Becoming an HVAC technician in Philadelphia is a straightforward process. Getting hired as an HVAC tech, though, is a different story. With prominent job growth and an average of 40,000 new jobs expected in the next 10 years, you need to stand out.
This article will examine the process of becoming a certified HVAC technician and covers the best HVAC schools in Philadelphia, PA, so that you can get to the head of the hiring line. Find your stand out school on this list and get ready for your new career.
HVAC Certification Requirements in Philadelphia
The state of Pennsylvania doesn’t have any requirements for certification of HVAC technicians. However, all techs are required by federal law to become EPA 608 certified.
If you plan to be a contractor or start your own HVAC business, though, you are subject to PA’s contractor license requirements. As for the technicians, though, there aren’t any more stringing requirements.
How To Become An HVAC Technician
In Philly, there are a few paths you can take to become an HVAC technician. The most straightforward path is to study for and pass the EPA 608 certification exam. From there, you are essentially capable of being hired and working in the HVAC industry.
However, this is a bad path unless your job is only partially HVAC involved (maintenance, for example) and where you won’t use the HVAC skills on a daily basis. Most employers will need some experience, either on the job, an apprenticeship, or schooling.
The best path is to get your high school diploma or GED. From there, you want to attend an accredited trade school, college, or university in their HVAC training program.
During the course, you will get all the training, theory, fundamentals, and hands-on lab training. You can earn a degree or certification as well. Once the course is complete, you can (optionally) join an apprenticeship or internship while working on your EPA 608 certification.
After all of this is completed (average 1 to 4 years), you can join the workforce as a fully certified HVAC technician with at least 1 or 2 years experience, thus increasing your chances of being hired and earning a higher wage than other candidates.
Quick Guide in Choosing Your HVAC School
Choosing the right school is more than just the books they use or the HVAC software they have on the computers. Below, you will find several factors to consider when looking at schools to help you make an informed decision.
Where the school is located is going to be a top factor to consider. You won’t want to enroll in a school on the other side of the state. But locally, there may be a few schools worth considering.
In these instances, finding the one that is easiest to get to based on your schedule, traffic, and other factors might be the final detail that chooses for you.
Likewise, just because the school is located right next door, doesn’t mean it is a better option than the one a few miles away.
Accreditation is important for your continuing education and validity of the diploma, degree, or certifications. Non-accredited schools are not accepted by a lot of employers and certainly not by accredited schools when you are looking for credit transfers.
Accreditation is something the school has to go through and prove the validity and quality of its education system. If they cannot, they don’t get accredited. If you attend a non-accredited school, you may only succeed in spending money that gets you nowhere.
Offers Quality Education
Other factors of quality education, aside from accreditation, are determined by how the school feels to you. The best option is to visit the campus in person and talk to people. Speaking to the staff and instructors will give you a feel of what the school is about and how well they pay attention to their students.
Talking to current students will also let you know how the program is, if it is well-liked or if it feels like a waste. No matter what happens, you will walk away knowing if that school is one you will enjoy being a part of, or not.
Offers Hands-on Training
Hands-on training is crucial for the prospective HVAC tech. You need to know the parts of the systems you are working on, how to take them apart, install them, or repair them. You also need to know how to use the tools in your tool belt properly.
If the school doesn’t offer enough lab hours, you may want to consider a different school. The bulk of your learning should come in the lab, not from a book (though the books are important, too).
Connects you to an Apprenticeship/Internship Program
One of the best features of a lot of trade schools and colleges is their post-graduate programs. These often include job placement or apprenticeship placement programs. Through these, you can have the school do the leg work for finding your apprenticeship and helping you with the application.
These programs are generally for life for the graduate, so you can use them any time you need help with a new job or finding another company to apply through.
Offers Customer Service Skills Training
Customer service is a massive part of the HVAC work. Dealing with customers daily is the heart of the tech’s job. You need to know how to handle someone that is upset that their system is broken. You also need to know how to listen to them and explain your findings.
If you do not have prior customer service experience, make sure that the school you sign up for has a class or two on customer service training.
3 Best HVAC Schools in Philadelphia, PA
Here you will find the best HVAC schools in Philly. Scroll through to find the one closest to your neighborhood and see if it is an ideal match for your needs.
1. Orleans Technical College
2770 Red Lion Rd, Philadelphia, PA 19114
Best Choice For: Insertion into the HVAC industry upon graduation
Orleans Tech features two classes to fit your schedule. The full-time day class runs for 6 months. You are expected to attend all classes as this is an intensive hands-on class. For those with day jobs or other obligations, there is a 13 month evening class that is also intensive in the lab.
You won’t spend a lot of time learning theory or future technologies, but you will know about all of the tools and work on the most modern systems on the market today. By the time you earn your diploma from Orleans, you will be ready to pass the EPA 608 exam. They also offer job placement to all graduates.
2. Lincoln Technical Institute
9191 Torresdale Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19136
Best Choice For: Complete HVAC education and certification
Lincoln Technical Institute is one of the largest HVAC schools in the country. They have campuses in multiple states and take part in a lot of grant and scholarship programs too. They even have space on campus to live, if you plan to come from out of state or further away.
