HVAC Training Schools & Certifications 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. The Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling Contractors of Washington State is a resource-rich agency that 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 2021), 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 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. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) anticipated a 4 percent increase in HVAC job openings between 2019 to 2029 across the country, as fast as the average growth expected across all occupations during that period (4 percent).

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.

Indeed (September 2021) lists 414 posts at places such as the University of Washington, BOEING, Seattle Public Schools, and Johnson Controls. Job site Monster (September 2021) details additional positions at Randstad, TemperaturePro Baton Rouge, and CoolSys Inc.

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 the 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 (BLS May 2020), there were 344,0420 HVAC workers employed across the country with an annual average salary of $53,410; by comparison, there were 6,950 Washington HVAC professionals who enjoyed an annual average salary (annual mean wage) of $65,180, which is much 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. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) 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 (May 2020) found the following detailed wage percentiles among all HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers around the country as compared to WA:

United States Washington
Number of HVAC professionals employed 344,020 6,950
Annual mean wage $53,410 $65,180
10th percentile $31,910 $37,260
25th percentile $39,320 $46,030
50th percentile (median) $50,590 $60,470
75th percentile $64,350 $79,440
90th percentile $80,820 $102,850

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (September 2021), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $33,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,679
  • 90th percentile: $78,000

The BLS designated 13 regions within Washington for which employment data is available. The 4,010 HVAC workers in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metropolitan Division earned the highest average salary in the state at $72,860.

Accredited HVAC Training Programs in Washington

Before seeking employment as an HVAC mechanic or installer in Washington, it is crucial to receive 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.

Bates Technical College

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 is made up of 110 credits, and 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.

Apart from the AAS degree, the college also offers an HVAC/R support technician certificate of competency comprising 99 credits. Both programs require students to pass the air conditioning, heating, & refrigeration institute (AHRI) industry competency exams to graduate. Coursework includes exam preparation classes and graduates are qualified to take other industry exams that increase their employability. They receive 1,100 hours of credit that can be applied to the Washington State O6A electrical certificate.

  • Location: Tacoma, WA
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (60 weeks); AAS degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($134.62 per credit); non-resident ($317.69 per credit)

Spokane Community College

SCC offers an associate in applied science degree in HVAC/R. Coursework includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in a fully equipped lab.

This 123-credit program includes courses such as fundamentals of electricity in HVAC/R, HVAC/R electrical applications & lab, fundamentals of heating systems and lab, fundamentals of refrigeration and lab, HVAC/R safety, fundamentals of air conditioning and lab, system performance testing, and lab and system servicing and troubleshooting of heat pumps. Students may complete an optional internship. Graduates are prepared for industry exams and are qualified to receive their electrical trainee license.

Students learn how to troubleshoot and repair electric and gas furnaces, troubleshoot and repair commercial refrigeration and air conditioning systems, and design, install, and commission a basic direct digital control system. On completion of the program, students can also sit for the EPA 608 Universal Refrigerant Handling License.

Graduates of the program can take up entry-level positions as HVAC/R technicians. They can take up roles such as air conditioning service technician, heating contractor’s serviceman, domestic air conditioning maintenance, heat pump specialist, refrigeration service technician, and refrigeration parts man among others.

  • Location: Spokane, WA
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($8,766); non-resident ($5,766)

Perry Technical Institute

Perry Technical Institute offers the HVAC/R technology program providing students with a strong foundation that prepares them for entry-level employment in the HVAC/R industry. The program covers all aspects of the field, from refrigeration fundamentals to direct digital control and energy management systems.

Notably, the program has been approved by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries as a 06A HVAC/R Specialty Electrical Training program. It also prepares students for industry certifications in several areas such as the Universal EPA 608, OSHA Safety, R-410A Safety, EPA 609 Refrigerant, Green Mechanical Systems, and North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certifications. Coursework includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in lab-related instruction.

Consisting of 169 credits, the program includes courses such as refrigeration fundamentals, refrigeration & electric forced air heating, resident & light commercial HVAC, commercial refrigeration, and industrial heating & cooling systems, among others.

By completing a designated PTI (Perry Technical Institute) program and earning an additional 32 credits through YVC (Yakima Valley College), students can graduate with an associate of applied science (AAS) degree from YVC and a certificate from Perry Tech.

  • Location: Yakima, WA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $39,400

Clover Park Technical College

Clover Park Technical College offers an associate of applied technology degree in HVAC preparing graduates for entry-level jobs as building maintenance technicians, service technicians, start-up residential and light commercial installers, and equipment assemblers. This program too has been approved as an HVAC/Refrigeration (06A) Specialty Electrical Training program by the Washington State Department of Labour and Industries.

Courses in this program include basic electricity, electrical circuits, advanced controls & troubleshooting, electric motors & their applications, refrigeration controls, electric motors and troubleshooting, advanced motor theory, heating (lab), advanced refrigeration, EPA refrigerant certification, and basic refrigeration (lab), among others.

Graduates of this program are well-equipped to find solutions to common problems with HVAC/R equipment, use HVAC/R diagnostic tools and equipment, apply industry safety and environmental standards, employ modern practices that are used in the industry for fixing and maintaining HVAC/R equipment, and troubleshoot commercial, industrial, and residential HVAC/R systems.

Apart from the HVAC – associate of applied technology degree, Clover Park Technical College also offers the basic HVAC/R service technician certificate and the refrigeration specialist certificate, which comprise 87 and 42 credits, respectively.

  • Location: Lakewood, WA
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Expected Time to Completion: Associate of applied technology degree (four quarters); basic HVAC/R service technician certificate (three quarters); refrigeration specialist certificate (two quarters)
  • Estimated Tuition: Lower division (resident – $111.92 per credit; non-resident – $290.16 per credit); upper division (resident – $219.39 per credit; non-resident – $619.18 per credit)

Lastly, while campus-based HVAC programs are abundant 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. Four distinct types 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 that 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. 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 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 the business type (e.g., general partnership, sole proprietor, LLP, LLC, etc.)
  • Register with the WA Secretary of State
  • 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 before completing HVAC work in the state.

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.