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]

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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

  • In Virginia, the average annual wage for this occupation is $53,460. The bottom 10% earn $36,750 or less, while the top 10% earn $78,270 or more.
  • Nationally, the average annual wage is $51,390. Here, the bottom 10% earn $36,170 or less, and the top 10% earn $82,630 or more.

Comparison of National vs. Local Salaries

Location Average Annual Wage Annual Wage for Bottom 10% Annual Wage for Top 10%
United States $51,390 $36,170 $82,630
Virginia $53,460 $36,750 $78,270

Salaries and Percentiles by Region in Virginia

Region Annual Low (10%) Annual QL (25%) Annual Median (50%) Annual QU (75%) Annual High (90%)
Richmond, VA $36,680 $44,450 $48,710 $61,640 $73,510
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV $42,310 $50,270 $62,180 $77,130 $95,280
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC $36,380 $45,660 $48,160 $60,470 $71,480

HVAC Trends in Virginia

  • Current Employment (2020): There were 11,740 employees in this occupation in Virginia.
  • Projected Employment (2030): It is expected to rise to 12,980, showing a growth.
  • Projected Growth (2020-2030): The field is expected to experience an 11% growth rate in Virginia, which is higher than the national average growth rate of 6% over a similar period.
  • Projected Annual Job Openings (2020-2030): There are expected to be about 1,290 job openings each year in Virginia, due to both new positions and replacement needs.

Employement Trends

Location Employment (2020) Projected Employment (2030) Projected Growth (2020-2030) Projected Annual Job Openings (2020-2030)
Virginia 11,740 12,980 11% 1,290
United States 415,800 438,800 6% 37,700

Sources of data:

  • For employment trends and projections: Projections Central’s 2020-2030 long-term projections.
  • For national employment and wage data: The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 2022-2032 employment projections.

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.

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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.

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