HVAC Training Programs in Virginia & Washington DC

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In Virginia (VA) and Washington DC, summers can be unbearably muggy while a harsh winter can dump feet of snow and see temperatures dipping well below freezing. Though our forefathers may have endured these temperature extremes without the assistance of modern heating and air conditioning, luckily current residents do not have to. Instead, Virginia residents are able to rely on skilled HVAC professionals to install, repair and maintain climate control systems that keep things comfortable, even in the worst weather.

For these professionals in VA, a wealth of associations and resources are available. 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 that impact the industry. Some of the PHCC’s educational programs include advanced project management, business management, and more. In addition, 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 and offers regional apprenticeship opportunities. Coupled with its long term advocacy efforts surrounding technical and career education standards, 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), 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 2017) anticipated a 15 percent explosion in HVAC openings nationwide—equivalent to 48,800 fresh HVAC positions—between 2016 and 2026, much higher than the average growth predicted across all occupations during that time period (7 percent). The average growth in the HVAC industry in VA and DC is slightly lower than the national projections. In fact, Projections Central (2017) forecasted am 11.5 percent increase in HVAC openings in VA between 2016 and 2026, which amounts to an additional 1,330 jobs over that time span.

While the future employment prospects in HVAC look bright, people in this line of work should be warned that professionals in this industry suffer 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 December 2018. As proof of point, Monster posted (Dec. 2018) 52 relevant HVAC jobs in VA at places such as Bowhead, York Town, and ABC Imaging. In Washington DC, there were opportunities as places such as Home Air Services, Emcor, and Montgomery County Public Schools. Indeed (Dec. 2018) hosted 1,138 relevant posts in HVAC across Virginia, including openings at Pritchard & Fallin, Inc., CroppMetcalfe, and George Mason University. In short, in Virginia and Washington, DC, growth in this industry is ongoing.

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 that require less than a bachelor’s degree to start. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017) found that the 307,060 HVAC workers nationwide had an average annual salary of $49,530. In Virginia, the average salary for HVAC workers is virtually the same, at $49,520. Following are the US and VA averages, as they compare:

Annual salary Hourly salary
United States Virginia United States Virginia
Average $49,530 $49,520 $23.81 $23.81
10th percentile $29,120 $27,340 $14.00 $13.14
25th percentile $36,150 $37,050 $17.38 $17.81
50th percentile $47,080 $48,950 $22.64 $23.53
75th percentile $60,270 $60,540 $28.98 $29.10
90th percentile $75,330 $73,060 $36.22 $35.13

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (Dec. 2018), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States: 881 HVAC workers responding

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,606
  • 90th percentile: $72,000

An additional 4,892 HVAC workers gave Payscale their hourly salary figures, resulting in these percentile wages:

  • 10th percentile: $12.94/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.33/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.55/hr.

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in Virginia is virtually the same as that of the rest of the nation, differing by just $10 per year. As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2018) found that VA was the 31st most affordable state. Residents can expect to find minimal savings in areas like groceries and utilities, but also to pay more than average for housing.

The BLS designated 13 regions within Virginia for which employment data is available. The 440 HVAC workers in the Lynchburg, VA area earned the highest average salary in the state at $52,350 while the 370 HVAC workers in the Southside Virginia nonmetropolitan area had the lowest average salary at $30,550. Following are the detailed salary data for the state of Virginia:

Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA (70 HVAC workers): $42,770 annual average salary

Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $42,770 $20.56
10th percentile $27,560 $13.25
25th percentile $33,210 $15.97
50th percentile $41,410 $19.91
75th percentile $49,300 $23.70
90th percentile $64,190 $30.86

Charlottesville, VA (320 HVAC workers): $42,840 annual average salary

Charlottesville, VA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $42,840 $20.60
10th percentile $30,720 $14.77
25th percentile $36,680 $17.64
50th percentile $43,500 $20.92
75th percentile $48,780 $23.45
90th percentile $53,470 $25.71

Harrisonburg, VA (210 HVAC workers): $45,990 annual average salary

Harrisonburg, VA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $45,990 $21.11
10th percentile $28,940 $13.91
25th percentile $37,520 $18.04
50th percentile $46,390 $22.30
75th percentile $55,820 $26.84
90th percentile $62,590 $30.09

Lynchburg, VA (440 HVAC workers): $52,350 annual average salary

Lynchburg, VA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $52,350 $25.17
10th percentile $33,390 $16.05
25th percentile $37,970 $18.26
50th percentile $49,140 $23.63
75th percentile $60,330 $29.00
90th percentile $74,390 $35.76

Northeast Virginia nonmetropolitan area (220 HVAC workers): $37,780 annual average salary

Northeast Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $37,780 $18.16
10th percentile $18,230 $8.76
25th percentile $27,630 $13.28
50th percentile $37,090 $17.83
75th percentile $47,900 $23.03
90th percentile $58,010 $27.89

Northwest Virginia nonmetropolitan area (250 HVAC workers): $48,450 annual average salary

Northwest Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $48,450 $23.29
10th percentile $26,830 $12.90
25th percentile $33,150 $15.94
50th percentile $37,840 $18.19
75th percentile $48,230 $23.19
90th percentile $62,740 $30.16

