The furnace in your basement, the large freezers in your grocery store, the air conditioner that keeps your office cool. What do all of these have in common?
They were installed, repaired or serviced by an HVAC technician. Qualified HVAC technicians are in high demand because their work impacts each of our lives every day. Major cities like Pittsburgh have countless job opportunities. Even smaller cities in Pennsylvania have need for qualified HVAC technicians.
This article will give you an overview of what the HVAC career looks like including job description, outlook and salary. We’ll discuss the types of training available and how to choose from the top accredited HVAC schools in PA.
If you’re looking for a quick way to find an accredited HVAC school, scroll down to our PA HVAC School finder and type in your zip code. The tool will generate a list of HVAC schools in your area!
- The Basics of HVAC/R
- HVAC/R Careers in Pennsylvania
- Accredited HVAC Schools in PA / Pennsylvania
- HVAC certification and licensing.
The Basics of HVAC/R
HVAC is such a common term that many people don’t even think about what it stands for. Here’s the rundown.
- H: Heating
- V: Ventilation
- AC: Air Conditioning
- R: Refrigeration
The “R” element is often left off, but is assumed to be included. We use both the HVAC/R and HVAC acronyms to mean the same thing in this article. Qualified HVAC technicians complete the installation, maintenance and repairs of heating, cooling and air quality systems in a variety of settings. This would include the obvious elements such as furnaces and air conditioners and also the unique equipment such as large-scale freezers and ventilation systems.
Work locations range from homes or office buildings to large commercial facilities like factories or airports. Training from an accredited HVAC school in PA can provide you with the tools you need to be successful in any of these settings!
Narrow or Broad: Some technicians prefer to be a “jack of all trades” in the HVAC world. These are considered generalists. HVAC technicians in rural areas are likely to be generalists because they have to address a multitude of different issues from different types of clients.
Other technicians prefer to specialize in a specific branch of HVAC work. Specialists can boost their reputation by achieving extra training and HVAC certifications. Regardless of the type of work that you choose, there are a variety of HVAC careers available in Pennsylvania.
HVAC/R Careers in Pennsylvania
Here are more details of the career, demand for HVAC technicians and more information to help you decide if an HVAC career is right for you.
As with most careers, the more education and training you have, the higher HVAC worker salary you are eligible for. In PA, HVAC technicians earn a yearly average of $50,000. Entry level HVAC technicians in PA typically earn around 33$ K increasing to $50K for middle level technicians and $76 K for master’s level workers.
Follow this link to find the average HVAC worker salary in different cities in PA.
Demand for HVAC Technicians
Across the United States there is a shortage of qualified HVAC technicians. Technicians who receive training at an accredited HVAC school are in high demand in Pennsylvania.
According to Projections Central website recommended by the BLS, the demand for HVAC/R technicians in PA will increase nearly 6% through 2028, which is higher than the national average. Due to the high demand, there is a great outlook for worker who graduate from an accredited HVAC school.
Becoming an HVAC/R Technician in Pennsylvania
There are many things that you can do to boost your income bracket. More education and training makes you a more marketable HVAC technician. And you should consider attending one of the many accredited HVAC schools in PA.
Beyond the basic requirements, the rest is up to you to decide how much education and training you want to have. There are some training schools that offer a simple, one year course. These provide graduates with the bare minimum and a certification. The best path to becoming a high-earning HVAC technician in PA includes a basic education, a degree from an accredited HVAC training school, and HVAC certification and licensing. Let’s discuss each step of this path.
High School Level Education: The first requirement is a high school diploma or a GED. HVAC technicians rely heavily on basic high school level skills such writing, reading, and math.
Accredited HVAC Degree: There are a few career path options that you could take to become a qualified HVAC technician. An associates or bachelor’s degree from an accredited HVAC school in PA will help you see your way to the top of HVAC salary brackets. We will explain the options and then help you find the right school for you.
If you want to do a quick search of accredited HVAC schools in your area, scroll down to the Search Tool and type in your zip code.
Do I really need an Associates or Bachelor’s Degree
No, but there is higher demand for HVAC technicians with a degree.
Getting a degree is the fastest way to get all of your training done and start earning as quickly as possible. The HVAC trade is becoming more and more high-tech, streamlined, and automated. The work and equipment are more precise and efficient than ever before. In addition, owners are streaming videos to try to learn skills themselves rather than hire a technician for repairs.
