How to Become an HVAC Technician in Washington

The need for trained and certified HVAC technicians in the state of Washington is growing. As frontline experts in a challenging field, HVAC/R professionals must be skilled and versatile enough to repair and service a broad variety of heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration systems and equipment(HVAC systems). Their expertise is also required in the installation of such systems in residential, commercial and industrial buildings of all sizes, shapes and architectural characteristics. [Leer en español]

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Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Washington

Gaining knowledge and expertise in HVAC repair, installation and maintenance involves a combination of education and field experience, with several thousand hours of on-the-job training plus classroom instruction required before you will be eligible to seek out full-time employment.

HVAC training program topics may include:

  • Electrical circuits
  • Electric furnaces
  • Heat pumps and heat pump fundamentals
  • Mechanical code
  • Duct sizing
  • Gas codes
  • Sheet metal operation
  • Refrigerant handling

If you plan to become an HVAC technician in the state of Washington, you must obtain an electrician’s license first, and any educational and apprenticeship programs you participate in will include detailed practice and instruction in electrical work as it pertains to heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration systems

HVAC Schools in Washington

In Washington, apprenticeship programs for aspiring HVAC techs are abundant and available statewide.

Most apprenticeships are organized and administered by unions, including those that represent pipefitters, electricians and sheet metal workers. Minimum qualifications include a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and the capacity to handle all physical chores associated with HVAC and refrigeration, and applicants will also have to pass a basic mental aptitude test to be accepted as an apprentice.

Post-high school educational programs are another option that will allow you to gain the knowledge and expertise you need to find employment in the HVAC/R field. Schools with programs accredited by HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) are in high demand, and Washington has two institutions that have received one or the other designation.

For those who wish to attend an accredited HVAC trade school, consider the following:

  • Walla Walla Community College. This HVAC Excellence-accredited school offers a one-year certificate or a two-year Associate of Applied Arts & Sciences degree in HVAC and refrigeration studies. At Walla Walla, students have the opportunity to pursue a variety of specialties within the HVAC/R field.
  • Bates Technical College. Located in Tacoma, Bates Technical College offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in HVAC studies, plus a shorter-term certificate of competency. The program at Bates features multiple specialized tracks, and as of now it is the only program in the state to carry the PAHRA seal of approval.

There are several other community colleges and technical schools in the state that provide training in heating, ventilation, cooling and refrigeration, with two-year Associate of Applied Science and one-year certification options both widely available. Interested parties can refer to a list of such institutions compiled by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

Financial aid may be available to qualifying students who wish to attend an HVAC school. Contact the financial office at the institute you wish to attend for more information.

HVAC Certification and Licensing for Becoming a Technician in Washington

Through education and field work, prospective HVAC technicians in Washington must obtain the experience necessary to qualify for official licensing as an electrician.

When an electrician’s license is issued, it can be in one of two specialized categories or codes:

  • 6A HVAC/Refrigeration System. Those who are classified 6A will be qualified to install and service any system—including commercial HVAC/electrical systems—regardless of their voltage or number of phases. To gain a 6A electrician’s license, you will need to complete 4,000 hours of on-the-job training plus 48 hours of classroom instruction.
  • 6B HVAC/Refrigeration System. This designation is appropriate for professionals who plan to work exclusively with single-phase systems operating at capacities below 250 volts and 120 amperes. This restricted classification requires 2,000 hours of workplace/apprenticeship experience plus 24 hours of classroom instruction.

While an electrician’s license is necessary regardless of where you would like to work, some cities may have further licensing and certification requirements that must be met before you can obtain a position as an HVAC technician. If you plan to work in a specialized area of the HVAC field, you will have to prove you have a background in that area as a part of the local licensing process.

Additionally, you will have to qualify for EPA certification before you can start working with refrigerants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created four categories of 608 certification, for small appliances, high-pressure appliances, low-pressure appliances and all appliances (universal), and you must pass the exam that applies to your chosen category before your certificate can be issued.

See EPA section 608 certification for more information.

Job Market and Salary Expectations

  • In Washington, the average annual wage for this occupation is $61,520. The bottom 10% earn $44,030 or less, while the top 10% earn $94,240 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
Washington $61,520 $44,030 $94,240

Salaries and Percentiles by Region in Washington

Region Annual Low (10%) Annual QL (25%) Annual Median (50%) Annual QU (75%) Annual High (90%)
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA $47,090 $49,970 $64,260 $79,910 $101,660
Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA $39,350 $45,810 $59,640 $66,220 $78,710
Olympia-Tumwater, WA $39,740 $48,120 $61,870 $74,850 $94,180

HVAC Trends in Washington

  • Current Employment (2020): There were 8,590 employees in this occupation in Washington.
  • Projected Employment (2030): It is expected to rise to 10,180, showing a growth.
  • Projected Growth (2020-2030): The field is expected to experience a 19% growth rate in Washington, which is significantly 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 1,200 job openings each year in Washington, 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)
Washington 8,590 10,180 19% 1,200
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 Washington

The climate in Washington is moist and cool in the west, with an extended heating season that often covers three of four seasons. In contrast, the eastern part of the state is more arid and features sharper differences in summer and wintertime temperatures, creating a need for both heating and air conditioning at different times of the year

As the need for highly-trained and skilled HVAC technicians in Washington continues to expand, opportunities to enter this attractive and well-compensated profession will abound. Jobs are most plentiful and offer the highest wages in Seattle and the surrounding Puget Sound area, but regardless of where you seek employment your expertise in the HVAC field will create a demand for your services, should you choose to follow this evergreen career path.

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Get information on HVACR Certified Technician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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How to Become an HVAC Technician in Washington state

  • 1. Gain sufficient education and/or work experience for a state-issued electrician’s license with an HVAC specialization
  • 2. Meet any further licensing requirements that apply in your county or city
  • 3. If applicable, get permission from the EPA to use refrigerant products

How much do heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earn in the state of Washington?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers in the state of Washington made an average of $61,300 per year in 2019. Entry-level heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earned around $35,350 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $97,660.

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