HVAC Training Schools & Certification in Washington DC

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For anyone interested in pursuing a new career in the field of heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC or HVAC-R), the nation’s capital may be a good place to begin. In fact, U.S. Climate Data shows that the average high temperatures in the summer can reach 87 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average lows in the winter dip to 27. This extreme range of weather requires heating and air-conditioning systems to stay comfortable.

There are various unions and professional organizations in Washington DC to support workers in the skilled trades such as HVAC. The UA Steamfitters Local 602 is an organization that represents journeymen, apprentices, and helpers who work in HVAC and the process piping industry. This organization provides education for members, events throughout the year, an apprenticeship program, networking opportunities, political representation and advocacy, and a savings and retirement program.

Washington DC is also home to the Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 100, which serves professionals in the sheet metal, air, rail, and transportation industries and HVAC workers. This organization offers various seminars and meetings throughout the year and access to a hunting and fishing program. These are only two of the many HVAC organizations and unions that operate in the Washington DC area.

HVAC workers in Washington DC and beyond take on a wide range of responsibilities:

  • Perform heat load and loss calculations
  • Verify compliance with all local and federal regulations
  • Offer education to customers on energy conservation
  • Read and interpret blueprints
  • Test circuitry and components of HVAC equipment
  • Calibrate equipment to manufacturer specifications
  • Maintain all necessary credentialing
  • Solder and braze parts
  • Travel to job sites
  • Keep detailed service records

It is important to note that all individuals who work with refrigerants must maintain active EPA Section 608 Certification as well.

This guide explores HVAC training programs in Washington DC, including information on job prospects in the area, salary expectations, and an overview of licensure and certification requirements.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Washington, DC

The demand for skilled HVAC workers is only expected to rise in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022) reported that 374,770 HVAC professionals were working nationwide. That figure is expected to grow in the coming years. In fact, the BLS (2023) predicted that positions in the HVAC industry would swell 6 percent between 2022 and 2032, which is faster than the 3 percent average growth predicted across all occupations nationwide in the same decade. It’s worth noting that the demand for HVAC techs in Washington DC is expected to grow slightly slower. Projections Central (2023)—a partner of the US Department of Labor—projected a 3.3 percent increase in HVAC opportunities across Washington, DC between 2020 and 2030.

There are various reasons for the continued growth of this industry. For one, virtually all new construction in Washington, DC includes installing a heating or air conditioning system – a process that demands the skills of an HVAC installer.

Also, most existing buildings in the area are equipped with some form of climate control, requiring routine maintenance. Furthermore, the laws and regulations that affect this industry are rapidly evolving, meaning that HVAC professionals must continuously stay abreast of these changes and apply them to their work. Finally, HVAC systems must typically be replaced every 10 to 15 years, ensuring a steady work stream for HVAC professionals.

The BLS (2023) reported that approximately 8 percent of HVAC techs are self-employed, while contractors, schools, or retail and wholesale companies employ the remaining technicians. These technicians usually work full time, although many work overtime hours in the evenings or on weekends during peak demand seasons.

Online job postings underscore the wealth of opportunities in this field. For illustration, a search for HVAC jobs in the Washington, DC area on Monster (2023) yielded results with companies such as Johnson Controls, Jobot, Adams CG, Inc., City Facilities Management, and ABM Industries. A similar search on Indeed (2023) revealed 896 results with organizations including ASRC Federal Holding Company, DMR Associates, Quick Servant Co Inc, and Griffith Energy Services.

HVAC Worker Salary in Washington DC

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 the District of Columbia, the average salary (annual mean wage) for HVAC workers is $74,660, which is the highest in the nation.

Following are the US and Washington DC averages, as they compare:

United States District of Columbia
Number of HVAC professionals employed 374,770 360
Annual mean wage $57,460 $74,660
10th percentile $36,170 $58,800
25th percentile $44,100 $63,690
50th percentile (median) $51,390 $75,840
75th percentile $65,630 $80,590
90th percentile $82,630 $97,780

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: $36,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $54,628
  • 90th percentile: $84,000

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in the District of Columbia is much higher than the national average. As with any salary projections, considering the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2023) asserts that the District of Columbia is the second most expensive state in the country. That is certainly an important consideration.

