HVAC Training Programs in Virginia & Washington DC

Connect With HVAC Schools

In Virginia (VA) and Washington DC, there’s a wealth of associations and resources for professionals who work in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R). By illustration, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Virginia provides continuing education opportunities, a monthly e-newsletter, member networking, discounts for various services (e.g., Aramark work apparel, ExxonMobil fleet, Equiguard warranties, etc.), and legal advocacy on issues which impact the industry. Some of the PHCC’s educational programs include essentials & advanced project management, business management, and more. Also, the Association of Air Conditioning Professionals has served trade workers in VA and DC since 1964, striving to improve the engineering and design of HVAC systems by offering ongoing training for contractors in the industry. Another group of note in the area is Metropolitan Washington Association for Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Contractors (MWPHCC), which raises money for disaster relief, including funds to replace damaged textbooks and regional apprenticeship opportunities. Most recently, MWPHCC created a Baton Rouge apprenticeship following the Louisiana floods. Coupled with its long term advocacy efforts surrounding technical and career education standards (among other issues), this organization boasts a veritable powerhouse to voice HVAC professionals’ concerns.

So in Virginia and Washington DC, what is it that HVAC mechanics and installers do? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015), HVAC workers take on varied responsibilities such as installing, inspecting, and diagnosing problems in HVAC systems and components (e.g., ductless splits, motors, hermetic compressors, intake & exhaust fans, refrigeration controls, thermostats, heat pumps, humidifiers, furnaces, boilers, economizers); reading & implementing blueprint instructions; keeping inventory of HVAC tools & parts; maintaining client records; making suggestions to improve energy efficiency; and ensuring active credentialing through entities such as the VA Board for Contractors and the Washington DC Office of Documents & Administrative Issuances.

Virginia and DC HVAC professionals sometimes work typical business hours, although they may be called upon to work weekends, evenings, or holidays, particularly during the high winter and summer seasons. It’s increasingly common for clients with HVAC systems to have service contracts for inspections, which brings in steady work throughout the year. Also, since HVAC equipment generally needs to be replaced every 10 to 15 years, these workers are likely to have stable employment prospects in the years to come, especially in areas with high population growth and construction.

Read on to discover the high-growth career prospects for HVAC workers in VA and DC, as well as to learn about the expected salaries, accredited HVAC training schools, and licensing information in the region.

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HVAC Demand in VA & DC

HVAC workers in VA and DC are expected to have excellent opportunities within their profession in the coming decade. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) anticipated a 14 percent explosion in HVAC openings nationwide—equivalent to 39,600 fresh HVAC positions—between 2014 and 2024, much higher than the average growth predicted across all occupations during that time period (7 percent). It’s important to note that the average growth in the HVAC industry in VA and DC is slightly lower than the national projections. In fact, CareerOneStop (2016)—an affiliate of the US Department of Labor—forecasted a 13 percent increase in HVAC openings in VA between 2014 and 2024, and in DC, the figure was ten percent (CareerOneStop). In other terms, this organization predicts that there will be 1,400 openings in VA and 30 in DC; note that these percentage increases are still higher than the average growth predicted across all occupations around the country during that time.

While the future employment prospects in HVAC look bright, people in this line of work should be warned that this industry suffers a higher-than-average incidence of injury compared to other US jobs. With the physical nature of the job as well as the various agents used (e.g., refrigerant chemicals), HVAC workers are put at a relatively higher risk for muscle strains, tears, chemical burns, frostbite, electrical shocks, and other problems. That said, with proper training and prudent use of safety equipment, people working in HVAC can keep these complications to a minimum.

