In Illinois, the need for adequately trained HVAC technicians is on the rise. If you want to get into this rewarding career, there isn’t a better time. The right school can send you on your way to full certification and a great job with a top-tier employer.
This article will examine what it takes to get certified in HVAC, help you decide if you want a certification or degree, and give you the best schools in and around Chicago, Illinois, to get you started.
HVAC Certification Requirements in Chicago, IL
The state of Illinois does not have any regulations for HVAC technicians. All of the certifications and degrees are on a personal basis only. However, most employers are looking for fully certified technicians. So, while the state may not have requirements, individual employers might.
If you are studying in Chicago, East Peoria, Addison, or Dixon, there are requirements for becoming a contractor. This is state-wide, not just these specific cities. Though, those cities, along with Springfield and Decatur, are among the best places to study in for these certifications.
Keep in mind that the state of Illinois does not have specific contractor license requirements, either. However, these regulations are left up to the local area government, which means that Springfield might have different contractor license requirements than Chicago. You will need to check within the municipalities where you plan to work to find out what they require of you.
How To Become An HVAC Technician
To become an HVAC technician in Illinois, you need only pass the federal requirement of obtaining the EPA 608 certification. This certification allows you to work with refrigeration systems, as well as use, regulate, and dispose of refrigerant.
The EPA 608 certification has four types, Types I, II, and III allow various types of refrigeration systems (low pressure, high pressure, etc.). If you pass the entire exam, you will become EPA 608 Universal certified. This certification never expires and transfers to every state in the US.
While these requirements are at a state level, contractors, businesses, and other HVAC employers may require more. You should attend an accredited HVAC trade school college or university to obtain a certification. The NATE certification is one of many that you should strive for.
It is also wise to attend an internship or apprenticeship program to become experienced working on HVAC systems. Once this is complete, you will find yourself in demand and highly sought-after in the HVAC industry within Illinois.
Quick Guide in Choosing Your HVAC School
Below you will find a brief overview of the various factor you should consider when choosing the best HVAC school in Illinois that meets your specific needs.
The location of the campus in relation to your home or place of current employment is crucial. Distance, as well as traffic, unexpected problems, and the like, will all determine how often you actually attend classes and on time.
The problem, though, is that this isn’t the only factor. You may find that a better school is further away. Location is a critical factor, but don’t make it the only factor.
School accreditation is something that is done through governing bodies. Each school must meet minimum educational quality metrics to become accredited. Non-accredited schools are met with some hostility, generally don’t hang around very long, and are more expensive.
If you do attend a non-accredited school, your certificate or degree may be worthless in the eyes of employers and a general waste of time and money. Run a check and make sure your school is accredited.
Offers Quality Education
The accreditation is important, but these only meet minimum requirements. The true quality of the education offered is best experienced first-hand. You should make an effort to attend the campus of your potential choice and talk to the faculty and students.
Get a feel of how the classes are structured, what is taught, how tough the classes are, and what happens in the hands-on labs. The more you know about the workings of the school that websites won’t tell you is more important than reading through a list of what they offer.
Offers Hands-on Training
Hands-on training is crucial for HVAC technicians. Tools, systems, and equipment will vary from vendor to vendor, and you should know how to use the proper tools on the right systems. Hands-on training gives you a familiarity with all of these topics and allows you to test your knowledge on a real system without worry of causing further damage to a customer’s HVAC unit.
Connects you to an Apprenticeship/Internship Program
Most schools do offer a post-graduate program. Many will offer job placement, but you should also look for those that offer apprenticeship or internship placement programs. While getting placed in a job is great, you have a better chance at higher-paying opportunities if you have real-world experience.
Apprenticeships and internships give you this real-world training, and if your school works with companies in this capacity, it is a lot easier on you.
Offers Customer Service Skills Training
Customer service is an often-overlooked skill that is highly important to the HVAC technician. It is wise to search for a school that has a customer service portion included in their curriculum.
Since you will be dealing with customers at their home or business daily, this is one skill set you don’t want to pass on.
12 Best HVAC Schools in Illinois
Below you will find a list of the best HVAC schools in Illinois. Each one is reviewed and evaluated. I have also separated them by region, so you can scroll through and find the ones close to you.
1. HVAC Technical Institute
Address: 4532 S Kolin Ave, Chicago, IL 60632
Best Choice For: Top rated HVAC school in Illinois
HVAC Tech is one of the top rated schools in the state and for a good reason. They focus their courses on hands-on training with some of the most modern equipment in the industry today.
You will work one on one with instructors diagnosing and repairing systems you find in the field every day.
The best part is that this school also gives you a certificate of completion, and you will leave with the EPA 608 Universal as well as R-410a certifications in hand.
A complete education, training, and lab work with certification to get your foot in the door on your new career. What more could you ask for?
2. Coyne College
Address: 1 N State St #400, Chicago, IL 60602
Best Choice For: Complete HVAC system experience and learning
Coyne College offers a 42-week diploma program for HVAC training, which you will find among the most intensive and hands-on.
Most graduates report that they are still finding things in the field that were already covered in the class even years later.