HVAC Apprenticeships in Washington DC

Anyone considering a career as an HVAC professional in Washington, DC should note that there are a variety of educational pathways. Proper training generally includes completing a formal degree or an apprenticeship program.

For example, the UA Steamfitters Local 602 offers an apprenticeship program. This is specifically for individuals pursuing a career as a steamfitter – a worker who fabricates, installs, and services piping systems underlying the installation of HVAC systems. Courses include soldering and brazing; general piping; advanced A/C; energy management; residential A/C; boilers; steam; and industrial refrigeration. Notably, apprentices are paid during this five-year program.

The DC Department of Employment Services also offers apprenticeships for residents through local unions and groups in the nation’s capital. Those interested in specific programs are asked to contact the Office of Apprenticeship Information and Training for more information on how to apply.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Washington, DC

Many aspiring HVAC professionals choose to enroll in an accredited certificate or degree program, which may take between six months to two years to complete.

As of this writing, two main organizations offer accreditation for local HVAC programs: the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), and HVAC Excellence. As of October 2023, no programs were accredited by either organization in Washington, DC, although nearby Alexandria, VA offers accredited training through the Edison Academy.

As no training programs are available in the District of Columbia, students may be interested in programs offered in nearby states.

Lincoln College of Technology

For those interested in a classroom training program, Lincoln Tech offers HVAC training at its campus in Columbia, Maryland, about an hour outside of DC. It offers a lower-division certificate program in HVAC technology. The program introduces students to green technology concepts preparing them to confidently enter this HVAC industry possessing important skills required for servicing, troubleshooting, and repairing residential and commercial indoor HVAC air management systems.

Coursework is divided between hands-on training in a lab and classroom lectures. Students take courses on basic refrigeration systems; electricity; air conditioning systems; commercial refrigeration control, and energy efficiency and green technology systems. Students receive a certificate in HVAC upon the completion of 45 credits. Students can complete this program in approximately 40 weeks by studying during the day, while students may take up to 74 weeks while studying in the evening.

They also learn proper refrigerant recovery and recycling techniques and are encouraged to complete the EPA certification test. Graduates are qualified for employment in entry-level positions.

  • Location: Columbia, MD
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career School and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Day (40 weeks); evening (74 weeks)
  • Estimated Tuition: $25,704 total tuition

Northern Virginia Community College

The Northern Virginia Community College offers three HVAC programs:

  • Associate in applied science degree in air conditioning and refrigeration (67 to 68 credits)
  • Air conditioning and refrigeration certificate (33 to 34 credits)
  • HVAC-R and facilities services technology career studies certificate (23 credits)

The career studies certificate prepares students for entry-level employment in the HVAC industry. Sample some of the coursework in the curriculum: heating systems; air conditioning and refrigeration controls; air conditioning and refrigeration; refrigerant usage EPA certification; and circuits and controls.

The HVAC-R certificate includes all courses from the career studies certificate with additional coursework in air conditioning and refrigeration controls III; elements of physics; and basic technical mathematics.

The AAS degree provides students with the knowledge and skills that will help them take up leadership positions in the industry. All courses mentioned above are included in this curriculum, including heat loads and psychrometrics; advanced troubleshooting and service; heat pumps; introduction to communication; gas-fired warm air furnaces; and hydronics and zoning.

Graduates of these programs will be well-equipped to service, maintain, repair, and install all types of HVAC-R systems.

  • 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 each)
  • Estimated Tuition: Virginia Resident ($190.11 per credit); out-of-state ($392.86 per credit)

Advanced Technology Institute

The ATI offers an HVAC technology diploma and an associate in occupational science (AOS) degree program in HVAC technology. These programs prepare students with practical experience and knowledge in classroom lectures and in labs using modern HVAC tools and equipment. The faculty of these programs include seasoned technicians bringing several years of HVAC experience and a host of industry-related certifications with them.

