HVAC Training Schools in Virginia: Degrees & Certifications

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In Virginia (VA), 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 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 the nearby 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, 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.

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 Virginia

HVAC workers in VA are expected to have excellent opportunities within their profession in the coming decade. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) anticipated a 13 percent explosion in HVAC openings nationwide—equivalent to 46,300 fresh HVAC positions—between 2018 and 2028, much higher than the average growth predicted across all occupations during that time period (5 percent).

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 May 2020. As proof of point, Monster (2020) has posted 1,214 relevant HVAC jobs in VA at places such as Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, and Richmond. In short, in Virginia, growth in this industry is ongoing.

HVAC Salaries Virginia

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 (May 2019) found that the 342,040 HVAC workers nationwide had an average annual salary(annual mean wage) of $51,420. In Virginia, the average salary (annual mean wage) for HVAC workers is virtually the same, at $50,460. Following are the US and Virginia averages, as they compare:

United States Virginia
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 11,670
Annual mean wage $51,420 $50,460
10th percentile $30,610 $28,500
25th percentile $37,660 $38,140
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $49,770
75th percentile $62,070 $61,360
90th percentile $77,920 $74,350

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (2020), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States:

  • 10th percentile: $31,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,724
  • 90th percentile: $73,000

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in Virginia is virtually the same as that of the rest of the nation. 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 2020) found that VA had the 30th lowest cost of living in the United States for 2019.

The BLS designated 13 regions within Virginia for which employment data is available. The 560 HVAC workers in the Lynchburg, VA area earned the highest average salary (annual mean wage) in the state at $52,130 while the 270 HVAC workers in the Southside Virginia nonmetropolitan area had the lowest average salary (annual mean wage) at $32,570.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Virginia

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 accrediting 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 June 2020, there were seven HVAC Excellence-accredited programs in Virginia:

Northern Virginia Community College

Northern Virginia Community College offers the following three programs:

Air Conditioning and Refrigeration: HVAC-R and Facilities Services Technology, Career Studies Certificate (21 to 23 credit-hours) – Students are provided with entry-level instruction in the service, principles, maintenance, installation, and repair of refrigeration, air conditioning, heating, electrical, and plumbing systems. Some of the courses in the curriculum include air conditioning and refrigeration controls, heating systems, air conditioning and refrigeration, college success skills, refrigerant usage EPA certification, circuits and controls, and college composition.

Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, Certificate (33 to 34 credit-hours) – Students gain skills such as servicing, maintaining, repairing, and installation of HVAC/R equipment. This program includes all courses mentioned above with the addition of air conditioning and refrigeration controls, basic technical mathematics, and introduction to physics.

Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, AAS (67 to 68 credit-hours) – Students are provided with the skills that lead them to leadership positions in the HVAC/R industry. All the courses mentioned above are included in the curriculum, with the addition of the following: heat loads and psychrometrics, heat pumps, advanced troubleshooting and service, introduction to communication, conditioning systems, gas-fired warm air furnaces, and hydronics and zoning.

On completion of any of the above programs, students will be well-equipped to work in the HVAC/R field.

  • Location: Woodbridge, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (24 months); certificates (12 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Virginia resident ($185.50 per credit-hour); out-of-state ($388.25 per credit-hour)

Virginia Beach Technical & Career Education Center

The Virginia Beach Technical & Career Education Center also offers an HVAC program that has earned HVAC Excellence accreditation. This two-year program provides students with textbook knowledge as well as hands-on experience in 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 such as basic refrigeration and charging, electricity, and air conditioning, and the Workplace Readiness Skills for the Commonwealth Examination. Graduates of this program may go on to complete apprenticeships or pursue further education.

Students in this program will delve into topics such as soldering, safety, brazing, electrical circuits, piping, central air units, ice makers, window units, oil and gas furnaces, heat pumps, and refrigerators. They will have the opportunity to work in real labs, with real equipment, software and computers. Upon graduation they will go on to take up roles such as home appliance repairer, air conditioning, heating, construction and building inspector, refrigeration mechanics and installers, sheet metal worker, and cost estimator.

  • Location: Virginia Beach, VA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the school for a customized assessment


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.

Students can find jobs as entry-level HVAC technicians on completion of this program. They are trained in computerized diagnostics, so they can tackle systems such as heat pumps, gas heaters, commercial refrigerators, ventilating systems, and air conditioners.

  • Location: Norfolk and Richmond, VA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Contact FORTIS for a customized assessment
  • Estimated Tuition: $14,641 total

Advanced Technology Institute

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 in the program include the fundamentals of technology, basic electricity and circuits, pipe brazing/ducting and air movement, domestic and 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. 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.

Students in this diploma program will work on a number of operational units, thus gaining practical work experience through the Advanced Technology Institute. Moreover, the faculty for the program includes experienced HVAC professionals with several years of industry experience and expertise. Graduates of this program will be prepared for entry-level employment in the HVAC field.

  • Location: Virginia Beach, VA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 60 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact ATI for a customized assessment

Home Builders Institute – Apprentice program

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 and tubing, wiring and circuits safety, maintaining and cleaning HVAC equipment, system diagnostics, and using green building techniques to increase energy efficiency.

Other HVAC Excellence-accredited programs include:

While there is an array of HVAC apprenticeships and training programs in Virginia, 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 Certification and Licensure in Virginia (VA)

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 and 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.

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.

Farheen Gani

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).