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 can rely on skilled HVAC professionals to install, repair, and maintain climate control systems that keep things comfortable, even in the worst weather.

A wealth of associations and resources are available for these professionals in VA. 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 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 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 will likely have stable employment prospects in the coming years, especially in areas with high population growth and construction.

Read on to discover the high-growth career prospects for HVAC workers in VA, 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 2022) anticipated a 5 percent explosion in HVAC openings nationwide—equivalent to 20,200 fresh HVAC positions—between 2021 and 2031, as fast as the average growth predicted across all occupations during that time (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 higher risk for muscle strains, tears, chemical burns, frostbite, electrical shocks, and other problems. 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 July 2023. As proof of point, Indeed (2023) has posted 1,178 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 Salary in 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 2022) found that the 374,770 HVAC workers nationwide had an average annual salary(annual mean wage) of $57,460. In Virginia, the average salary (annual mean wage) for HVAC workers is almost the same, at $55,880. Following are the US and Virginia averages, as they compare:

United States Virginia
Number of HVAC professionals employed 374,770 12,640
Annual mean wage $57,460 $55,880
10th percentile $36,170 $36,750
25th percentile $44,100 $45,960
50th percentile (median) $51,390 $53,460
75th percentile $65,630 $62,680
90th percentile $82,630 $78,270

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (2023), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States:

  • 10th percentile: $35,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $54,371
  • 90th percentile: $84,000

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 2023) found that VA had the 33rd lowest cost of living in the United States for 2023.

The BLS designated 13 regions within Virginia for which employment data is available. The 420 HVAC workers in the Lynchburg, VA area earned the highest average salary (annual mean wage) in the state at $54,230, while the 140 HVAC workers in the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford area had the lowest average salary (annual mean wage) at $44,970.

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. Two main organizations are currently accrediting HVAC programs nationwide: 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 August 2023, there were 15 HVAC Excellence-accredited programs in Virginia:

Northern Virginia Community College

Northern Virginia Community College offers the following three programs:

HVAC-R and Facilities Services Technology, Career Studies Certificate (23 credits) – 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 credits) – 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 credits) – 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; air conditioning systems; gas-fired warm air furnaces; and hydronics and zoning.

Upon completing 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 (SACSCOC); HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (24 months); certificates (12 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Virginia resident ($185.50 per credit); out-of-state ($388.25 per credit)

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 and 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 and 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.

This program’s students will delve into soldering, safety, brazing, electrical circuits, piping, central air units, ice makers, window units, oil and gas furnaces, heat pumps, and refrigerators. They will be able 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 repairers, air conditioning, heating, construction and building inspectors, refrigeration mechanics and installers, sheet metal workers, and cost estimators.

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

Valley Career & Technical Center

Valley Career & Technical Center has a two-year HVAC-R course that is designed to prepare students with the technical knowledge and basic skills necessary for gaining HVAC employment. These skills include troubleshooting, repairing, and installing HVAC equipment, heat pumps, furnaces, and ductwork. In addition, graduates will learn about maintaining and servicing HVAC equipment and also about the theory of design for the equipment.

As part of the program students will delve into topics such as basic electricity and controls; tools and basic safety; pipe fitting and plumbing; duct building and design; wire and troubleshooting thermostats and safeties; sheet metal fitting; and equipment installation.

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

New Horizons Regional Education Centers

The Woodside Lane Career and Technical Education Center Campus offers a one-year HVAC program where students learn about installing, repairing, and maintaining the operating conditions of HVAC/R systems. They work with piping and tubing, study the principles of electricity and heat, and install duct systems.

Students also explore emerging technologies, EPA regulations, energy conservation techniques, and systems with exempt and non-exempt refrigerants. Topics of study include sizing, installing, and testing water systems; refrigerant transition and recovery; fabrication, assembling, and installing ductwork; air properties and distribution; and leak detection, evacuation, recovery, and charging.

  • Location: Newport News, VA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the school for a customized assessment

Southside Virginia Community College

Through Southside Virginia Community College’s HVAC/R program, students can earn up to four levels of a highly recognized industry credential. These include NCCER HVAC levels 1, 2, 3 & 4, which can be completed through written work online and hands-on work in an open-lab format.

The curriculum includes courses such as circuits and controls; heating systems; air conditioning and refrigeration; advanced troubleshooting and service; and mechanical codes.

  • Location: Alberta, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: 16 to 32 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: Level 1 with core (in-state: $847; out-of-state: $2,541); levels 2, 3, or 4 (in-state: $676 each; out-of-state: $2,301 each)


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 upon 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 Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Contact FORTIS for a customized assessment
  • Estimated Tuition: $19,452 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; commercial refrigeration; heat pumps; air conditioners; industrial control systems; intermediate electricity & schematics; and metal repair and fabrication.

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 and units in occupational safety, industrial psychology, and service management.

Students in this diploma program will work on several 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: AOS degree (18 months); diploma (15 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: AOS degree ($36,420); diploma ($29,136)

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, maintain and clean HVAC equipment, system diagnostics, and use 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, online HVAC training options are available.

To learn about the distance-based programs, check out the online HVAC classes page.

HVAC 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, various organizations 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 before beginning work. All HVAC workers in VA who perform services over $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 depend 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 of 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 chosen municipality.

Jocelyn Blore

Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.