HVAC Technical Schools in Norfolk, Virginia (VA)

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The Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, and the Elizabeth River contribute to the humid climate of Norfolk, Virginia (VA). In addition to the more than four inches of rain that fall every month, high temperatures from June through August average in the mid-80 degrees with spikes into the 90s. July and August each have more than five inches of rainfall, creating hot and muggy conditions most summer days while the low temperatures during the summer months average in the high 60s to low 70s. Winters bring some relief from the heat and humidity, with average highs in the low 50s and upper 40s. The low temperatures hover above freezing, but can drop well below freezing in record-setting years. December, January, and February receive small amounts of snowfall which equates to about four inches of precipitation.

Located at the heart of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, Norfolk, VA is one of the oldest cities in the region and boasts a rich history. Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval base, makes its home in Norfolk, along with Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard installations.

Accordingly, military-related spending makes up the bulk of the area’s prosperity. A 2020 report projects continued economic growth from visitors and shipping and transportation industries as well as military spending. The report forecasts that the rate of growth “will outpace Virginia and the United States.”

In recent years, the city has invested in renewal and revitalization projects such as “new office, retail, entertainment and hotel construction, new residential development” setting Norfolk to remain on course as the economic and cultural center of the region.

The summer heat, winter cold, and year-round humidity keep many Norfolk residents indoors where they depend on heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort. Businesses, defense facilities, and hospitality venues often require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R). The technology that’s an essential part of most private and commercial endeavors often requires specialized cooling systems.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019), 3,430 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Metropolitan Statistical Area. HVAC technicians and their employers receive training and support from national, state, and local industry associations, including the following:

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

These and similar associations coordinate with others in the industry and with government agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards for the health and safety of HVAC technicians as well as the public and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Norfolk, VA

Workforce data accumulated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019) indicates that new positions for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians nationwide will increase 13 percent between 2018 and 2028. That’s more than double the 5 percent anticipated increase for all US occupations. The outlook for HVAC technicians in Virginia is favorable. Projections Central predicts a 14.7 percent increase in employment opportunities statewide between 2016 and 2026.

New construction drives most of the growth in the HVAC industry. Many new structures are “smart” buildings that must have sophisticated climate-control systems and equipment installed. Another factor driving growth is the contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction, which means that new systems and equipment must be installed to meet current environmental standards. When the old systems in existing buildings are not replaced, the equipment typically must be repaired, retrofitted, or upgraded. On occasion, technological advances or changing regulations require the replacement of equipment in recently-built structures.

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians need comprehensive training to install, maintain, and service the high-tech systems in old and new structures. Technicians who are proficient with computers, understand electronics, and are skilled troubleshooters will have the best job opportunities.

Those who specialize in new construction may experience unemployment if construction declines. Norfolk’s prosperity and the increasing defense expenditures are unlikely to decline in the foreseeable future. The city’s revitalization and renewal projects are also a source of employment opportunities for HVAC technicians. As businesses, especially those catering to the tourism industry, and homeowners depend on climate control year-round, there is always a demand for HVAC technicians specializing in maintaining, servicing, and repairing equipment and systems.

HVAC Salaries in Norfolk, VA

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) data shows that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $51,420. Technicians in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA received an annual median salary of $47,760. That is due in part to the fact that Virginia has a higher cost of living when compared to the national cost of living index.

A summary of national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals follows:

United States Virginia Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 342,040 11,670 3,430
Average Annual Salary $51,420 $50,460 $47,760
10th Percentile $30,610 $28,500 $28,290
25th Percentile $37,660 $38,140 $36,350
50th Percentile (Median) $48,730 $49,770 $48,170
75th Percentile $62,070 $61,360 $58,020
90th Percentile $77,920 $74,350 $65,230

HVAC Apprenticeships in Norfolk, VA

Traditionally, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians started as helpers and learned their skills through on-the-job training. Few opportunities for doing so are available today. Workers now typically serve an apprenticeship or attend classes. Formal training and apprenticeships open up more employment opportunities. Trained technicians earn higher wages when they’re first hired and typically earn more throughout their career.

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

Two Norfolk HVAC companies are listed as sponsors as of April 2020. Not all companies accept apprentices at all times. Apprentices may work for an HVAC company not currently listed if the company agrees to register as a sponsor.