If you want an education that will prolong your skillset or give you the tools you need to succeed, this is it.
You will still be responsible for the EPA certification on your own after graduation, but their post-grad programs can help with that. They also offer financial aid and flexible class schedules to fit your needs.
3. Midwest Technical Institute
Address: 2731 Farmers Market Rd, Springfield, IL 62707
Best Choice For: Hands-on learning with certification
Midwest Technical Institute (MTI) has a 9-month HVAC course made to get you into the field, earning a paycheck. Your experience in the lab will carry over to the real world, and you aren’t left stranded, either.
During the course, you will be required to take and pass the EPA 608 Core exams (Type I and Type II). For Universal certification, you will need to take the Type III exam as well, though this will be done outside of the school.
For those in East Peoria or Moline, there are also MTI campuses there for you. The same courses and attention to detail are offered at all campuses; choose the one easiest for you to get to.
Prospect Heights, IL
4. Chicago Professional Center
Address: 16 E. Piper Ln. Ste 127 Prospect Heights, IL 60070
Best Choice For: Post-graduate programs and career counseling
Chicago Professional Center focuses on getting you working. Their main goal is to give you all the tools you need and all the certifications you could dream of.
During the course, you will learn about all aspects of HVAC, including current and future technologies and PLC training (optional).
The course is designed to get you certified in EPA 608 and R-410a, along with green technology certification, electricians license, and Power Engineer License (which is optional).
Their career counseling services and post-grad programs are among the best and are centered around your specific goals.
5. ETI School of Skilled Trades
Address: 500 Joliet Rd #100, Willowbrook, IL 60527
Best Choice For: Flex scheduling with full certification
At the ETI School of Skilled Trades, you can gear up and enter the workforce in as little as 7 months.
With their accelerated program, you get intensive lab hours that take you hands-on through some of the most modern and expansive systems on the market.
Upon graduation, you also have the opportunity to test for the EPA exams as well as several other, though optional, certifications.
There are day and evening classes available, and they offer financial aid to those that qualify.
6. West Chicago Professional Center
Address: 1801 E Fabyan Pkwy, West Chicago, IL 60185
Best Choice For: Those with no prior knowledge or experience
If you are in more of a hurry, give West Chicago Professional Center a try. They offer a 3-class course lasting a total of 12 weeks.
Each course is designed to take over where the previous one left off. Ideal for those with no prior HVCAC knowledge, this class takes you from complete beginner to EPA certified technician.
Once you graduate, you will be able to step into the job market and apply your skills in a rewarding and near future-proof industry.
The lab and classroom hours are about evenly split, and the training includes progressive system technologies as well as current industry trends.
Elk Grove Village, IL
7. Learn your Trade
Address: 2458 Elmhurst Rd, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Best Choice For: Full-time HVAC apprenticeship
The Illinois chapter of the ABC apprenticeship training programs has partnered with Learn Your Trade for an all-inclusive apprentice session in HVAC.
The best part is that their apprenticeship program is not only state-of-the-art but geared for all age groups.
If you are still in high school, you can sign up and begin taking basic classes to get you prepared for your career after graduation.
If you already have your diploma (or GED), you can jump right in full-time and get the most out of the apprenticeship program.
Melrose Park, IL
8. Lincoln College of Technology
Address: 8317 W North Ave, Melrose Park, IL 60160
Best Choice For: Top rated HVAC school in the country
Lincoln Tech is a school that spans the entire country, and its courses, campuses, and instructors are always among the best.
In Melrose Park, you will find the Lincoln Tech school to be everything you could want, and a bit more.
With future technologies being the primary focus and enough lab work to have you ready for anything in the real world, this school delivers.
They also partner with most local companies for internships or direct job placement, boasting over 90% employment in the trade for all graduates.
9. Rockford Career College
Address: 1130 S Alpine Rd #100, Rockford, IL 61108
Best Choice For: Accelerated degree program
Rockford Career College is an accredited school that offers a 10-month diploma program in HVAC.
This program gives you customer service, hands-on and theory learning in all matters related to the industry. You get to know the equipment and tools for installation, repair, and diagnostics.
If you are interested in a degree, Rockford is where you want to start. Their accelerated associate’s degree program (Construction Management AAS) is only an additional 7 months after completing the HVAC course.
You can have your AAS in construction with advanced HVAC knowledge in less than a year and a half.
10. Sauk Valley Community College
Address: 173 IL-2, Dixon, IL 61021
Best Choice For: Low cost complete course
Sauk Valley offers an entry-level training program designed for those out of high school that know what they want.
This lab-intensive training course will have you on your way to being an expert in HVAC repair, diagnostics, and installation.
Upon graduation, you will know the ins and outs of the HVAC industry as well as being ready for any certification exam you can find.
This biggest draw is the course cost, with in-district students paying less than $3,000 for the entire course.
11. Morton College
Address: 3801 S Central Ave, Cicero, IL 60804
Best Choice For: Choice of certification or degree in HVAC
Morton College offers two HVAC training programs. The first is the certification course that takes you hands-on in the lab for an immersive and challenging training curriculum.