A 2 or 4-year degree can provide you with the knowledge and practical skills to keep up with all of the changes and provide expert services to customers.
A Foot in the Door: To gain training in the field, HVAC technicians seek apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are in high demand because they offer such valuable training. Potential employers will often choose the candidate who has a degree over a candidate who only has a certificate. Approaching positions with a degree demonstrates a high level of commitment and perseverance. It also guarantees that you have learned all of the content needed to be an expert HVAC technician.
Ready to Work: With a degree under your belt, you will be prepared to get right to work and provide excellent service. Those who haven’t spent the time studying and practicing may have to learn as they go.
Is It Worth It?
Having an HVAC degree from one of the accredited HVAC schools increases income by at least 27%. Some states also count your hours of HVAC training school towards special certifications like the Journeyman certification.
This degree takes two years to complete and can stand alone or be the first step on your way to a Bachelor’s degree. It’s a great way to get some basic training and get into the field.
Some employers may help fund further education. So, if you get your associate's degree and then find the right job, you might be able to earn a wage plus money towards your Bachelor’s degree!
This 4-year degree is more of an investment but has great return. It is a great choice for HVAC technicians seeking to be in a management position or own their own business someday.
The learning content includes the basics plus all of the extra things that you would need to know to be successful at the next level. The business end of contracting work, energy analysis, environmental impacts, system configurations and ethics and practice theories are all included in the coursework.
Fun Facts: Approximately 5% of HVAC technicians go on to earn a bachelor’s degree. This makes them in high demand and worthy of a higher salary.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
After school, you will need a license to work in the field. Once you’ve landed a great job, you’ll have opportunities to keep learning and boosting your pay scale through certifications. Certifications are additional qualifications earned by demonstrating the knowledge and skill in specialized areas. We’ll cover these in more detail later on.
Accredited HVAC Schools in PA / Pennsylvania
There are many HVAC training schools in PA. It can be daunting to try to narrow down your search.
PICK HVAC has created a search tool to help you locate the top Accredited HVAC Schools in PA. Type your zip code in the search box for a list of schools in your area. Once the list pops up, you can request more information about any of the schools that you’re interested in.
HVAC Training School Price Tag
Depending on which type of degree or training school that you choose, there is a large range in the price. The cost of an associates degree at a smaller school like a community college can be around $5,000. At a specialized HVAC training school, vocational school or university, the cost might be closer to $15,000.
This is certainly an investment, but having a quality education can result in a highly rewarding and good paying HVAC career.
Why Choose an Accredited School?
In order for a school to get accredited, the curriculum is reviewed and approved by a third-party organization. Schools must meet the requirements and prove that they are covering all of the important topics. This ensures that you will have all of the knowledge and skills that you need to be a successful HVAC technician. Choosing a school that’s not accredited puts you at risk for missing important pieces of training.
Who Ensures Accreditation?
There are official organizations that provide accreditation. Two popular ones are HVAC Excellence and Partners for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).
Getting a degree from one of the accredited HVAC schools in PA that is accredited by one of these organizations guarantees that you will receive a robust and thorough HVAC education. This is a great way to ensure a successful career in a variety of settings.
How Do I Choose a School?
Here are some factors to consider:
Cost and Student Aid - Consider the cost of the whole training program. Some schools offer financial aid for full time or part time students. You can get more information from each HVAC school in PA by requesting more information through the search tool above.
Online or In-Person - Online training can offer flexibility and convenience. You may want to have at least some in-person, hands on training for the practical skills.
Location - Consider whether you are able to move or commute to classes. There are many options in PA for HVAC training schools, so you’re likely to find one at a reasonable distance.
Accreditation - As we discussed above, enrolling in an accredited program will ensure that you are covering all of the necessary topics and making it worth your investment!
Expertise - Experienced instructors can provide insight and real-life examples of work in the HVAC field. The top HVAC training schools in PA have instructors who have been working for many years and are experts in their field.
Narrowing Down your Search:
After you use the Search Tool to request more information from specific schools, look into these topics at each one.
- Reputation - What do other HVAC workers say about the school? Check online reviews or ask a few local HVAC techs.
