How to Become an HVAC Technician in West Virginia
Heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems, also referred to as HVAC or HVAC/R systems, provide climate-controlled environments in buildings and homes. The professionals who install and maintain these systems are known as HVAC technicians, or HVAC techs. Besides installing and maintaining HVAC systems, HVAC techs also repair HVAC systems. Other HVAC tech duties include: analyzing air quality and humidity levels, calibrating HVAC equipment, reading blueprints and educating customers on energy use and conservation. [Leer en español]
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in West Virginia
The only national requirement to work as an HVAC technician is EPA Section 608 certification through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This certification is required for all HVAC technicians who will be handling refrigerants. No other certification or licensure is required nationally. However, many states do have laws in place regulating this profession.
In West Virginia, state certification is required to work as an HVAC technician. This certification is available through the West Virginia Division of Labor. Training and work experience through an educational training program or apprenticeship is a prerequisite to getting state certification.
HVAC Apprenticeship and Educational Programs in West Virginia
Educational and work experience hours are required to get HVAC technician certification in West Virginia. This experience can be accumulated through completing either an apprenticeship or a formal education program.
For those who choose to complete an apprenticeship, there are several organizations and unions in the state that can help you. Some of the local unions include the United Association Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 565 in Parkersburg, the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 33 also in Parkersburg and the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 83 in Wheeling. Most apprenticeships take five years to complete. Apprentices work under a journeyman or licensed HVAC technician and attend classes while working. In some apprenticeships, classes are offered at no cost to the student.
For those who would rather complete an educational training program, West Virginia has a few options to consider as well. Programs that have been accredited by HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) are ideal for aspiring HVAC technicians. There are two PAHRA accredited programs in West Virginia:
- Carver Career and Technical Education Center in Charleston offers an HVAC technician training program for both adults and students still in high school. This program is a combination of hands-on learning and classroom instruction. Adult students must have a high school diploma or equivalent to enter the program.
- Ben Franklin Career Center , located in Dunbar, offers an HVAC training program that can be completed in 11 months. Classes are taken in the evenings starting in July and running through the following June. The program consists of 1,350 total training hours.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in West Virginia
To purchase and handle refrigerants, all HVAC technicians must hold EPA Section 608 certification. This certification is broken down into four categories, depending on what type of appliances they will be handling or working on. There is Type I for small appliances, Type II for high pressure appliances, Type III for low pressure appliances and Type IV, which is universal and covers all appliances. Most accredited HVAC training programs will prepare students for the exam for this certification.
HVAC workers in West Virginia must apply for certification through the West Virginia Division of Labor. To become certified HVAC techs are required to pay a $75 application fee and take and pass an HVAC exam as well as a business and law exam. A passing score is 70 percent on both exams. They must also provide proof of 2,000 hours of experience in HVAC work and 6,000 hours of experience in HVAC or related work in the sheet metal industry.
Those without enough work experience can apply to work as a Technician in Training and work under the supervision of a licensed HVAC technician until they have gained enough experience. The application fee to work as a technician in training is $50.00. All HVAC certification must be renewed annually, and continued education is not required for renewal at this time.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
According to the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP), there were 1,850 HVAC technicians working in the state of West Virginia in 2016. By 2026, that number is expected to increase by 14 percent to 2,110.
In 2017, the average hourly salary of an HVAC technician in the state was $19.48, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The average annual salary of HVAC techs in the state that same year was $40,520. Actual salary will depend on many factors, including work experience and location. Apprentices, technicians in training and entry-level HVAC technicians will likely make less than the average salary. Those who are certified and have worked for several years could potentially make more.
Working as an HVAC Technician in West Virginia
The varying temperatures in West Virginia make the state one of the most ideal states to work as an HVAC technician. HVAC technicians are generally trained to work on all systems, including heating, air conditioning and refrigeration. Some technicians may work on all systems, while some may choose to specialize in just one. HVAC technicians may work for a company or under a licensed contractor. They may also choose to get their own HVAC contractor license after several years of work experience.
In West Virginia, the northern West Virginia nonmetro area has the highest concentration of HVAC technicians. If you are looking for the highest paying cities for HVAC technicians in West Virginia, Charleston, Morgantown and Wheeling are the best locations to consider.
If a career that is stable and well paying and offers the option of earning training experience while you work interests you, then you should consider working as an HVAC technician in West Virginia