Adding further proof of the burgeoning employment climate in HVAC, common job posting websites offered an abundance of openings as of November 2016. As proof of point, Monster posted (Nov. 2016) 83 relevant HVAC jobs in VA at places such as Fairfax County Government, KCS HVAC Smart Home Solutions, Smiley’s Heating & Cooling, ABM On Site, Caton Companies, Big Jobs Inc., BCH Mechanical Inc., Central Services, Hawkes & Company, Conserv Building Services, Aerotek, Xanterra Leisure Holding LLC, Boeing, Ingersoll Rand, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Westgate Resorts, to name a few. In Washington DC, there were opportunities as places such as CRC Property Management, Jiffy Plumbing & Heating, and Quick Servant Company, among others. Indeed (Nov. 2016) hosted an astonishing 2,124 relevant posts in HVAC across Virginia, including openings at Cox-Powell Corporation, General Services Corporation, Sentara Healthcare, Excel Heating & Cooling, United Air Temp, EMCOR, White Goods Services Inc., and Anderson Air Conditioning & Heating, among others. In short, there’s expected to be much growth in this industry in the years to come.

HVAC Salaries in VA & DC

Not only are the opportunities in HVAC growing across the country, but these workers also earn a higher-than-average salary among occupations which require “some college.” By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) found that the 274,680 HVAC workers nationwide had an average annual salary of $47,380 and the following percentiles:

United States (274,680 HVAC workers): $47,380 annual average

  • 10th percentile: $27,790
  • 25th percentile: $34,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,110
  • 75th percentile: $58,070
  • 90th percentile: $71,690

In hourly terms, these national figures equated to:

US: $22.78/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.36/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.79/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.69/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.92/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $34.47/hr.

Interestingly, these wages varied by source of data. In fact, Payscale (Nov. 2016)—an aggregator of self-reported salaries—found the following percentiles among its 451 HVAC workers nationwide who responded with annual figures:

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $35,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,886
  • 75th percentile: $53,000
  • 90th percentile: $67,000

Another 2,486 HVAC professionals in the US gave Payscale (Nov. 2016) their hourly wage figures:

  • 10th percentile: $13.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.00/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.00/hr.

While Payscale can serve as a valuable comparative resource, the BLS (May 2015) numbers are generally considered more reliable due to the more rigorous methods of data collection. Notably, HVAC workers in VA and DC earned higher mean salaries than the national average. In fact, the BLS (2015) found that the 9,820 HVAC workers in VA made an annual average salary of $47,850, and in DC, the 300 HVAC professionals made an astonishing $66,320 on average, 40 percent higher than the national mean. Impressively, Washington DC is the top-paying state for HVAC workers in the country.

In more detailed terms, here were the wage percentiles in VA and DC in the HVAC industry:

Virginia (9,820 HVAC workers): $47,850 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,870
  • 25th percentile: $36,770
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,370
  • 75th percentile: $57,990
  • 90th percentile: $66,530

Washington DC (300 HVAC workers): $66,320 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $53,540
  • 25th percentile: $58,660
  • 50th percentile (median): $66,120
  • 75th percentile: $74,180
  • 90th percentile: $80,960

Put into hourly figures, these wages became:

Virginia: $23.01/hour average

  • 10th percentile: $13.88/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.68/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.77/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.88/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $31.99/hr.

Washington DC: $31.89/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $25.74/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $28.20/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $31.79/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $35.66/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $38.92/hr.

Also, Indeed (Nov. 2016) found slightly different regional annual salaries in HVAC, reporting averages of $41,000 in VA and $51,000 in DC. Again, BLS figures are assumed to be more reliable figures, but this can give prospective workers a better rounded view of salary estimates.

It’s important to note that while the average salaries of HVAC workers in VA and DC are somewhat higher than the national figures, so too is the comparative cost of living in those areas. The Missouri Economic Research & Information Center (MERIC 2016) found that VA is the nineteenth most expensive state in the country, although the Old Dominion does boast savings in groceries, utilities, and transportation; DC is the second most expensive region in the country despite its relative savings in healthcare. Please keep these facts in mind while evaluating the following detailed salary analyses.

