How to Become an HVAC Technician in Iowa

As experts on HVAC systems and technology, HVAC technicians are called on to repair, service and install all makes and models of furnace, boiler, air conditioner, space heater, radiant heater, heat pump, humidifier and dehumidifier available to Iowa homeowners. They are often trained to handle similar challenges in commercial, industrial and agricultural settings as well. [Leer en español]

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With a versatile skill set and the ability to diagnose problems and recommend short-term and long-term solutions, HVAC technicians are experts in indoor comfort level maintenance, and they are very much in demand in Iowa.

Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Iowa

For most categories of HVAC work, you must complete a formal apprenticeship under the direction of a licensed HVAC contractor or company. You’ll be eligible to apply for a mechanics license that covers multiple categories of HVAC-related work once you do so, although you can choose to apply for a more specialized license if you prefer.

In some instances, completing an approved educational or training program can substitute for an apprenticeship. But if you choose this path, you’ll only be eligible to seek employment as an HVAC technician, with permission to perform basic repair or maintenance procedures. To achieve journeyman status, you must have at least four years of apprenticeship experience in addition to any educational degrees or certificates you might earn.

HVAC Apprenticeships and Educational Programs in Iowa

Two trade associations, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC) and Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Iowa (PHCC-IA), offer comprehensive HVAC apprenticeship programs in Iowa for aspiring HVAC technicians. Each program features 8,000 hours of on-the-job training plus several hundred hours more of classroom instruction, and each has received approval from the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship and the U.S. Veterans Administration.

Another option for veterans specifically is called Home Base Iowa. Sponsored by the state government, Home Base Iowa maintains an active database of businesses that offer apprenticeships to veterans, and it has affiliations with companies that recruit individuals interested in gaining experience as HVAC apprentices.

Educational programs are a vital resource for people interested in becoming an HVAC technician, and Iowa has several technical schools and community colleges that offer two-year Associate of Applied Science degrees and one-year certificates or diplomas.

Schools accredited by HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) are in high demand across the nation, and Iowa has one school approved by HVAC Excellence for its HVAC/R degree program. That is Scott Community College, which is located in Bettendorf. The 39-credit HVAC/R diploma program at Scott Community College features extensive instruction plus hands-on experience in both residential and commercial HVAC systems, and is designed to prepare students for all types of entry-level technical positions.

There are several other schools in Iowa that offer one-year and/or two-year degree programs in heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration, including:

  • Des Moines Area Community College (Des Moines)
  • Hawkeye Community College (Waterloo)
  • Kirkwood Community College (Cedar Rapids)
  • Vatterott College (Des Moines)
  • North Iowa Area Community College (Mason City)
  • Northeast Iowa Community College (Peosta)
  • Western Iowa Technical Community College (Sioux City)

Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Iowa

HVAC licenses in Iowa are attainable through the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board.

HVAC technicians and contractors who meet their qualifications can choose a specialty mechanical license in one of four categories: hydronics, HVAC, refrigeration or sheet metal. But for most new HVAC technicians, the most advantageous choice is to apply for a universal HVAC mechanical license, which will allow them to perform any type of work that might fall under the HVAC umbrella.

For those seeking entry-level work, the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board offers a separate HVAC Technician specialty license. This restricted certification allows those who possess it to work on HVAC equipment (or component parts) up to the shut-off valve, which must be located within three feet of the appliance. This subcategory of mechanical license covers most responsibilities and tasks required of an HVAC technician, although it could limit participation in installation procedures.

To be eligible for an HVAC/R Mechanical license, specialty or universal, you must first complete an approved apprenticeship program. Journeyman status is desirable for those who choose this route to full-time employment, and to achieve this goal your apprenticeship must last at least four years and must be in a program registered with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship. You must also pass an examination that covers topics appropriate to your specialty or specialties.

The requirements for an HVAC Technician specialty license are not as stringent, since neither an exam nor an apprenticeship is necessary. If you’ve completed training in a program approved by the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board, you’ll be automatically eligible to register (for a $50 fee) as an HVAC Technician, qualifying you for entry-level employment.

Before they perform any duties that involve the use or handling of refrigerants, HVAC technicians must first take an exam to qualify for EPA section 608 certification, which they’ll need regardless of their state or city of employment. Depending on their expected duties, they can test for certification in one or more of four service categories: small appliances, high-pressure appliances, low-pressure appliances or all appliances (universal).

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

Few states are experiencing as much growth in the demand for heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration professionals as Iowa. According to a 2016 report from Projections Managing Partnership, an organization affiliated with the U.S. Employment and Training Administration, the need for trained HVAC employees in Iowa will increase by an impressive 19.2 percent by the year 2026, which is one of the highest growth percentages in the country.

The annual mean salary for HVAC technicians in Iowa is a shade above the national average, at $50,750 (as compared to $49,530). However, HVAC workers who work in cities are much better compensated, with annual mean wages of $57,440 in Sioux City, 57,000 in Cedar Rapids, $54,990 in Iowa City and $52,460 in Des Moines, the state’s largest city where more than one-third of its HVAC technicians are employed.

Working as an HVAC Technician in Iowa

People in Iowa experience extreme temperatures at various times throughout the year, making it difficult to cope without a fully-functioning heating and cooling system. HVAC technicians are needed in every municipality and rural location in the state, and if you have the qualifications to seek advanced employment in the HVAC field, you’ll discover that your services are very much in demand.

Iowa’s projected 19.2 percent job growth rate in the field means ample opportunities for those who are drawn to HVAC-related work, and if that is you your future prospects for employment could be excellent.

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