How to Become an HVAC Technician in Illinois

If you’re looking for a career in the skilled trades that will provide job stability and a good income, consider training to become an HVAC technician. In Illinois and elsewhere, demand continues to grow for qualified workers to install Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC systems) in new buildings and to make upgrades and repairs in old systems as technologies continue to advance. [Leer en español]

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Illinois has no statewide licensing for HVAC technicians, so you’ll need to find out what the requirements are in the city or county in which you hope to work.

Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Illinois

There are no statewide requirements in Illinois for HVAC workers. This means that you may need to have a good idea of where you want to work as you get started in training for this career. In general, beginning with a college HVAC training program or an apprenticeship will set you on the right path toward being qualified to work in any city or county. You need classroom work and hands-on training, which you can get from college classes and apprenticeships.

You need to have the following skills in order to work in the HVAC industry:

  • Proper understanding on both industrial and residential systems
  • The ability to read and use blueprints
  • Good math skills
  • A strong understanding of physics
  • The ability to troubleshoot problems
  • The ability to lift heavy objects and work in cramped spaces

Many HVAC training programs will also require that you have a high school diploma or equivalent.

HVAC Schools in Illinois

While the state does not outline any requirements for education or training of HVAC workers, you can look to HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) to find an program in the state that is accredited. Some of the schools that offer these HVAC courses include:

  • Midwest Technical Institute, Springfield, East Peoria, Moline. Midwest Tech has several campus choices for students and programs that are accredited by HVAC Excellence. The programs include major appliance repair and refrigeration along with HVAC coursework.
  • HVAC Technical Institute, Chicago. Also accredited by HVAC Excellence, this HVAC program is available to students in the Chicago area. Graduates are prepared for entry-level jobs and will be EPA Section 608 certified to work with refrigerants.
  • Elgin Community College, Elgin. Elgin students can earn an associate’s degree in HVAC technology through this program that is accredited by PAHRA. Students will learn in the classroom and in hands-on situations.
  • Oakton Community College, East Peoria. Also accredited by PAHRA, this program prepares students for HVAC careers with a two-year degree. Graduates will be ready to work in entry-level HVAC and refrigeration jobs.

HVAC Certification and Licensing for Becoming a Technician in Illinois

There is no Illinois agency that licenses or certifies HVAC workers. Some cities and counties do require licensing and set their own regulations for who qualifies. For example, in Elgin, HVAC technicians need to register with the Department of Community Development. Candidates must submit an application with a fee and pass an exam with a score of at least 76 percent.

According to the Clean Air Act, any HVAC worker who will be handling refrigerants must be certified through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is a federal rule that applies in all states. To achieve EPA Section 608 certification, you must be able to pass an exam.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

The salary data for Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers (49-9021.00) in Illinois, as compared to the national average, showcases the state’s competitive wages for this occupation. In Illinois, these professionals earn an average annual salary of $58,080, which is above the national average of $51,390. The salary range in Illinois extends from $34,970 at the 10th percentile to $100,980 at the 90th percentile, indicating a broad range of earning potential based on experience, specialization, and other factors.

National vs. Illinois Salaries for HVAC Technicians

Location Annual Low (10%) Annual Median Annual High (90%)
United States $36,170 $51,390 $82,630
Illinois $34,970 $58,080 $100,980

Salaries by Region in Illinois for HVAC Technicians

Region Annual Low (10%) Annual Median Annual High (90%)
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI $35,520 $59,400 $105,440
Peoria, IL $36,240 $58,910 $94,990
Springfield, IL $35,380 $57,770 $96,570

HVAC Trends in Illinois

In Illinois, the employment outlook for Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers (49-9021.00) is positive, with a projected growth of 10% from 2020 to 2030. The number of employees in this occupation is expected to increase from 8,970 in 2020 to 9,820 by 2030. Annually, there are projected to be 970 job openings in Illinois for this occupation during this period, which includes openings due to both industry growth and replacements. This growth rate is higher than the national average growth rate of 6% for the same period, indicating a strong demand for HVAC technicians within the state.

Employement Trends

Aspect Illinois United States
Employment (2020 for IL, 2022 for US) 8,970 employees 415,800 employees
Projected Employment (2030 for IL, 2032 for US) 9,820 employees 438,800 employees
Projected Growth 10% 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings (2020-2030 for IL, 2022-2032 for US) 970 37,700

Sources of data:

  • For employment trends and projections: Projections Central’s 2020-2030 long-term projections.
  • For national employment and wage data: The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 2022-2032 employment projections.

Working as an HVAC Technician in Illinois

Most HVAC professionals in Illinois are employed by contractors. Some are self-employed, which is something you can work toward if you choose to pursue a career path in HVAC services. Some technicians may be hired by government agencies or by industrial or wholesale companies. In Illinois, you will find the greatest opportunities for work in the larger cities, like Chicago, Aurora, Rockford, Joliet, Springfield and Elgin.

A career in the HVAC business can sometimes be dangerous. It is physical work with a risk of accidents. But if you are careful, well trained and use safety gear, this can be a rewarding, challenging and interesting job that provides you with a good living for years to come.

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Is HVAC a good career choice?

Yes, HVAC is certainly a good career choice. Not only is it a stable and growing industry, but it also offers a good salary and benefits package. As an HVAC technician, you can expect to earn a decent wage while enjoying job security and good working conditions. There are also many opportunities for advancement within the field, so if you're looking for a challenging and rewarding career, HVAC is definitely worth considering.

How do I become a HVAC designer?

  • There are a few different ways to become an HVAC designer. You can either get a degree in engineering, architecture, or construction management; you can get a degree in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technology; or you can become certified as an HVAC designer.
  • The most important thing is to have a strong background in math and science, since HVAC design is a very technical field. It's also important to have experience with computers and design software, since most HVAC designers work with computer-aided design (CAD) software.

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