HVAC Training Schools in Washington

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The Evergreen State is not only replete with lush vegetation, but the relatively wet and cool climate also makes it a fertile employment landscape in the field of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC-R or HVAC). In addition to the bright career outlook, there is an array of professional associations and advocacy groups to support those in this line of work. For example, the Washington State Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning Contractors Association (HVACCA) is a regional branch of an organization which boasts over 20,000 HVAC workers and 4,000 businesses. After its founding more than 40 years ago, the HVACCA has fought tirelessly to provide legal, educational, technical, and marketing assistance for people in the HVAC community. Notably, this group is affiliated with the Air Conditioning Contracting Association (ACCA), another organization of prominence in this field. The Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling Contractors of Washington State is another resource-rich agency which has a biannual magazine and is “dedicated to the promotion, advancement, education and training of the industry for the protection of our environment and the health, safety and comfort of society.”

So what do HVAC professionals in Washington (WA) do? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), HVAC professionals take on responsibilities such as installing and troubleshooting HVAC systems and their components (e.g., heat pumps, boilers, furnaces, electric wiring, motors, pumps, ducts, hermetic compressors, burners, intake & exhaust fans, humidifiers, economizers); keeping detailed client records; calculating heat loads & losses; interpreting blueprints; making suggestions for improving energy efficiency; and maintaining all certifications and local licensure through the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, an agency with which offers state HVAC credentials as a subtype of electricians’ licenses. It’s important to note that for all individuals who work with refrigerants (environmentally sensitive chemicals), there is one mandatory credential: the EPA Section 608 certification. A majority of HVAC technician training schools in Washington offer EPA 608 certification training as part of their programs.

Read on to discover the opportunities for HVAC workers in WA, including the projected growth figures, salaries, wealth of accredited training programs, and credentialing information within the state.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Washington

As mentioned above, the employment prospects for HVAC workers look very bright in Washington and throughout the country. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) anticipated a 15 percent increase in openings in HVAC across the country, much more robust than the average growth expected across all occupations during that time period (7 percent). And there’s some evidence that Washington State has even greater opportunities in HVAC than the nation as a whole. By illustration, Projections Central (2017) predicts that Washington specifically will have a 22.3 percent increase in demand for HVAC professionals between 2016 and 2026, amounting to 780 additional job openings.

These professionals are hired in a range of environments such as residences, commercial structures, schools, retail spaces, factories, and all buildings which seek climate control. As proof of point, popular job sites are bursting at the seams with openings in HVAC in WA. In fact, Indeed (Dec. 2018) lists 541 posts at places such as Brennan Heating & Air Conditioning, Tri-Tech Heating Inc., Lake Washington School District, and Boeing. Job site Monster (Dec. 2018) lists additional positions at CBRE, Trademark Mechanical, and Northshore School District.

In addition to the wide array of environments in WA which employ HVAC workers, the maintenance of equipment and average lifespan of systems (which amounts to approximately ten years) also contributes to a steady stream of work in this area.

While the future looks bright in HVAC, it is crucial to point out that professionals in this line of work incur a higher-than-average rate of disease and injury compared to other occupations. The threat of muscle strains, chemical burns, skin irritation, and other ailments are relatively higher due to the physical nature of the work and type of equipment used (e.g., refrigerants). That said, with the proper training and safety equipment, all of these problems can generally be kept to a minimum. 

Washington State HVAC Technician Salary Data

Not only are the growth prospects for HVAC workers high nationwide and in WA, but among occupations with minimal postsecondary training, HVAC is one of the more lucrative lines of work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), there were 307,060 HVAC workers employed across the country with an annual average salary of $49,530; by comparison, there were 4,810 Washington HVAC professionals who enjoyed an annual average salary of $53,510, fully eight percent higher than the national average.

Before digging into the detailed salary outlooks, it’s important to recognize that the cost of living in WA is relatively higher than the national average. In fact, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2018) reported that WA is the 14th most expensive state in the country, although it did boast relatively cheap utilities. Please keep this in mind while evaluating the wage prospects in this field.

The BLS (2017) found the following detailed wage percentiles among all HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers around the country as compared to WA:

Annual salary Hourly salary
United States Washington United States Washington
Average $49,530 $53,510 $23.81 $25.73
10th percentile $29,120 $32,300 $14.00 $15.53
25th percentile $36,150 $40,960 $17.38 $19.69
50th percentile $47,080 $52,870 $22.64 $25.42
75th percentile $60,270 $63,380 $28.98 $30.47
90th percentile $75,330 $78,140 $36.22 $37.57

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.