The Associated Builders and Contractors, Virginia Chapter, (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 able to read and write English.

Apprentices 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. Additional curriculum includes hydronics, heat pumps, compressors, and retail, commercial, and industrial refrigeration systems. The required coursework gives apprentices 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).

Norfolk Technical Center Adult Apprenticeship Program offers several apprenticeships, including HVAC. Applicants must be employed by an HVAC company and registered with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry. Classes are conducted in the evenings and include hands-on training in the lab. Tuition is $650 for year one, $430 each for years two and three, and $435 for year four. The curriculum includes introductory coursework, drawings, heat pumps, motors, troubleshooting, commercial systems, special refrigeration systems, solar energy, and controls.

Additional HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs are available through national industry associations such as:

  • 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 as to schedules and fees are available on the industry association websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Norfolk, VA

When choosing a school, it is essential to select an institution that is accredited. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the program, including both the curriculum and the instructors.

Two industry organizations accredit HVAC programs. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation has not yet accredited a Virginia program. HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to the following schools:

  • Advanced Career Education Center at Hermitage, Henrico, VA
  • Edison Academy, Alexandria, VA
  • Franklin County High School, Rocky Mount, VA
  • Norfolk Technical Center, Norfolk, VA
  • Northern Virginia Community College, Woodbridge, VA
  • The Hanover Center for Trades and Technology, Mechanicsville, VA
  • Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center, Virginia Beach, VA

Norfolk Technical Center and Virginia Beach Technical are included in the schools profiled below.

Advanced Technology Institute

ATI, a for-profit trade college, offers an HVAC Technology diploma program and a degree program in trades leadership with specialization in HVAC technology. Both programs include classroom lectures combined with hands-on training in the lab.

Students in the 60-credit diploma program begin with the fundamentals of technology and an introduction to computers, safety, and HVAC. Coursework includes electricity, schematics, pipe brazing, ducting, air movement, domestic and commercial refrigeration, HVAC, heat pumps, sheet metal fabrication, controls, and troubleshooting. Graduates from this program are qualified to sit for industry certification exams and seek entry-level employment.

Degree-seeking students complete all the diploma coursework, with the addition of technical leadership technical courses. Courses include computer applications, technical writing and communications, critical thinking, leadership skills, occupational health, safety, and psychology. Graduates are awarded their degree at the completion of 60 credit hours.

  • Location: Virginia Beach, VA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: Contact ATI for a customized assessment
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Diploma 60 weeks; degree 18 months

Centura College

Centura College offers an HVAC diploma program at all five of their Virginia campuses in Chesapeake, Newport News, and Richmond. Coursework includes classroom lectures as well as hands-on training and prepares students for industry certification exams, including OSHA 10 and EPA Section 608. Classes are available during daytime and evening hours.

Students receive extensive practice with troubleshooting. The curriculum includes HVAC fundamentals, controls, commercial HVAC and HVAC/R, heating systems, comfort, psychometrics, heat pumps, advanced troubleshooting, and service. A minimum of 36 credit-hours is needed to earn a diploma.

  • Location: Chesapeake, VA; Newport News, VA; Richmond, VA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $675 per credit-hour
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 12 months

Norfolk Technical Center (NTC)

NTC, a unique two-year course that is part of the Norfolk Public Schools, offers an HVAC/R program for high school students providing the technical knowledge and practical skills needed to seek entry-level positions as technicians.

The curriculum includes the fundamentals of HVAC/R, tools and materials, refrigeration systems and installation, troubleshooting, service, repair, maintenance, pipe tubing, soldering, electricity, and math. Graduates from this program are qualified to sit for various industry certification exams, including EPA Section 608 and workplace readiness. An HVAC apprenticeship program is included as part of an adult evening program.

  • Location: Norfolk, VA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Virginia Board of Education
  • Tuition: Contact the NTC for a customized assessment
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Two years

Thomas Nelson Community College

Thomas Nelson Community College offers two HVAC/R certificate programs and a degree program. The HVAC/R career studies program—a 16-credit certificate—includes coursework in circuits and controls, heating systems, refrigeration, air conditioning, and heat pumps. Credits can be applied toward the 35-credit certificate option.

