HVAC Programs, Certifications, and Salary in West Virginia

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The varied year-round temperatures throughout West Virginia (WV) make this state one of the best locations to begin a new career in the field of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). The Mountain State boasts hot, humid summers and frigid winters—both of which are just easier to manage with the help of some type of indoor climate-control system. Because of this, WV is now home to a strong HVAC industry that will likely continue to grow into the future.

Of course, the temperatures are not the only reason contributing to the HVAC industry expansion. For one, workers in this field enjoy support from myriad professional organizations and unions. Take, for example, the United Association Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 565, which serves HVAC professionals in Parkersburg. This union offers a wide array of benefits to members, including professional advocacy and an apprenticeship program for aspiring HVAC workers.

Alternatively, HVAC professionals may choose to apply for membership through Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 83, located in Wheeling, which offers similar benefits.

Overall, anyone with an interest in HVAC in WV may find this line of work to be truly rewarding. Before jumping in, those considering a career in this field should have a thorough understanding of what to expect, including the specifics of job responsibilities. Here’s a brief overview of some of the daily tasks that many HVAC workers may complete in West Virginia:

  • Calibrate HVAC equipment
  • Perform calculations
  • Keep proper records
  • Read blueprints
  • Ensure all work complies with the law
  • Travel to and from various work sites
  • Offer education to customers on energy use and conservation
  • Maintain permits and licenses

It’s important to note that HVAC professionals in WV who handle refrigerants must also maintain active EPA Section 608 Certification to remain in compliance with the law.

This guide explores accredited HVAC programs in WV, including discussions of salary prospects, industry outlook, and credentialing.

Career Outlook for HVAC Workers in West Virginia

Anyone considering a job in West Virginia as an HVAC technician should take heart that the industry is currently strong, and is only expected to grow nationwide over the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) reported that the number of available HVAC jobs nationwide is expected to grow by 19,000 between 2020 and 2030—an increase of 5 percent overall. To put this into perspective, all industries across the country are slated to expand by an average of eight percent.

What’s responsible for this rapid growth in the HVAC industry within the United States? For one, the laws and regulations that govern this field are constantly changing; as such, the demand is rising for highly skilled and experienced technicians who can help customers remain in compliance with the law.

Furthermore, virtually all new construction in West Virginia is completed with some type of climate-control system, requiring the expertise of an HVAC professional. And, in reality, these systems must be serviced and repaired routinely, and often need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years.

A simple online search for available jobs demonstrates the strong demand for those in this field. For example, a search for “HVAC technician in West Virginia” on Monster (January 2022) yielded results with companies such as Brick Street Services, RWD Consulting, LLC, Sears Holding Corporation, CMS Nextech, and Shenandoah A/C & Heating, among others.

A similar search on Indeed (January 2022) brought up 78 results with organizations including West Virginia University Hospital, Dodrill Comfort & Energy Solutions, Johnson Controls, West Virginia Wesleyan College, and Camden Clark Medical Center, along with many more.

HVAC Worker Salary in West Virginia

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020), HVAC mechanics and installers enjoy good wages around the country, particularly in an occupation that generally requires just six months to two years of postsecondary education.

Among the 344,020 HVAC workers around the US, the BLS (May 2020) found an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $53,410. In West Virginia, the 1,610 HVAC professionals working there earned an average of $44,040, putting them significantly lower than the average for the country. In more detailed terms, here were the salary percentiles in this occupation in the US and WV specifically:

United States West Virginia
Number of HVAC professionals employed 344,020 1,610
Annual mean wage $53,410 $44,040
10th Percentile $31,910 $28,010
25th Percentile $39,320 $33,400
50th Percentile (median) $50,590 $40,830
75th Percentile $64,350 $53,670
90th Percentile $80,820 $65,640

Salary figures do vary slightly by another source of data. Payscale—an aggregator of self-reported salaries—found the following percentiles among its HVAC respondents nationwide in late 2021:

  • 10th percentile: $32,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,916
  • 90th percentile: $80,000

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in West Virginia is lower than the nation’s average salary. 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 2021) found that WV was the seventh most affordable state. For HVAC technicians this means even lower than average salaries will go a bit further than they would in some costlier nearby states.

HVAC Apprenticeships in West Virginia

To find work in this field, aspiring HVAC technicians must obtain the education and skills necessary to succeed. In general, this requires the completion of some type of formal education, which may include a degree program, an apprenticeship, or a certificate.

Those looking to complete an apprenticeship in West Virginia may wish to consider the program offered by the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 33 located in Parkersburg. Participants in this five-year program will take a variety of courses, including those on welding, refrigeration and air conditioning, blueprint reading, testing and balancing, and fire life safety, among others. Apprentices work under the supervision of a journeyman and earn a salary throughout the program.