The course is all-inclusive and covers everything from solar technologies to mathematical theory. The lab work takes you through every possible situation to help you diagnose, repair, and install HVAC systems. Graduation places you among the 90% that find work right away.
3. UA Local 420 Steamfitters Joint Apprenticeship
14420 Townsend Rd, Philadelphia, PA 19154
Best Choice For: HVAC Master Technician training and journeyman advancement
The local UA 420 offers journeyman training for pipe fitting sheet metal and HVAC. This apprenticeship program is all-inclusive but does take a few years. In that time, you are expected to attend the weekly classroom sessions as well as 1,800 hands-on hours in the field under the direct supervision of a master technician.
The training is intensive, and your commitment will mean a solid foundation to build your new career. Of course, there are union dues and fees, but you will be part of a group that sees to it you are always employed and does everything they can to further your career.
HVAC Training School Costs in Philadelphia
School costs in Philly are about average with the rest of the country. In terms of trade schools, community colleges, and standard universities. The costs for tuition vary widely, though, between the school types.
In general, trade schools are shorter and don’t offer the variety of required classes like English and Biology that the colleges may require. For this reason, they also cost less since there is less to teach. You can expect to pay between $4,000 and $7,500 for a trade school, based on location, size of the school, and duration of the course.
2-year degrees will range between $4,000 and $8,000 per semester, while 4-year degrees can reach $10,000 per semester. For colleges and universities, the costs will usually range between $20,000 and $40,000.
Is HVAC a Good Career Choice in Philadelphia?
HVAC is a great career choice in Philadelphia. The growing number of expected jobs puts HVAC at the top of most industry lists. That, along with the future change to solar and green technologies, means techs will be in demand for quite some time. The wages earned will reflect that demand.
Philadelphia Entry Level HVAC Salary
Entry-level technicians can expect to earn between $21 and $25 per hour until they have some work experience. While real-world experience and school will count towards getting the job, most real raises won’t happen for a couple of years.
Philadelphia HVAC Tech Salary
For experienced technicians, especially those with 5 or more years under their belt, the wages will rise fairly drastically. Philly averages about 12% higher wages for HVAC techs with experience (according to GlassDoor) than the national average.
Many techs can expect annual salaries to reach between $42 and $64,000 per year. Well experienced technicians with higher levels of education even report wage earnings over $70,000 per year.
Return of Investment
The ROI of the tuition, fees, certification exam costs, tools, and other fees is quite high compared to other states. Most HVAC techs can be debt-free in about 8 years (self-supporting, living alone).
With all things considered, Philly has a great return on investment for the trade, and with the great salaries, it is no wonder so many want to enter this rewarding and lucrative career.
Demand for HVAC Jobs in Philadelphia
The national growth rate, according to the BLS, is about 13% through 2028. With newer technologies emerging sooner than most planned on, this number is expected to rise. Nationwide we expect to see over 360,000 new HVAC jobs per year.
In Philadelphia, the growth rate is about the same as the national average and expects to see about 40,000 jobs open each year. This includes new positions, replacement positions for retirees, and other job openings.
People Also Ask (FAQ)
How do I get an HVAC job in Philadelphia?
To get a job in the HVAC industry in Philadelphia, you need to pass the EPA 608 exam. There are no other state requirements. However, hands-on training, lab work, and apprenticeships are highly recommended to make a better chance for your application to be taken seriously.
Can I get an HVAC certification license online?
You can attend online classes, but these only cover the class and book work. While there are 3-D simulated labs, they don’t count towards the certification process. Hands-on training and exams for certification must be done in person.
Are there HVAC apprenticeships in Philadelphia?
There are several apprenticeship programs in Philly. You should check job listing sites like careerbuilder.com or use your school’s post-graduate programs to help get you placed in an appropriate apprenticeship or internship.
Can I get into HVAC with no experience?
You can enter the HVAC industry with little to no experience. It is much more difficult this way, of course, but can be done. It is better to attend a trade school or apprenticeship to get hands-on knowledge before applying, though, to better your chances of being hired.
How long does it take to get a degree in HVAC?
An associate’s degree will take you between 18 and 24 months to obtain. Double that (36 to 48 months) for a bachelor’s degree.
When is online HVAC programs advisable?
Online programs are advisable to help you study for certification exams or to get the classroom work out of the way before you head to the lab for hands-on training. If you have difficulty making it to school, or the school is closed for a period due to an unforeseen situation (natural disaster, state of emergency, etc.), you may find online courses are your only option for a while.
What is the highest HVAC degree?
The highest degree you can obtain in the HVAC world is a bachelor’s degree. There isn’t a doctoral program available for HVAC, though some doctorates in engineering do touch on HVAC technologies.
The best HVAC school in Philadelphia, PA, is the one that fits you best. This may be based on location, the total number of lab hours, or the fact they approved your request for financial aid.
Whatever the reason, I hope this article has helped you know what to look for in a quality HVAC school and narrowed your search for that one, true fit.