The 35-credit air conditioning and refrigeration certificate program satisfies the classroom requirement for journeyman licensing classroom contact hours. Requirements include the above coursework, with the addition of college composition, first aid and safety, mechanical codes, technical math, and planning and estimating. Graduates are prepared to take the EPA 608 certification exam.

The HVAC/R technical studies 67-credit associate of applied science (AAS) 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 technical coursework that includes information systems, information literacy, electricity, technical writing, HVAC/R analysis, direct digital controls, programmable controllers, and cooperative education.

Students are required to take non-technical electives including the fundamentals of reasoning, precalculus, social science, principles of supervision and leadership development, introduction to business, and humanities. Options to transfer credits to Old Dominion University are available.

  • Location: Hampton, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $160.20 per credit-hour
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Career studies certificate four months; certificate eight months; degree two years

Tidewater Community College (TCC)

TCC offers an HVAC/R certificate and associate of applied science (AAS) degree program. Students in both programs learn via classroom lectures and hands-on practice in labs. Graduates of the associate degree program are prepared to sit for industry certification exams, including Section 608.

Coursework for the 35-credit certificate program includes HVAC/R controls, HVAC/R calculations, engineering and technologies orientation, heating systems, technical math, duct construction and maintenance, hydronics, psychrometrics, HVAC systems, and college composition. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level positions as HVAC technicians or sales representatives.

Associate degree-seeking students may choose from three specialties: commercial; residential; or supervision and management. The 68-credit curriculum for each speciality track includes the certificate coursework as well as 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 select the technical electives applicable to their specialty.

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

Tidewater Tech

Tidewater Tech, a private school in Norfolk, offers an HVAC diploma program. The coursework is presented in classroom lectures and hands-on practice in a lab. The curriculum includes HVAC fundamentals, electricity, refrigerants, tools, commercial systems, brazing and soldering, psychrometrics, heat pumps, troubleshooting, career success skills, customer service, and time management.

Students receive their certificate at the completion of 36 credit-hours. They are prepared to take the EPA Section 608 certification exam and the Industry Competency Exam (ICE).

  • Location: Norfolk, VA
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Tuition: $675 per credit-hour
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 48 weeks

Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center (VBTCEC)

Part of the Virginia Beach City Public School System, the VBTCEC offers an HVAC program that provides training for high school students. Instruction includes classroom lectures and hands-on experience in a lab. Students have an opportunity for additional hands-on training with an optional internship with a local company.

The coursework includes safety, soldering, brazing, piping, electricity, central and window air conditioning units, ice makers, refrigerators, oil and gas furnaces, and heat pumps. Students are also prepared to sit for exams for industry certifications, including the Section 608, R410A safety, and Workplace Readiness Skills for the Commonwealth Exam.

  • Location: Virginia Beach, VA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Virginia Board of Education
  • Tuition: Determined by the public school district
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Two years

Virginia’s Community Colleges

Virginia’s Community Colleges offer certificate, diploma, and degree programs at several campuses. Students wishing to commute away from the Norfolk area can find information about these programs at campuses on the Virginia Community Colleges website.

Norfolk workers who are unable to attend on-campus schools may find that online institutions can better meet their needs. More information on accredited HVAC programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Norfolk, VA

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

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

Technicians may obtain Section 608 testing and certification as well as other training and certifications from industry organizations. These include:

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
  • HVAC Excellence

Each organization is unique in what they offer. Details about schedules, cost, and requirements are available on the websites above.

HVAC technicians are required by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation to obtain licensing as a journey-level technician, master technician, or contractor. Applicants must submit proof of education and experience relevant to the license they seek. They must also pass an exam and pay the required fee. Licenses are renewed every two years, contingent upon applicants completing a minimum of three hours of continuing education and paying a fee.

Additionally, the City of Norfolk requires all businesses to obtain a business license. Licenses expire on the last day of each year and must be renewed. Fees are based on gross receipts, with a minimum of $50. Contractors must submit proof of workers compensation insurance and Virginia contractor license.

As licensing guidelines are subject to change, HVAC professionals are encouraged to ensure that they have all necessary state and local licenses necessary before pursuing employment opportunities.

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.