Accredited HVAC Schools in West Virginia

West Virginians considering a career in this field should understand that it’s becoming more common for aspiring HVAC technicians to enroll in accredited programs which often take anywhere between six months and two years to complete.

Right now, two main industry organizations evaluate and accredit HVAC programs. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has awarded accreditation to Ben Franklin Vocational Center and the Carver Career and Technical Education Center. As of January 2022, HVAC Excellence has not accredited any program in WV.

Carver Career and Technical Education Center

Aspiring HVAC technicians who wish to complete a certificate or degree program may be interested in studying at the Carver Career and Technical Education Center in Charleston. This HVAC Technician program has been accredited by the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), and teaches students how to operate, manage, install, and service HVAC equipment.

Combining hands-on learning with classroom lectures, the curriculum of the program includes courses such as basic control circuits; air conditioning applications; domestic refrigeration; fossil fuel heating systems; and heating systems among others. The program consists of 1,250 clock hours.

Graduates of the program can take up roles such as entry-level HVAC mechanics, HVAC installation technicians, HVAC mechanics, and refrigeration technicians. Students in this program will have the opportunity to earn certification for every skill set mastered.

  • Location: Charleston, WV
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Commission of the Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 11 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $8,585

Ben Franklin Career Center

Ben Franklin Career Center does not have any degree or certificate in HVAC, however, it does offer a high school program in HVAC technician providing students with the necessary knowledge and skills required for entry-level employment in the area of commercial, industrial, and residential HVAC/R. Combining classroom lectures with laboratory experiences, the program prepares students for checking and installing HVAC equipment, replacing and servicing minor and major components, and troubleshooting and analysis of individual units.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as basic electricity; air conditioning, and heat control; meter usage and safety; basic automobile AC service; soldering and brazing electrical circuits, controls, and motors; equipment and duct design; heat load calculations; and air conditioning system heat load.

  • Location: Dunbar, WV
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Commission of the Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the college for details

James Rumsey Technical Institute

James Rumsey Technical Institute offers an 11-month HVAC/R program preparing students for entry-level employment in the HVAC/R field. With a combination of hands-on learning in a lab and classroom training, this program offers students the opportunity to earn NCCER certification for each skill set mastered.

Some of the topics students will explore include air distribution systems; introduction to control circuit troubleshooting; basic electricity; soldering and brazing; troubleshooting gas heating; basic installation and maintenance practices; heat pumps; and hand and power tool basics.

At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as installation technicians, maintenance technicians, service technicians, control technicians, oil burner technicians, and air balance technicians.

  • Location: Martinsburg, WV
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: two semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: $7,637

Putnam Career & Technical Center

Putnam Career & Technical Center offers an HVAC technician program introducing students to the technical skills and knowledge base of the HVAC industry incorporating a curriculum certified by the National Center for Construction Education Research (NCCER). Students learn about the basics of troubleshooting, servicing, repairing, and installing HVAC/R equipment.

Consisting of 1,080 clock hours, the curriculum includes courses such as air conditioning applications; commercial air conditioning; heating systems; and basic control circuits. Graduates of the program will be able to take up roles such as installers, service technicians, service managers, and design technicians.

  • Location: Eleanor, WV
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 22 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the college for details

HVAC Certification and Licensing in West Virginia

As described above, anyone who handles refrigerants in West Virginia must maintain active EPA Section 608 Certification, which is broken into four distinct categories:

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

In addition, there is a handful of skill-specific certifications, which can provide additional benefits to HVAC technicians. These are offered by the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator); North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams or ICE); HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus); and several other organizations.

Holding any additional certifications may lead to better employment opportunities in a future career. Check out this comprehensive guide to HVAC certifications.

Finally, anyone interested in working as an HVAC technician in West Virginia must first obtain all necessary licensure through the proper channels. As of January 2022, anyone who performs HVAC work is required to hold certification through the West Virginia Division of Labor.

To apply for this, the technician must pass two examinations: one on the subject of HVAC and one on business and law. In addition, applicants must also submit a $75 application fee, as well as proof of 2,000 hours of experience in HVAC work and 6,000 hours of experience in HVAC or related work; or, otherwise, the individual must apply as a Technician in Training and agree to work under the control and supervision of a licensed HVAC technician.

In reality, the licensing and certification process for HVAC technicians can be relatively complicated. That being said, anyone interested in working in this field should follow all steps carefully to ensure they remain by the law before starting a new 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.