With full EPA certification upon graduation, you are ready to enter the workforce and start your rewarding career in HVAC.
The second option is an AAS degree program that spends time in the classroom and the lab. You will learn electrical and refrigeration theory, customer service skills, and installation procedures.
Upon graduation, you can then begin your career or continue to a 4-year university in search of a bachelor’s degree.
12. Richland Community College
Address: 1 College Park, Decatur, IL 62521
Best Choice For: Continuing education in HVAC
With four courses to choose from, Richland Community College offers you the chance to specialize in the exact area of HVAC you are most interested in.
If you plan to start your own business as a contractor, the AAS degree program is the most inclusive of the group.
You can also become fully certified in residential or commercial HVAC or niche down to residential HVAC installer certification.
For those looking to continue their education levels, these certification courses are ideal for staying up on current trends.
HVAC Training School Costs in Illinois
The cost of your tuition will depend significantly on the type of school you attend and the level of certification or degree you are after. Trade schools that offer certification preparation are the least expensive, and in Illinois, average between $1,500 and $5,000.
Other trade schools that offer the certification exams during the course tend to be longer and cost a little more, with a high-end range of about $7,500. Colleges and universities will be the most expensive when you attend for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program.
For these schools, the cost will depend on state residency, type of degree, and if the school accepts currently held credit-hours. You can expect to spend between $20,000 and $40,000 for these institutions. Most schools will offer tuition assistance or financial aid, so you should see if you qualify.
Is HVAC a Good Career Choice in Chicago, Illinois?
Illinois has one of the lowest state-level requirements for HVAC technicians and one of the highest entry-level pay rates. Combined, these factors make the HVAC industry very lucrative and rewarding in Illinois.
Chicago, Illinois Entry Level HVAC Salary
When you are just starting out, it is expected that you will earn less per hour until you prove yourself. However, according to Indeed.com, in Illinois, you can expect a livable wage that will range between $22 and $26 per hour, depending on who you work for and the region you work in.
There are plenty of entry-level jobs posted on job board sites, making the entry-level hiring process a bit easier than other states like California or cities such as Las Vegas.
Chicago Illinois HVAC Tech Salary
Experienced techs with 5 or more years working in the industry can expect better wages overall. The average state-wide salary range is between $41,000 to $53,000 per year, according to Salary.com. However, the top 10% of HVAC technicians claim yearly earnings that top $62,000.
This will depend on your company and region, of course. More substantial demand and the more certification or experience you bring, the higher you can expect your wage to be.
Return of Investment
The return on investment (ROI) is determined by how quickly you can become employed, earn a wage, and pay off your debts. These debts are things like tool and equipment purchases, school tuition fees, and other work-related materials.
With the higher starting wages and lower entry requirements, Illinois has one of the highest ROI’s of any state. On average across America, the time for someone living alone and paying off their debts is about 12 years. For Illinois, the average is about 8 to 9 years.
Demand for HVAC Jobs in Illinois
According to the BLS, the HVAC industry is expected to maintain a 13% increase in jobs over the next decade.
This is one of the highest growth rates of any industry in the country.
For Illinois specifically, the demand is about the same, between 12 and 14%.
With emerging technologies in the green and solar fields, HVAC is due to expand rapidly and with no looking back.
The demand for highly-trained and educated technicians is only going to rise.
People Also Ask (FAQ)
How do I get an HVAC job in Illinois?
The only requirement for HVAC industry employment is the EPA 608 certification. Once you have that, you can begin applying for jobs. However, the best practice is to attend a training school, become certified, and enter an apprenticeship for more experience. Going this route takes longer, but produces better job opportunities with higher wages.
Can I get an HVAC certification license online?
Because Illinois doesn’t require any state-level certifications or licenses for HVAC technicians, you can accomplish most of the classroom and book style learning online. This is ideal when you cannot make it to a school or campus for any reason. However, you are required to hold an EPA 608 certification. This exam must be taken in person with a certified proctor, which means you cannot become an HVAC technician solely working online.
Are there HVAC apprenticeships in Illinois?
There are plenty of apprenticeships in Illinois. The state participates in the ApprenticeshipUSA Initiative. You can check online for openings, details, and applications. Other options include checking with your school’s post-graduate programs office for assistance or browsing job board sites for possible opportunities.
Can I get into HVAC with no experience?
In the state of Illinois, aside from the EPA certification, you have no other obligations. You can begin working as soon as you are EPA certified. Having experience, either real-world, apprenticeship or schooling, is recommended, though it isn’t required.
How long does it take to get a degree in HVAC?
There are two possible degrees in the HVAC industry. The associate’s degree will take you between 18 and 24 months to complete, depending on the school’s schedule and your existing credits. The bachelor’s degree is a 4-year degree program but may be fast-tracked in as few as 36 months. You can reach a Master’s degree; however, this is in engineering, and not HVAC specifically. There isn’t a doctorate program in HVAC available anywhere.
Finding the best HVAC school in Illinois can be challenging. With so many schools and opportunities to choose from, making the right call can be tricky.
Hopefully, this article helped you learn what to look for in a school, what type of program you want to pursue and showed you local schools worthy of deeper consideration.