Richmond, VA (2180 HVAC workers): $48,520 annual average salary

Richmond, VA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $48,520 $23.33
10th percentile $28,420 $13.66
25th percentile $38,110 $18.32
50th percentile $50,060 $24.07
75th percentile $59,260 $28.49
90th percentile $67,540 $32.47

Roanoke, VA (480 HVAC workers): $43,520 annual average salary

Roanoke, VA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $43,520 $20.92
10th percentile $26,470 $12.73
25th percentile $32,710 $15.73
50th percentile $40,950 $19.69
75th percentile $52,300 $25.15
90th percentile $64,660 $31.09

Southside Virginia nonmetropolitan area (370 HVAC workers): $30,550 annual average salary

Southside Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $30,550 $14.69
10th percentile $18,170 $8.74
25th percentile $22,190 $10.67
50th percentile $28,050 $13.49
75th percentile $38,210 $18.37
90th percentile $46,640 $22.42

Southwest Virginia nonmetropolitan area (290 HVAC workers): $32,470 annual average salary

Southwest Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $32,470 $15.61
10th percentile $24,960 $12.00
25th percentile $27,030 $13.00
50th percentile $30,190 $14.51
75th percentile $36,650 $17.62
90th percentile $45,360 $21.81

Staunton-Waynesboro, VA (130 HVAC workers): $36,120 annual average salary

Staunton-Waynesboro, VA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $36,120 $17.37
10th percentile $18,470 $8.88
25th percentile $28,250 $13.58
50th percentile $35,600 $17.12
75th percentile $43,310 $20.82
90th percentile $53,600 $25.77

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC (2520 HVAC workers): $45,120 annual average salary

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $43,510 $21.69
10th percentile $24,430 $11.75
25th percentile $32,820 $15.78
50th percentile $46,120 $22.17
75th percentile $55,510 $26.69
90th percentile $64,190 $30.86

Winchester, VA-WV (160 HVAC workers): $43,510 annual average salary

Winchester, VA-WV
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $43,510 $20.92
10th percentile $28,020 $13.47
25th percentile $32,850 $15.80
50th percentile $42,450 $20.41
75th percentile $52,760 $25.37
90th percentile $62,260 $29.93

In addition to Virginia regions, the BLS identified two metropolitan areas in and around Washington, DC with their own reported salary data. Notably, MERIC (2018) reported the District of Columbia to be the second most costly place in the US in terms of cost of living, coming in second only to Hawaii. These regional considerations are reflected in higher than average HVAC salaries.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV (6750 HVAC workers): $60,020 annual average salary

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $60,020 $28.86
10th percentile $37,090 $17.83
25th percentile $47,390 $22.78
50th percentile $59,600 $28.65
75th percentile $72,640 $34.93
90th percentile $84,160 $40.46

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division (5730 HVAC workers): $60,680 annual average salary

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $60,680 $29.18
10th percentile $39,240 $18.87
25th percentile $48,380 $23.26
50th percentile $60,110 $28.90
75th percentile $72,800 $35.00
90th percentile $83,520 $40.16

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 December 2018, there were five HVAC Excellence-accredited programs in Virginia.

For example, Northern Virginia Community College’s (NOVA) Woodbridge campus provides a, HVAC Excellence-accredited 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.

Virginia Beach Technical & Career Education Center in Virginia Beach also offers an HVAC program that has earned HVAC Excellence accreditation. The two-year program gives students the opportunity to learn “theory and practical applications of air conditioning, refrigeration and heating equipment servicing.” Those who complete the program will be eligible for a range of certifications, including the EPAC Section 608 certificate, as well as HVAC Excellence examinations like Electricity, Basic Refrigeration & Charging, and Air Conditioning; and the Workplace Readiness Skills for the Commonwealth Examination. Graduates of this program may go on to complete apprenticeships or further education.

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 as well as Roanoke. This HVAC training school gives instruction in areas such as gas heat, heat pumps, commercial systems, and air conditioning.

Additionally, the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) 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.

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 is an array of HVAC apprenticeships and training programs in the Virginia and DC regions, it may be difficult for some students to attend due to personal or professional commitments. 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 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 is one mandatory credential for all HVAC workers who handle refrigerants: the EPA Section 608 certification, which has four types:

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

Most HVAC training programs prepare students for EPA certification and many include the exam itself as part of the curriculum, but applicants should be sure to verify what steps they need to take to earn this essential certification.

Also, there are various organizations which provide competency-based certifications for HVAC professionals. 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, visit the HVAC certifications page.

Lastly, HVAC workers are encouraged to verify whether they have proper regional licensure or permitting prior to beginning work. 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

To obtain any of these licenses, HVAC professionals must submit an application that details their educational and practical experience in the field ad subsequently achieve a passing score on a comprehensive examination. Rules surrounding qualifying levels of education and experience are dependent on which level of licensure is required. 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

Each license type is valid for two years and requires the completion of a continuing education (CE) course to renew. To discover how to achieve and maintain any of these state license types, interested applicants should review the full rules on the VA Board for Contractors website.

The District of Columbia Board of Industrial Trades 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.

Because licensure requirements can vary even within one state, it is contingent on all HVAC professionals entering the field to ensure they are properly credentialed to perform their work in their municipality of their choosing.