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HVAC License Illinois: How to Become an HVAC Technician in Illinois

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Table of Contents
  1. Contractor Licensing Requirements for HVAC in Illinois

  2. EPA Certification

  3. Steps to Becoming an HVAC Technician in Illinois

  4. Benefits of Becoming an HVAC Technician in Illinois

  5. What Is the Median Salary for an HVAC Technician in Illinois?

  6. How Much Does It Cost to Become an HVAC Technician in Illinois?

  7. How to Become an HVAC Professional in Illinois

  8. How Long Does it Take to Become an HVAC Tech in Illinois?

  9. Illinois HVAC Training programs and schools

  10. Who Issues HVAC Licenses in Illinois?

  11. Does My Illinois HVAC Experience Allow Me to Work in Any Other State?

HVAC technicians need skill and knowledge to do their job safely. Since we all enjoy our climate-controlled environments, the continued need for HVAC technicians is certain. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029. The licensing requirements for HVAC professionals vary from state to state and in some cases from locality to locality, but the need for proper training is universal!

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Contractor Licensing Requirements for HVAC in Illinois

Is a license required for HVAC Contractors in Illinois? No.

Unlike plumbers in the state of Illinois, there is no license requirement for entry and mid-level HVAC professionals at the state level. There are some contractors license restrictions in certain municipalities, but even in Chicago, the state’s biggest city, there is no license issued to perform heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration work.

However, potential employers are still looking for skilled workers, so you’ll need some kind of training and there are federal certification requirements to consider. If you want to become an HVAC technician, you’ll need to have a certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to handle refrigerants.

EPA Certification

Everywhere throughout the country, including Illinois, federal-level EPA regulations under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act require that technicians who maintain, service, repair, or dispose of equipment that could release refrigerants into the atmosphere must be certified. EPA section 608 HVAC Certification is required for any professional who conducts refrigerant line-pressure tests or handles or adds refrigerant to existing AC systems.

Most training programs can direct you to how and where to get that certification, or your employer will require you to get it before handling refrigerant. You can also go to EPA.gov and key in 608 Certification in the search bar to find out which institutions in your state offer certification programs.

Steps to Becoming an HVAC Technician in Illinois

1. You must be at least 18 years of age. 2. You need to have earned a high school diploma or GED equivalent. 3. You must have a valid driver’s license. 4. You must get the proper training. There are two paths: a. Attend community or technical college (usually two years) or trade school (usually six to nine months) to prepare for certification exams. b. Become an Apprentice/Entry Level worker for an HVAC company and get on-the-job training (usually two years of learning on the job) to be ready to take certification exams. 5. You will need to get EPA Section 608 Certification by passing the exam. 6. You should check local or city licensing requirements for the area where you will be working. There is no statewide licensing process for HVAC technicians. 7. You can earn additional certifications to improve your marketability and pay. 8. If you wish to own your own business in the HVAC field in Illinois, you’ll need a state-issued business license and, at a minimum, worker’s compensation insurance. Check with your municipality for further requirements.

Valid Driver’s License: A clean driving record is important for a job in HVAC because you’ll be driving to the customers. Many job listings in the HVAC field specify no major or frequent traffic violations or DUI in the previous 5 years.

Work Experience/Training:

  • Apprentice/Entry Level Worker: After earning your GED or high school diploma, you can opt for on-the-job training to prepare for the EPA and other certifications.

  • Vocational Schools/Community College: Certification tests are rigorous and thorough so additional formal education at a college or trade school may be a more helpful first step in your training to be an HVAC technician. Employers often state a preference for HVAC technicians who have graduated from a relevant trade school or technical college because they have been educated in key skills needed for the job.

Get Certification: After working in the field for a couple of years under a trained professional or completing the classroom training at a vocational school or college, you’ll need EPA Section 608 Certification required for anyone handling certain controlled refrigerants commonly found in AC and refrigeration systems. HVAC technical school programs often include coursework specifically to prepare you for the EPA certification and some even include the cost of the exam as part of your tuition.

Take Certification Exam: You must acquire your EPA Certification from an approved organization. A list of these organizations can be found on the EPA’s website. There are four types of EPA Certifications for Refrigerant. They allow for different levels of certification for different scopes of work.

  • Type I – for servicing small appliances containing five pounds of refrigerant or less.

  • Type II – for servicing high-pressure units that contain five pounds or more of refrigerant (including most small commercial and residential systems).

  • Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances.

  • Universal – for servicing all systems and appliances covered under Types I, II, and III. Generally more useful than targeting any one specific certification.

Core Exam

For all certifications, you must pass the “Core Section” of the EPA certification exam. It covers the following topics:

  • Ozone depletion

  • Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol

  • Section 608 regulations

  • Substitute refrigerants and oils

  • Refrigeration

  • The Three R’s (Recover, Recycle, Reclaim)

  • Recovery techniques

  • Dehydration evacuation

  • Safety

  • Shipping

Benefits of Becoming an HVAC Technician in Illinois

There are many benefits you’ll see from getting into the HVAC field in Illinois:

  • You will earn as you learn with a guarantee of pay increases as you develop new skills.

  • Though there is no state-issued license in Illinois, the certifications you earn are proof of your knowledge, experience, and expertise.

  • You will receive industry-recognized credentials that can go with you anywhere.

  • Being a skilled tradesman gives you a competitive advantage in the job market and job security.