The BLS (May 2015) has distinguished various metropolitan areas within the state of VA. Here are the numbers of HVAC workers, annual salaries, and wage percentiles among the 13 BLS-designated areas within VA:

Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA (80 HVAC workers): $40,970 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,520
  • 25th percentile: $33,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,930
  • 75th percentile: $48,370
  • 90th percentile: $57,410

Charlottesville, VA (310 employed): $43,360 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,570
  • 25th percentile: $37,230
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,590
  • 75th percentile: $48,820
  • 90th percentile: $55,870

Harrisonburg, VA (150 employed): $47,780 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $34,240
  • 25th percentile: $40,500
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,650
  • 75th percentile: $55,030
  • 90th percentile: $62,700

Lynchburg, VA (420 employed): $42,290 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $29,080
  • 25th percentile: $33,480
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,780
  • 75th percentile: $51,170
  • 90th percentile: $60,700

Northeast Virginia Nonmetropolitan Area (160 employed): $45,480 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,440
  • 25th percentile: $36,590
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,390
  • 75th percentile: $53,410
  • 90th percentile: $62,980

Northwest Virginia Nonmetropolitan Area (380 employed): $48,410 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,310
  • 25th percentile: $32,630
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,670
  • 75th percentile: $50,500
  • 90th percentile: $61,660

Richmond, VA (1,750 employed): $46,210 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $29,810
  • 25th percentile: $36,420
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,980
  • 75th percentile: $56,290
  • 90th percentile: $63,180

Roanoke, VA (540 employed): $45,140 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,770
  • 25th percentile: $33,780
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,270
  • 75th percentile: $56,470
  • 90th percentile: $65,480

Southside Virginia Nonmetropolitan Area (230 employed): $35,720 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,600
  • 25th percentile: $27,690
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,230
  • 75th percentile: $42,720
  • 90th percentile: $49,790

Southwest Virginia Nonmetropolitan Area (150 employed): $36,130 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,060
  • 25th percentile: $27,930
  • 50th percentile (median): $33,840
  • 75th percentile: $44,160
  • 90th percentile: $51,030

Staunton-Waynesboro, VA (180 employed): $31,660 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $16,430
  • 25th percentile: $18,470
  • 50th percentile (median): $33,080
  • 75th percentile: $40,860
  • 90th percentile: $47,900

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC (2,250 employed): $42,870 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,610
  • 25th percentile: $33,990
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,230
  • 75th percentile: $51,070
  • 90th percentile: $60,090

Winchester, VA-WV (100 employed): $39,960 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,510
  • 25th percentile: $32,310
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,750
  • 75th percentile: $47,690
  • 90th percentile: $55,820

Lastly, there were two BLS-designated regions in Washington DC:

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV (5,980 HVAC workers): $57,710 annual average

  • 10th percentile: $37,460
  • 25th percentile: $48,640
  • 50th percentile (median): $57,890
  • 75th percentile: $67,290
  • 90th percentile: $78,280

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division (4,950 HVAC workers)

  • 10th percentile: $40,100
  • 25th percentile: $49,840
  • 50th percentile (median): $58,250
  • 75th percentile: $67,520
  • 90th percentile: $78,720

Accredited HVAC Schools in VA & DC

Prior to beginning a career in HVAC, it’s crucial to receive the proper training in the industry to learn about the appropriate techniques, equipment, and safety. There are currently two main organizations which accredit HVAC programs across the country: HVAC Excellence and Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). To learn about how programs are approved, please check out the accreditation section of the HVAC training homepage.

As of November 2016, there were two HVAC Excellence-accredited programs in Virginia.

For example, Fairfax County Public Schools based in Falls Church provides a two-part HVAC training program comprising 1) didactic instruction, and 2) hands-on job training. Coursework includes training in motors & controls for HVAC/R, among other subjects. Finally, students enroll in an HVAC apprenticeship through the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry where they apply their new skills under the guidance of experienced professionals. The 150-hour course sequences cost either $999 and $1,149 depending on the program.