The BLS designated 17 regions within Washington for which employment data is available. The 440 HVAC workers in the Tacoma-Lakewood, WA Metropolitan Division earned the highest average salary in the state at $63,170 while the 170 HVAC workers in Olympia-Tumwater, WA had the lowest average salary at $42,360. Following are the detailed salary data for the state of Washington:

Bellingham, WA (180 HVAC workers): $51,840 annual average salary

Bellingham, WA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $51,840 $24.92
10th percentile $33,770 $16.24
25th percentile $39,150 $18.82
50th percentile $53,470 $25.71
75th percentile $61,890 $29.76
90th percentile $71,910 $34.57

Bremerton-Silverdale, WA (150 HVAC workers): $43,470 annual average salary

Bremerton-Silverdale, WA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $43,470 $20.90
10th percentile $27,150 $13.06
25th percentile $29,100 $13.99
50th percentile $32,370 $15.56
75th percentile $58,430 $28.09
90th percentile $65,530 $31.51

Central Washington nonmetropolitan area (number of HVAC workers unknown): $51,300 annual average salary

Central Washington nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $51,300 $24.66
10th percentile $33,990 $16.34
25th percentile $39,190 $18.84
50th percentile $49,840 $23.96
75th percentile $59,620 $28.67
90th percentile $73,630 $35.40

East Washington nonmetropolitan area (120 HVAC workers): $47,990 annual average salary

East Washington nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $47,990 $23.07
10th percentile $34,910 $16.78
25th percentile $41,970 $20.18
50th percentile $47,050 $22.62
75th percentile $51,970 $24.99
90th percentile $63,020 $30.30

Kennewick-Richland, WA (240 HVAC workers): $53,170 annual average salary

Kennewick-Richland, WA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $53,170 $25.56
10th percentile $34,380 $16.53
25th percentile $42,210 $20.30
50th percentile $50,960 $24.50
75th percentile $61,960 $29.79
90th percentile $77,080 $37.06

Longview, WA (70 HVAC workers): $48,170 annual average salary

Longview, WA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $48,170 $23.16
10th percentile $29,140 $14.01
25th percentile $34,700 $16.68
50th percentile $41,220 $19.82
75th percentile $67,150 $32.28
90th percentile $80,450 $38.68

Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA (50 HVAC workers): $45,750 annual average salary

Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $45,750 $21.99
10th percentile $32,480 $15.61
25th percentile $36,630 $17.61
50th percentile $44,710 $21.50
75th percentile $55,320 $26.59
90th percentile $61,810 $29.72

Northwest Washington nonmetropolitan area (120 HVAC workers): $55,400 annual average salary

Northwest Washington nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $55,400 $26.64
10th percentile $34,050 $16.37
25th percentile $39,300 $18.89
50th percentile $56,050 $26.95
75th percentile $64,120 $30.83
90th percentile $81,160 $39.02

Olympia-Tumwater, WA (170 HVAC workers): $42,360 annual average salary

Olympia-Tumwater, WA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $42,360 $20.37
10th percentile $26,200 $12.60
25th percentile $31,570 $15.18
50th percentile $40,610 $19.53
75th percentile $52,560 $25.27
90th percentile $61,360 $29.50

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division (2160 HVAC workers): $59,090 annual average salary

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $59,090 $28.41
10th percentile $41,040 $19.73
25th percentile $46,930 $22.56
50th percentile $57,090 $27.45
75th percentile $69,710 $33.52
90th percentile $82,340 $39.59

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA (2600 HVAC workers): $59,780 annual average salary

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $59,780 $28.74
10th percentile $41,340 $19.88
25th percentile $48,080 $23.11
50th percentile $58,020 $27.89
75th percentile $70,380 $33.84
90th percentile $82,370 $39.60

Southwest Washington nonmetropolitan area (90 HVAC workers): $49,430 annual average salary

Southwest Washington nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $49,430 $23.76
10th percentile $27,600 $13.27
25th percentile $35,480 $17.06
50th percentile $52,470 $25.23
75th percentile $61,350 $29.50
90th percentile $70,340 $33.82

Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA (340 HVAC workers): $44,650 annual average salary

Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $44,650 $21.47
10th percentile $27,530 $13.23
25th percentile $32,370 $15.56
50th percentile $40,230 $19.34
75th percentile $56,190 $27.01
90th percentile $65,910 $31.69

Tacoma-Lakewood, WA Metropolitan Division (440 HVAC workers): $63,170 annual average salary

Tacoma-Lakewood, WA Metropolitan Division
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $63,170 $30.37
10th percentile $47,500 $22.84
25th percentile $54,450 $26.18
50th percentile $61,270 $29.46
75th percentile $72,900 $35.05
90th percentile $82,450 $39.64

Walla Walla, WA (60 HVAC workers): $48,670 annual average salary

Walla Walla, WA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $48,670 $23.40
10th percentile $29,270 $14.07
25th percentile $37,870 $18.21
50th percentile $49,310 $23.71
75th percentile $59,770 $28.73
90th percentile $66,380 $31.91

Wenatchee, WA (number of HVAC workers unknown): $52,060 annual average salary

Wenatchee, WA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $52,060 $25.03
10th percentile $33,070 $15.90
25th percentile $39,020 $18.76
50th percentile $55,530 $26.70
75th percentile $61,340 $29.49
90th percentile $65,130 $31.31

Yakima, WA (320 HVAC workers): $43,640 annual average salary

Yakima, WA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $43,640 $20.98
10th percentile $27,610 $13.28
25th percentile $33,440 $16.08
50th percentile $43,890 $21.10
75th percentile $54,000 $25.96
90th percentile $61,060 $29.35

Accredited HVAC Training Programs in Washington

Prior to seeking employment as an HVAC mechanic or installer in Washington, it is crucial to receive the proper training. While some HVAC workers seek out apprenticeships under the guidance of skilled professionals, others choose to enroll in accredited HVAC training programs. There are two main accreditation agencies for HVAC schools: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). To learn in depth about the accreditation process, visit the HVAC programs homepage.

