HVAC Training Programs in Chesapeake, VA

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Chesapeake, Virginia (VA) is on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, and the city’s waterfront is the perfect environment for a booming tourist industry, military installations, and a variety of maritime commerce. The city’s economic development team has taken steps to attract more and larger businesses, primarily via incentive programs and other competitive measures.

The planning commission recently began the rezoning process to allow the development of a commerce park with the promise to be “best business park east of the Mississippi.” Standard Calibrations recently signed a deal to build its corporate headquarters and warehouse in Chesapeake. Economic diversification includes growth in key sectors, such as logistics and supply chain management, defense and security technology, manufacturing, professional services, and healthcare technology.

The weather frequently keeps Chesapeake residents indoors. The climate is classified as humid subtropical, which is characterized by hot and muggy summers followed by colder winters. July is usually the hottest month, with temperatures in the high 70s Fahrenheit. July also receives the most precipitation, averaging six inches of rainfall.

February is the coldest winter month, although the average temperature remains above freezing. During the winter, the area receives an average four inches of snow, with January receiving almost half of the total snowfall.

Whether at work, out in the town, or relaxing at home, residents rely on heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort. The economic growth of the city has increased the need for new facilities, many of which require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R). Businesses that incorporate technology require specialized climate control systems.

For reporting purposes, Chesapeake is included in the Virginia Beach–Norfolk–Newport News, Virginia–North Carolina (VA–NC) Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2018) reported that 3,120 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in that VA–NC MSA.

Read on to discover HVAC training schools and the local career outlook in the Chesapeake, Virginia area.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Chesapeake, VA

The BLS (2018) predicted an average 7 percent job opening increase across all occupations in the U.S. between 2016 and 2026. Nationwide opportunities for HVAC technicians are expected to increase at a much faster rate of 15 percent during the same decade. The demand for technicians in Virginia is growing slower than the national average for the industry, but still faster than the average for all occupations. Projections Central predicted an 11.5 percent statewide increase by the end of 2026.

Construction of new residences and commercial structures drive the growth of the HVAC industry. Additionally, aging equipment and systems in existing buildings must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet contemporary standards. The current emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution also contributes to industry growth as new equipment and systems are often required. Modern climate control systems are complex and require trained technicians to install, maintain, service, or repair.

The best job prospects are for technicians who have developed their troubleshooting skills and who are proficient with computers and electronics. Technicians who specialize in new installations may experience seasonal unemployment if construction declines, although the growth of technology-based enterprises in Chesapeake makes any decrease unlikely.

The city continues to attract new industry, especially in the technological sector. No slowdown in the facilities and climate control needs for the defense industry and subsidiary businesses is expected. Maintenance and repair work continues all year, as companies and homeowners must keep their climate control systems in good operating condition regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in Chesapeake, VA

The BLS reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $47,610 during the year ended May 2018. Technicians in the Virginia Beach–Norfolk–Newport News (VA–NC) MSA—which includes Chesapeake—earn an annual median wage of $49,740.

The following table summarizes the national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals:

United States Virginia Virginia Beach – Norfolk – Newport News
Number of HVAC professionals employed 324,310 12,690 3,120
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $50,210 $49,280
10th Percentile $29,460 $28,660 $31,450
25th Percentile $36,520 $38,470 $40,060
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $49,970 $49,740
75th Percentile $60,900 $60,960 $58,430
90th Percentile $76,230 $73,650 $66,920

HVAC Apprenticeships in Chesapeake, VA

Traditionally, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians started as helpers and learned the trade through hands-on training. Today, most workers now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Formal training and apprenticeships open up more employment opportunities. Workers also start at higher wages and earn more throughout their career.

Apprenticeships include specified hours of on-the-job training (typically 2,000) and classroom work (144) annually for three to five years. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry manages sponsors and registered apprentices. Apprentices who complete a four-year program are recognized as journey-level technicians.

HVAC technicians also receive training and support from a variety of national, state, and local industry associations. Local organizations and chapters include the following:

  • Associated Builders and Contractors – Virginia Chapter (ABCVA)
  • Associated General Contractors of Virginia (AGCVA)
  • Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors of Virginia (PHCCVA)
  • Tidewater Builders Association (TBA)
  • Virginia Air Duct Cleaners (NADCA)

These and similar associations coordinate with others in the industry and with government organizations to establish educational, licensing, safety, and performance standards.

There are seven Virginia HVAC sponsors as of May 2019. Not all companies are accepting apprentices at all times, and there may be other sponsors not on the list. Apprentices can work for an HVAC company not currently listed as long as the company will register as a sponsor.

Associated Builders and Contractors – Virginia Chapter

The Virginia chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABCVA) offers trade apprenticeships, including a four-year HVAC program in Norfolk, VA. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, employed by an HVAC company, physically able to do the work, and proficient in English.

Students complete introductory coursework, as well as technical coursework such as piping, soldering, brazing, electricity, air quality and ducting, controls, refrigerants, electronics, and installation and service. They also learn about systems and equipment including hydronics, heat pumps, compressors, and retail, commercial, and industrial refrigeration systems. Students also gain an understanding of energy conservation, building management, system design, and planned maintenance.

The training meets the standards set forth by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Fees are not disclosed on the website.

Additional HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs are available through the following national industry associations:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Details are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Chesapeake, VA

When choosing an HVAC training school, it is essential to determine if it is accredited and by which organization. Accreditation means that an independent agency has evaluated the quality of the program curriculum and instructors.