- Job Placement - Some schools have connections or programs to help graduates find jobs.
- Course Work - What kind of classes do they offer? Do they specialize in any particular area?
- The Campus - If you are planning to be an in-person learner, a campus visit can give valuable information. Check out their learning areas, classrooms and study areas. You could even schedule a meeting with financial aid advisor or admissions counselor while you’re there!
The Benefits of an HVAC Degree
After you graduate from an accredited HVAC school in PA, you will be in high demand! An associates degree will also give you a great foundation to get your bachelor’s degree later on if you choose.
Attending an accredited program will also get you ready to earn certifications in a specific area of the field. As you get more certifications you’ll boost your credentials and be a highly sought-after HVAC tech.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that HVAC-R systems are becoming more and more complex. In turn, employers prefer to hire HVAC technicians who have a degree. They are also able to earn higher salaries than those who have only completed an apprenticeship because they have the background information to handle the changes and updates. You can find more information on the BLS website.
What’s Covered in HVAC/R School?
You can find information about the topics covered at each school by requesting more information in the Search Tool above. These are common topics:
- Heating, Air Conditioning, Ventilation, Refrigeration and Humidity control.
- Installing and setting up systems
- Repairing systems
- Basics of green systems
- Refrigerants as a specialty at some specific schools.
Be sure to request more information about your schools of choice to find out exactly what they have to offer.
Quality HVAC training programs will provide both hands-on and classroom learning. These are both necessary elements to a successful learning environment.
These are some of the specific subjects that are often included in the basic coursework.
- Electric wiring, circuitry and motors and controls
- HVAC Work codes, regulations, ethics and safety
- EPA and OSHA regulations
- Refrigeration and air conditioning
- Tools required for HVAC work
- Heat sources including natural gas, propane and petroleum systems
- Heat zoning, pumps and zone sizing
- Ductwork calculations, sizing and installation
In the classroom, you’ll encounter a typical learning environment including reading and lectures.
You will get hands-on practice when you go to the labs. We recommend that at least some of your learning take place in-person, so you can get this valuable learning time before you enter the field. You will have the opportunity to practice things such as installation, troubleshooting and repair on actual HVAC/R equipment.
HVAC certification and licensing.
A degree from an accredited HVAC school will provide you with the expertise that you need, but isn’t a license to legally do the work. Here’s a closer look at HVAC certification and licensing.
License: An HVAC license is issued by the government. It proves that you are legally qualified to be an HVAC technician. Being a licensed HVAC technician protects you and your company and ensures that you are fit to do the work correctly.
Certifications: HVAC certifications are additional qualifications on top of a license. You obtain a certification by taking a test and demonstrating skill in a specific area. There are different certifications for many different areas of the HVAC field. When you get more certifications you can perform a larger variety of services. Every certification you have boosts your resume and your value to an employer.
There are a few job types that require certifications in order to apply. Acquiring a variety of certifications is the best way to get one of the top HVAC jobs in PA.One common category of certifications are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifications. The EPA provides three types of certifications, a Universal certification that covers all three, and a 608 certification that covers working with refrigerants.
NATE stands for the North American Technical Excellence. It is the largest organization representing HVAC technicians. It is a non-profit organization of HVAC professionals. NATE offers certifications at a few different levels. Some common NATE certifications are:
- #1) Ready to Work Certification
- #2) HVAC Support Technician
- #3) NATE Certification: Core and Specialty Tests
- #4) Senior Level Efficiency Analyst Certification
- Certified HVAC Professional (CHP-5)
Find more information the NATE website.
HVAC/R Professional Organizations
When you are ready to launch an HVAC career, joining a professional organization is a great idea. These provide networking, resources, education, and guidance along your way.
Here are some common HVAC professional organizations
- Air Movement and Control Association (AMCA).
- Air Conditioning Contractors of America.
- American Society of Heating, refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
- Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE1).
- HVAC Excellence.
- International Institute of Refrigeration.
- Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC).
- Radiant Professional Alliance.
- Refrigeration Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA).
- Refrigeration Engineers Society (RSES).
- Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).
- United Association (UA).
- Women in HVACR.
ONet Occupational Information Network, is another helpful website for information about HVAC careers in PA and in other states. Use it to find information on salary, job opportunities, required knowledge and skills, and more.