How to Become an HVAC Technician in Virginia
HVAC technicians are professional workers who install, maintain, repair and update heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems (HVAC systems) and their components. HVAC technicians are high in demand across the United States. This career is a stable one and pays well. Generally, to work in this career field, you will need some educational and on-the-job training. However, a degree is usually not required. [Leer en español]
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Virginia
You do not have to be licensed to work as an HVAC technician or work under the supervision of an HVAC contractor in the state of Virginia, unless the value of the work you do exceeds $1,000. If it does you must obtain a license through the Virginia Board for Contractors. Three levels of licensure are available: Journeyman, Master and Contractor. Educational training at an HVAC school and work experience are necessary for this licensure. Also, any HVAC workers who handle refrigerants are required to be properly certified.
HVAC program topics may include:
- Heat pumps and heating systems
- Heating and air conditioning systems
- HVAC mechanics
- Basic refrigeration and refrigeration mechanics
- Basic electricity
- Gas heat
- Electrical circuits
- Heating technology
- Residential, industrial and commercial refrigeration
HVAC Schools in Virginia
If you are considering a career in HVAC, it is important to be trained in how to work on and use the equipment properly and safely. You can get this training through either a post-secondary educational training program or through completing an apprenticeship program. HVAC Excellence and Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) are the two organizations that are responsible for accrediting educational programs. The program that you complete does not have to be accredited, but completing a program that is accredited will show that you are interested in high quality education and training.
Northern Virginia Community College is the only college in Virginia that offers an accredited program. Their Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Air Conditioning & Refrigeration is accredited by HVAC Excellence. This is a two-year program that prepares students not just for entry-level work in this field but for leadership positions as well. This school also offers two certificate programs, in Air Conditioning & Refrigeration and HVAC-R and Facilities Services Technology. Both programs can be completed in one year.
Although they aren’t accredited, there are several other vocational and technical schools in the state that offer one- and two-year certificate and diploma programs in HVAC studies and Air Conditioning & Refrigeration. These include:
- Central Virginia Community College
- Danville Community College
- Eastern Shore Community College
- Mountain Empire Community College
- New River Community College
- Paul D Camp Community College
- Southside Virginia Community College
- Thomas Nelson Community College
- Tidewater Community College
- Virginia Western Community College
Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors of Virginia (PHCC VA) offers an online apprenticeship program. PHCC VA provides the student with educational training, and the employer provides the job training. This apprenticeship has no time limit, as students complete the educational courses at their own pace. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry has apprenticeship job postings, so you can look there for apprenticeship opportunities. You may also want to check local and online job postings for apprenticeships.
Financial aid may be available to students who qualify. Contact the financial office at the institute you wish to attend for more information.
HVAC Certification and Licensing for Becoming a Technician in Virginia
Many HVAC workers handle refrigerants and are required to hold EPA Section 608 certification through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is a national certification and is required no matter where you live or what other licensure you hold. There are four subcategories to this certification:
- Type 1—for those working with small appliances
- Type 2—for those working with high pressure appliances
- Type 3—for those working with low pressure appliances
- Type 4—universal, for all appliances
Most accredited educational programs and apprenticeships will prepare you to pass the test that accompanies this certification.
The Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation State Board for Contractors regulates statewide HVAC licensing. If you are going to be performing any job that will require services that cost more than $1,000 then you must be licensed. In Virginia, there are three levels of licensure: journeyman, master and contractor. Each level of licensure has its own requirements. To get your journeyman license, you must have one of the following:
- Two years work experience and a two-year degree or certification
- Four years work experience and 240 vocational training hours
- Five years work experience and 160 vocational training hours
- Six years work experience and 80 vocational training hours
- Bachelor’s degree in engineering or related field and one year work experience
- 10 years verified work experience
To get your masters license you must have on year work experience as a licensed journeyman within the state or 10 years verified work experience.
There are three classifications to the contractor’s license: Class A, B and C. The Class A license permits contractors to work on any size project without monetary restrictions. To get the Class A license you must apply and pay the application fee, complete a pre-licensing course, have at least five years work experience, be insured and pass the accompanying exams.
The Class B license allows contractors to work on projects up to $120,000, but they can’t go over $750,000 annually. They must also apply and pay a fee, complete a pre-license course, be insured, have at least three years’ work experience and pass the required exams.
Contractors with a Class C license can work on projects up to $10,000. Their projects can’t accumulate more than $150,000 in a year. They must also apply and pay an application fee and complete a pre-licensing course. At least two years of work experience are required in addition to passing the required exams.
All licenses must be renewed biannually to remain active. Three hours of continued education must also be taken during the renewal period.
Job Prospects and Salary Expectations
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVAC technicians in Virginia were earning $23.58 an hour, or $49,050 annually, in 2021. You can earn more than the average depending on where you work in the state and how much education and experience you have. The highest earning HVAC workers in the state make as much $75,760 per year.
The growth rate for this career is 15 percent across the United States. In Virginia, the growth rate is just below that, but still strong at 11 percent.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Virginia
Most HVAC technicians work for HVAC contractors and many go on to become contractors themselves. Most HVAC work is done in commercial and residential buildings. However, many HVAC techs do work in government and industrial buildings as well.
If you are considering becoming an HVAC technician in Virginia, you can find the most work in the cities of Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond and Virginia Beach. The highest paying areas of the state include Harrisonburg, Richmond and the Northwest Virginia non-metropolitan area.
What are the steps to becoming an HVAC technician in Virginia?
- 1. Enroll in an HVAC apprenticeship and/or post-secondary training program.
- 2. Work the required years to take the exams to move from apprentice to licensed journeyman, master and, if desired, HVAC contractor.
- 3. Obtain a license through the Virginia Board for Contractors to work on HVAC jobs valuing over $1,000.
How much do heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earn in the state of Virginia?
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers in the state of Virginia made an average of $50,460 per year in 2019. Entry-level heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earned around $28,500 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $74,350.