HVAC programs are accredited by two organizations. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation has not yet accredited a Virginia program. HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to five Virginia programs, including the Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center.

Centura College

Centura has campuses throughout Virginia. They offer an HVAC diploma program at their Chesapeake and Newport News campuses. Coursework includes classroom lectures and hands-on training that emphasizes troubleshooting skills and prepares students for industry certification exams including OSHA 10 and EPA Section 608. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment as technicians.

Classes are available during the day or at night for a total of 36 credit-hours. The curriculum covers air conditioning and refrigeration fundamentals, comfort and psychometrics, commercial HVAC and HVAC/R, heat pumps, heating systems, and HVAC and HVAC/R controls.

  • Location: Chesapeake and Newport News, VA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Tuition: $636 per credit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 48 weeks

Thomas Nelson Community College

Thomas Nelson Community College offers an HVAC/R career studies certificate program, an HVAC/R certificate program, and a degree program. The HVAC/R career studies certificate includes coursework in circuits and controls, heating systems, refrigeration, air conditioning, and heat pumps. Students complete 22 credits, which may be applied to the HVAC/R certificate program.

The certificate program includes the above coursework, with the addition of college composition, first aid and safety, mechanical codes, technical math, and planning and estimating. Students complete a minimum of 35 credits over two semesters.

The HVAC/R technical studies degree prepares students for managerial and supervisory positions as well as employment as technicians. The coursework includes the curriculum from the certificate programs and the addition of the following technical subjects: information systems and information literacy, electricity fundamentals, technical writing, HVAC/R analysis, direct digital controls, cooperative education, and programmable controllers.

Students also complete coursework in non-technical subjects that include fundamentals of reasoning, calculus, social science, principles of supervision and leadership development, small business management, and humanities for a total of 67 credits to earn their degree. Credits may be transferred to Old Dominion University after consultation with an academic advisor.

  • Location: Hampton, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC)
  • Tuition: $160.20 per credit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Four months for the career studies certificate; eight months for the HVAC/R certificate; two years for the degree

Tidewater Community College

TCC offers an HVAC/R certificate and degree program. The certificate program prepares students for entry-level positions as residential or commercial technicians, sales representatives and control services technicians. The 35-credit curriculum covers college composition, controls, duct construction and maintenance, heating systems, HVAC/R fundamentals, HVAC systems, hydronics, psychometrics, and other subjects. Certificate credits can be transferred to the degree program.

The 68-credit degree program has three specialties: commercial, residential, and supervision and management. The curriculum includes the above certificate coursework as well as courses in indoor air quality, computer applications and concepts, customer service, safety and health codes and regulations, system startup and commissioning, humanities, and social science. Students then choose from HVAC and other electives relevant to their specialty to complete their degree.

  • Location: Portsmouth, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC)
  • Tuition: $185.35 per credit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 18 months for the certificate; two years for the degree

Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center

As part of the city’s public school system, the VB Technical and Career Education Center offers an HVAC program that provides training for high school students. The curriculum includes courses on central and window air conditioning units, electrical circuits, heat pumps, ice makers and refrigerators, oil and gas furnaces, piping, safety, and soldering and brazing.

Students can get hands-on training with an optional internship with a local company or apply their coursework toward completing a full apprenticeship. Graduates are prepared to sit for industry exams that include EPA 608 certification, R410A Reclamation Safety, and workplace readiness skills.

  • Location: Virginia Beach, VA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence and the Virginia Board of Education
  • Tuition: Not disclosed on the website
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Two years

Students who are unable to attend on-campus schools may find that online institutions can better meet their needs. For more information on accredited programs available, explore online HVAC training programs.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Chesapeake, VA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain EPA Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. There are four types of certifications according to the systems on which technicians work:

  • For servicing small appliances (Type I)
  • For servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning (Type II)
  • For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances (Type III)
  • For servicing all types of equipment (Type IV or Universal)

Practice exams are available online.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations, which also offer Section 608 testing and certification. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) provides opportunities for enhanced technical competence by offering comprehensive, cutting-edge education and certification to the HVAC/R industry.

The North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification tests represent real world working knowledge of HVAC/R systems. And the HVAC Excellence exams and certifications are intended to validate that an individual has retained knowledge in a specific area of the HVAC/R industry. Their websites include details about the certifications, cost, and requirements.

The Commonwealth of Virginia requires HVAC technicians to be licensed as a journey-level technician, master technician, or contractor. Licensing requires submitting proof of education and experience relevant to the license sought, passing an exam, and paying a fee. Licenses must be renewed every two years, and renewal is contingent on applicants completing a minimum of three hours of continuing education.

As a final note, the City of Chesapeake requires all contractors to obtain a state contractors license before bidding or undertaking a job as follows:

  • Class A: Required for single jobs of $120,000 or higher with no limit on annual totals
  • Class B: Required for single jobs between $10,000 and $120,000 with a yearly sum that cannot exceed $750,000
  • Class C: Required for single jobs between $1,000 and $9,999, with an annual sum that cannot exceed $150,000

All businesses must obtain a city business license. Fees are based on gross receipts. All HVAC professionals should ensure that they have all necessary state and local licenses before beginning any projects.

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith was introduced to the HVAC industry when she worked as a bookkeeper and secretary for a small air-conditioning contractor. She eventually became a CPA and started her own practice specializing in small business taxes and accounting. After retiring from business, she began writing articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. She also authored four books. Sandra makes her home in the mountains with a rescue dog that naps on her lap as she writes.