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 provide support to 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, as well as 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

In the coming years, the demand for skilled HVAC workers is only expected to rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) reported that 342,040 HVAC professionals were working across the country. That figure is expected to grow in the coming years. In fact, the BLS (May 2019) predicted that positions in the HVAC industry would swell 4 percent between 2019 and 2029, as fast as the 4 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 at an even faster rate. In fact, Projections Central (2020)—a partner of the US Department of Labor— projected a 7.7 percent explosion in HVAC opportunities across Washington, DC between 2018 and 2028.

There are various reasons for the continued growth of this industry. For one, virtually all new construction in Washington, DC includes the installation of 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 and these systems require 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 typically must be replaced every 10 to 15 years, ensuring a steady stream of work for HVAC professionals.

The BLS (2020) reported that approximately 7 percent of HVAC techs are self-employed, while the remaining technicians are employed by contractors, schools, or retail and wholesale companies. These technicians usually work full time, although many put in overtime hours in the evenings or on weekends during seasons of peak demand.

Online job postings underscore the wealth of opportunities in this field. By illustration, a search for HVAC jobs in the Washington, DC area on Monster (2021) yielded over 801 results with companies such as Penske, InterSolutions, ROSS Companies, CyberCoders, and Gibbs & Cox, Inc. A similar search on Indeed (2021) brought up 564 results with organizations including Johnson Controls, Bainbridge Heating and Air, Sears Home Services, and Sibley Memorial Hospital.

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 2019) found that the 342,040 HVAC workers nationwide had an average annual salary(annual mean wage) of $51,420. In the District of Columbia, the average salary(annual mean wage) for HVAC workers is $71,940, which is much higher than the national average. Following are the US and Washington DC averages, as they compare:

United States District of Columbia
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 450
Annual mean wage $51,420 $71,940
10th percentile $30,610 $49,600
25th percentile $37,660 $60,060
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $70,770
75th percentile $62,070 $83,270
90th percentile $77,920 $97,470

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

United States:

  • 10th percentile: $31,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,058
  • 90th percentile: $75,000

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, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2020) 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 who is considering a career as an HVAC professional in Washington, DC should note that there are a variety of educational pathways. In general, proper training includes the completion of 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, among others. 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 February 2021, there were no programs accredited by either organization in Washington, DC, although nearby Alexandria, VA offers accredited training through the Edison Academy.

As there are no training programs that are available in the District of Columbia, students may be interested in programs that are 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, and energy efficiency. Students receive a certificate in HVAC upon the completion of 45 credits. Students can complete this program in approximately 40 weeks 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 Schools and Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Day (40 weeks); evening (74 weeks)
  • Estimated Tuition: $23,220

Northern Virginia Community College

There are three HVAC programs offered by the Northern Virginia Community College:

  • 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 (21 to 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 I, 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, introduction to physics, and basic technical mathematics.

The AAS degree provides students with the knowledge and skills which will help them take up leadership positions in the industry. All courses mentioned above are included in this curriculum, with the addition of 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: Alexandria, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (24 months); certificates (12 months each)
  • Estimated Tuition: Virginia Resident ($180.40 per credit); out-of-state ($359.65 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 program 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, pipe brazing/ducting and air movement, basic electricity and circuits, sheet metal fabrication, domestic and commercial refrigeration, and direct digital controls, 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 have the opportunity to earn the EPA section 608 and R410A certification.

  • Location: Virginia Beach, VA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (60 weeks); AOS (18 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Diploma ($27,360); AOS ($34,200)

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 in order to perform any work related to the installation, maintenance, repair, or replacement of 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 are in compliance with all local licensure requirements before starting a job.

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.