The diploma program is made up of 48 credits, while the AOS degree comprises 60 credits. All courses from the diploma are included in the AOS. The curriculum consists of courses such as fundamentals of technology; basic electricity and circuits; metal repair and fabrication; commercial refrigeration; commercial HVAC systems; heat pumps; air conditioners; heating systems; intermediate electricity & schematics; and fundamentals of HVAC and refrigeration among others.

Graduates of these programs are prepared for entry-level positions in this HVAC industry and are also prepared for several certification exams. They will also be able to earn the EPA section 608 and R410A certifications.

  • Location: Virginia Beach, VA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (15 months); AOS (18 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Diploma ($29,136 total program cost); AOS ($36,420 total program cost)

Southside Virginia Community College

Southside Virginia Community College’s HVAC-R program includes two career studies certificates. The HVAC level I and II career studies certificates will prepare graduates for entry-level HVAC employment. Students in this program will demonstrate the skills and gain the knowledge necessary to contribute to the HVAC-R industry.

The 17-credit HVAC level I certificate includes courses such as air conditioning and refrigeration I and II; circuits and controls I; heating systems I; refrigerant usage EPA certification; and air conditioning and refrigeration III.

The 17-credit level II certificate includes coursework in mechanical codes; advanced troubleshooting and service; air conditioning and refrigeration III; air conditioning and refrigeration IV; circuits and controls II; and heating systems II.

  • Location: Alberta, VASouth Hill, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than a year
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($158.61 per credit); non-resident ($335.21 per credit)

Community College of Baltimore County

Community College of Baltimore County has several HVAC programs to offer. The college offers a 60-credit associate of applied science degree in HVAC & energy technology, a 29-credit alternative energy certificate, a 26-credit building automation systems certificate, a 17-credit basic HVAC and energy technology certificate, and a 13-credit advanced HVAC and energy technology certificate.

The curriculum includes courses such as basic HVAC electricity; HVAC-R safety, tools, and methods; fundamentals of refrigeration; advanced HVAC electricity; heating systems; comfort cooling systems; residential load calculations & air distribution; construction blueprint reading; commercial refrigeration systems; alternative and renewable energy sources; and commercial control systems.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (four semesters); certificate (one to two semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-county ($122 per credit); in-state, but out-of-county ($241 per credit); out-of-state ($242 per credit)

Washington DC HVAC Certification and Licensing

As mentioned in the introduction, all people who work with refrigerants in the US (including DC) must have the EPA Section 608 Certification; there are four types available:

  • Type 1 (small appliances)
  • Type 2 (high-pressure appliances)
  • Type 3 (low-pressure appliances)
  • Type 4 (universal)

A majority of HVAC programs include training for this certification in their curricula.

A handful of other skill-specific, employment-ready certifications are available in Washington DC through HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus); North American Technician Excellence (NATE) (e.g., Industry Competency Exams or ICE); the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA) (e.g., entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator); and more. These certifications can be useful when searching for employment, as they demonstrate mastery of specific skills.

To examine the range of credentials available, visit the HVAC certifications page.

It is also important to mention that all HVAC workers in Washington, DC must obtain the proper licensure from the government to perform any work related to installing, maintaining, repairing, or replacing a heating or air conditioning system. In DC, this means applying for licensure from the District of Columbia Board of Industrial Trades. Four types of licenses are available to HVAC-R workers in DC:

  • Apprentice (no experience required)
  • Journeyman by Waiver (at least four years or 8,000 hours of apprenticeship training required)
  • Journeyman by Exam (three years experience required)
  • Master (five years experience required)

All licenses require employment verification signed by a master-level licensee. Ultimately, aspiring HVAC workers in Washington DC should make sure they comply with all local licensure requirements before starting a job.

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.