  • You will be embarking on a career, not just doing a job.

  • You can eventually own your own business and be your own boss.

What Is the Median Salary for an HVAC Technician in Illinois?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean wage for HVAC mechanics and installers nationally as $51,420 and in Illinois as $60,350. The salary for an HVAC Technician in Illinois increases, as you might expect, as you acquire more experience according to Indeed.com.

  • HVAC Installer: The average salary for an HVAC installer is $23.94 per hour in Illinois and $6,094 overtime per year.

  • HVAC Technician: The average salary for an HVAC Technician is $24.13 per hour in Illinois and $8,000 overtime per year.

  • HVAC Mechanic: The average salary for an HVAC Mechanic is $26.57 per hour in Illinois and $8,750 overtime per year.

  • HVAC Supervisor: The average base salary for an HVAC Supervisor is $70,810 per year in Illinois and $11,250 overtime per year. 

The median income for an HVAC Mechanic in Illinois is $43,752 according to salary.com as of November 25, 2020, but the range typically falls between $37,144 and $55,625. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on the city and many other important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession.

How Much Does It Cost to Become an HVAC Technician in Illinois?

It costs $24.95 to take the EPA Section 608 Certification Examination and $5.95 for each additional attempt. The cost associated with the schooling to train to be an HVAC technician varies widely—from a couple of thousand dollars at some trade schools to $15,000 for longer, more comprehensive programs. There may be a fee from your locality. Some jurisdictions require a contractor license for any type of work, while others may only require a contractor license for work above a certain dollar amount.

How to Become an HVAC Professional in Illinois

  • Be at least 18 years of age.

  • Earn a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

  • Have a valid driver’s license.

  • Get the proper training to pass EPA and other certifications. 

  • Either attend community or technical college or become an Apprentice/Entry Level worker for an HVAC company. 

  • Get EPA Section 608 Certification by passing the exam.

Check local or city licensing requirements for the area where you will be working. There is no statewide licensing for HVAC technicians in Illinois.

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How Long Does it Take to Become an HVAC Tech in Illinois?

It will take about two years of schooling/work experience to learn what you need to know for the EPA Section 608 Certification Exam. However, you can be working as a technician under a seasoned professional—and earning money—the whole time. The longer you work in the business, the more skilled and valued you will become as an employee.

Illinois HVAC Training programs and schools

There are many programs to get the training you need to become an HVAC professional in Illinois and they are located all over the state, in major cities and smaller communities. There are also many more options for online training.

Most HVAC technicians hold some kind of post-secondary degree or certificate. There are currently two main organizations that approve HVAC programs and schools nationwide: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

HVAC Excellence has accredited the following programs in Illinois:

  • HVAC Technical Institute, Chicago 

  • Midwest Technical Institute, Springfield, Ill. 

  • Richland Community College, Decatur, Ill. 

  • Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, Ill.

PAHRA has accredited the following colleges in Illinois:

  • College of Lake County, Grayslake, Ill. 

  • Elgin Community College, Elgin, Ill. 

  • Illinois Central College, East Peoria, Ill. 

  • John A. Logan College, Carterville, Ill. 

  • Oakton Community College, Des Plaines, Ill.

HVACClasses.org breaks down the credit hour requirements for all of the different programs at each of the above schools.

You’ll see that many of the same colleges or programs appear on all these lists.

Tuition: The Cost of Tuition depends on the program you choose but can range from $1,200 to  $15,000 at a technical school or pursuing an associate’s degree at a community college.

Program Prerequisites: You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED.

On-the-Job Experience: While on the job, you will need to have good customer service skills, be detail-oriented, have some mechanical capability, and be physically fit because the job can include some heavy lifting and hours of walking, standing, and working in tight spaces.

Who Issues HVAC Licenses in Illinois?

There are no licenses issued at the state level for HVAC contractors/technicians in Illinois. However, there are some licensing restrictions in certain municipalities. Be sure to check with local governments to know what is required in the area you intend to work. If you own your own business in the HVAC field in Illinois, you’ll need a state-issued business license and, at a minimum, worker’s compensation insurance.

Does My Illinois HVAC Experience Allow Me to Work in Any Other State?

Every state has different licensing requirements. Some will have minimum work experience thresholds and many will require that you document that experience and pass a licensing exam. Be sure to check those mandates before beginning work as an HVAC professional in another state, even if you’ve been doing HVAC work in Illinois. Your EPA Certification and other Certifications may not be enough to legally perform HVAC work in another state.

National HVAC Certifications

Other certifications can help you demonstrate your proficiency to potential employers and clients. North American Technical Excellence (NATE) certification, ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) certification and other professional certifications are not required but can add to your marketability as a service provider and therefore increase your opportunity to make more money.

Continuing Education

Though Illinois does not require continuing education, you will want to stay informed about emerging technology in the HVAC industry. There are many ways to keep yourself current in regard to the technology put to use in HVAC systems and appliances. Distributors want you to know about their company’s latest offerings and will often hold training sessions about new and changing equipment and parts.

HVAC manufacturers offer training too, including online. For example, according to HVACSchool.org, Carrier has something they call Carrier University, an elaborate training system that includes classroom and online courses and symposiums and seminars covering all aspects of the HVACR industry and all of the people involved in it.

Resources

You can stay up to date on all HVAC industry news several ways:

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