There is one training program in WA accredited by PAHRA at Bates Technical College in Tacoma. Lasting approximately six quarters, this associate of applied science (AAS) degree in HVAC features coursework in HVAC fundamentals; safety; tools & equipment; electrical troubleshooting; residential systems; soldering & brazing applications; heat pump systems; light commercial systems; chilled water systems; thermal storage; and more. This program is also available as a certificate of competency, and both programs cost $125.53 per credit with all fees included.

The HVAC program at Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla is offered as either a one-year certificate or a two-year associate of applied arts & sciences (AAAS) degree in HVAC, Walla Walla prepares its students for a wealth of certifications in the industry. These include:

  • EPA Section 608
  • Washington State Electrical Trainee
  • OHSA-10 Construction Safety
  • First Aid-CPR-AED
  • Electrical Employment Ready (ER)
  • Air Conditioning ER
  • Electric Heat ER
  • Gas Heat ER
  • Heat Pump ER
  • Light Commercial Refrigeration ER
  • TracPipe

Courses in the two-year HVAC associate degree program include refrigeration basics; wind energy; plant operations; applied thermodynamics of unit operations; materials & fasteners; refrigeration components; industrial mechanics; air conditioning & heating systems; electricity for HVACR; electrical raceways; ductwork design & fabrication; and more. This program costs $124.49 per credit for resident tuition or $158.10 per credit for non-Washington residents.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries also offers a list of state-approved training schools in HVAC and related occupations — both WWCC and BTC are included on the list, but so are other programs.

For example, Spokane Community College provides an AAS HVAC program with training in the fundamentals of heating systems; sheet metal layout & fabrication; system performance testing; theory of heat transfer; system servicing & troubleshooting of heat pumps; and fundamentals of direct digital controls. This program costs $1,464.20 per quarter for residents and $1,778.55 per quarter for non-residents.

Lastly, while there is an abundance of campus-based HVAC programs across WA, some students may have difficulty attending an in-person certificate or degree program. For those students who live in more rural regions of the state or have other obligations, distance-based HVAC training programs are available as well. To learn about these, check out the online HVAC programs page. 

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Washington State

As mentioned in the introduction, all HVAC professionals nationwide who work with refrigerants must have the EPA Section 608 certification. There are four distinct types which vary by category of equipment: type 1 (small appliance), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal). Please note that EPA 608 preparation is generally included as part of HVAC certificate and degree programs.

There are many other skill-based HVAC credentials available nationwide through groups such as North American Technician Excellence (e.g., industry competency exams or ICE), HVAC Excellence (e.g., HEAT Plus), and the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., certified assistant refrigeration operator). To check out the gamut of HVAC credentials which confer proof of specific competencies, please visit the HVAC certifications page.

Finally, while the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries doesn’t have a specific division for HVAC licensure, it does offer licenses in this field through its electrician division. In fact, there are two types of specialty electrician licenses related to HVAC: HVAC/refrigeration system (6A) and  HVAC/refrigeration – Restricted (6B). To qualify, candidates must have the following:

  • Completed application
  • Requisite experience (4,000 hours for 6A, 2,000 hours for 6B, or the equivalent) or education (48 classroom hours + experience for 6A, 24 classroom hours for 6B + experience)
  • Passing score on a comprehensive exam
  • Application fee

There are ways to secure these licenses if coming from a military background or from out-of-state as well. To renew, candidates must complete 24 hours of continuing education (CE) every three years. Please note that in order to garner the necessary hours to qualify for a specialty electrician license in HVAC, candidates must first become electrical trainees, another category of credentialing.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries also offers registration to contractor-level HVAC workers, both general and specialty. To qualify for a specialty contractor license in HVAC, applicants in WA must do the following:

  • Choose business type (e.g., general partnership, sole proprietor, LLP, LLC, etc.)
  • Register with the WA Secretary of State ($180)
  • Complete a business license application & get an IRS employer identification number (if employing workers)
  • Get application notarized
  • Purchase bond & liability insurance ($6,000 for specialty contractor)
  • Show proof of general liability insurance
  • Pay registration fee

The contractor registrations are valid for two years. For all of the details, check out the WA Construction Laws & Rules.

Lastly, local laws and permitting may also apply to HVAC work. For example, the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections issues several types of refrigeration licenses (e.g., journey refrigeration mechanic, refrigeration operating engineer, refrigeration contractor’s license, etc), which are all valid for one year. In sum, since municipal codes differ by region within WA, it is important to verify that one has all of the necessary local credentialing prior to completing HVAC work in the state.