Northern Virginia Community College’s (NOVA) Woodbridge campus provides a career studies certificate in HVAC/R & facilities services technology, featuring classes such as air conditioning & refrigeration controls; heating systems; introduction to plumbing; and circuits & controls. Also, NOVA offers a two-year associate of applied science (AAS) in air conditioning & refrigeration; this program has coursework in heating systems; gas-fired warm air furnaces; hydronics & zoning; heat loads & psychrometrics; and advanced troubleshooting & service. In addition to the $100 to $150 for textbooks, NOVA’s programs cost $145.25 per credit for VA residents and $340 for non-residents.

While HVAC Excellence and PAHRA are the gold standard nationally in HVAC program accreditation, the Virginia Board for Contractors also provides a list of approved vocational training schools, including Fortis, which has a campus in Norfolk. This HVAC training school gives instruction in areas such as gas heat, heat pumps, commercial systems, and air conditioning.

Additionally, the Advanced Technology Institute with a campus in Virginia Beach has an HVAC diploma program with specialized training in residential and light commercial systems. Courses include the fundamentals of technology; basic electricity & circuits; pipe brazing/ducting & air movement; domestic & commercial refrigeration; sheet metal fabrication; and direct digital controls. Furthermore, students receive preparation for the Section 608 EPA certification, a mandatory national credential for people who work with refrigerants. The program lasts 55 weeks. ATI also has an associate in occupational science (AOS) degree with similar coursework, as well as units in occupational safety, industrial psychology, and service management (I-IV).

Lastly, the Home Builders Institute is headquartered in Washington DC and provides a competitive HVAC apprentice program with hands-on instruction in how to install system piping & tubing; wiring & circuits safety; maintaining & cleaning HVAC equipment; system diagnostics; and using green building techniques to increase energy efficiency.

While there’s an array of HVAC apprenticeships and training programs in the Virginia and DC regions, it may be difficult for some students to attend for various reasons. For those who live in more rural regions or have other time commitments preventing them from completing an on-campus certificate or degree, there are some online HVAC training options available. To learn about the distance-based programs, check out the online HVAC classes page. 

HVAC Licensure IN VA & DC

In addition to receiving the proper training in the field, HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers around the country must ensure that they have the proper national and regional credentialing. As mentioned above, there’s currently one mandatory credential for all HVAC workers who handle refrigerants: the EPA Section 608 certification. There are four kinds:

  • Type I (small appliance)
  • Type II (high-pressure appliances)
  • Type III (low-pressure appliances)
  • Type IV (universal)

Also, there are various organizations which provide various competency-based certifications. These include North American Technician Excellence (NATE), HVAC Excellence, and the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES). To discover the credentials offered and how to apply, check out the HVAC certifications page.

Lastly, HVAC workers are encouraged to verify whether they have proper regional licensure or permitting prior to beginning work. For example, all HVAC workers in VA who perform services in excess of $1,000 must have a license issued by the Virginia Board for Contractors. There are three levels of licensure:

  • Journeyman
  • Master
  • Contractor

Following an application review of educational attainment and experience, each of these license types requires applicants to achieve a passing score on a comprehensive examination (e.g., 60 percent for journeyman, 64 percent for master-level). Rules surrounding qualifying levels of education and experience are variable and detailed. For example, VA journeyman license applicants may have either:

  • Four years of experience and 240 hours of formal training (Note: 80 additional hours of formal training can be substituted for one year of practical experience, up to 200 hours)
  • Two years of experience and an associate degree
  • One year experience and a bachelor’s degree

These licenses are valid for two years and require the completion of a continuing education (CE) course to renew. To discover how to achieve (or maintain) any of these state license types, check out the full rules on the VA Board for Contractors website.

The Washington DC Office of Documents & Administrative Issuances also provides three types of licenses in HVAC:

  • Refrigeration & air conditioning contractor (17-305)
  • Master refrigeration & air conditioning mechanic (17-306)
  • Master refrigeration & air conditioning mechanic limited (17-306)

These licenses are valid for one year. To learn about each of these local license types in detail, please visit chapter 17-3 of DC’s Documents & Administrative Issuances office.