualified to seek employment as technicians and other industry-related occupations. Their credits are transferable to a four-year college.

  • Location: Janesville, WI
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $134.20 per credit-hour
  • Format: Online and on-campus
  • Program Length: Certificate (one year); diploma (two years)

Madison Area Technical College

The college offers an industrial mechanic HVAC certificate program and an HVAC/R technology degree. The certificate curriculum includes the following: electrical circuits, HVAC basics, facilities maintenance, industry safety, understanding engineering drawings, fluid power and distribution systems, metal processes, math, industrial electricity and controls, building automation, and customer relations.

Students may attend classes part or full-time. They need 33 credit-hours to earn their certificate. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as entry-level HVAC technicians and installers.

Students in the degree program complete the basic coursework presented in the certificate program as well as advanced classwork in those subject areas. The curriculum also includes: refrigeration fundamentals. EPA training and certification, troubleshooting, forced air heating systems, metal repair techniques, HVAC/R systems design, electrical and mechanical systems, commercial refrigeration systems, and maintenance management.

They also complete non-technical coursework in subjects such as written communication, ethics, psychology, and oral/interpersonal communication, for a total of 64 credit-hours for the degree. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as HVAC/R technicians, system designers and installers, and other industry-related positions.

  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $134.20 per credit-hour
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificate (32 weeks); degree (two years)

Rockford Career College

Rockford, a privately-owned college, is the learning site of Madison Media Institute, which offers an HVAC/R certificate program. Coursework is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. The curriculum includes: HVAC fundamentals, cooling and heating systems, essential service, piping, welding, heat pumps, refrigerants, wiring, air delivery systems, steam and commercial hydronic systems, troubleshooting, commercial and industrial HVAC, building management systems, HVAC system design, and success strategies.

Students are expected to adhere to a dress code and maintain a professional appearance. They complete 60 credit-hours to earn their certificate. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as residential and light commercial HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
  • Tuition: $21,500
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Ten months

Waukesha County Technical College

Waukesha offers a refrigeration service certificate program and an HVAC/R technical diploma program. Coursework for both programs is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. The certificate program includes four courses in commercial refrigeration and one course in basic HVAC electricity, for a total of nine credit hours.

Students may attend daytime or evenings to complete the diploma coursework. The curriculum includes the following: HVAC/R fundamentals, HVAC/R controls, installation, air flow, heat pumps, piping, troubleshooting, psychometrics, hydronics, troubleshooting, design, commercial HVAC, and workplace communication.

Students complete 28 credit-hours to earn their diploma. Graduates are qualified to install, service, and troubleshoot HVAC/R systems.

  • Location: Pewaukee, WI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $136.50 per credit-hour
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: One year

It may be difficult for some residents of Wisconsin to attend an on-campus HVAC program due to time or distance restrictions. Online institutions may better meet their needs. For more information on accredited programs available, visit the online HVAC training page on this site.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Madison, WI

All HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who maintain, service, repair, or dispose of equipment that uses refrigerants must obtain Section 608 certification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Obtaining certification requires passing an exam on refrigerant-handling safety. The four types of certification are:

  • Type I – small appliances
  • Type II – high-pressure appliances
  • Type III – low-pressure appliances
  • Universal or Type IV – all types of equipment

Practice exams are available on the EPA website.

In addition, several industry organizations provide skill-based, employment-ready certifications that are recognized nationally. Three of them are:

Their websites include details about certifications, cost, and requirements. For further information, visit the HVAC certifications page.

As a final note, HVAC contractors must register with the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Registration requires a completed application form and $175. The registration needs to be renewed every four years. Renewal requires payment of a fee of $175.

Technicians who pass an exam that includes the Commercial Building Code and submit proof of specified years of education and work experience may apply for licensing as an HVAC Qualifier. Applicants must complete an application form and pay a fee of $200. The license is good for four years and costs $75 to renew. Licensing as a qualifier permits the technician to work anywhere within Wisconsin without obtaining local certification, licensing, or other approval.

Neither the County of Dane nor the City of Madison requires additional HVAC licenses or registration.

Licensing requirements are always subject to change. HVAC professionals should ensure that they are operating within the requirements of the state as well as the city where they work. Technicians are responsible for keeping license requirements and professional credentials up to date.

Barry Franklin

Before co-founding Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, Barry Franklin was a VP at a Silicon Valley software company, and is an investor in and advisor for Impellia. Barry believes that education and lifelong learning are paramount. Barry met his wife at Carnegie Mellon University and they have two beautiful daughters. He also volunteers for various committees at his kids’ high school.