If you love to work with your hands and solve problems, HVAC may be a great career choice for you. The demand is high in major cities like Richmond, but there is always a need in even the smallest towns.
In this article, we will give you a quick overview of an HVAC career including salary and demand. Next, we will look at training requirements and help you find the right school for your needs. We’ll also review some additional certifications available to an HVAC technician.
For a quick search, skip ahead to our VA HVAC School finder. Type in your zip code and you’ll get a list of accredited HVAC schools in Virginia.
- The HVAC or HVAC-R Basics
- High Demand for HVAC Technicians in Virginia
- What type of HVAC Degree do I need?
- Finding an HVAC School in Virginia
- HVAC Certification and Licensing
The HVAC or HVAC-R Basics
Most people don’t realize what HVAC actually stands for. Each letter represents an important aspect of the job: Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. The “R” stands for Refrigeration. Technically the best acronym to use is HVAC/R. In this article we will use both terms to mean the same thing.
Qualified HVAC technicians are versatile! That’s part of why they are in such high demand. Once you get HVAC training in VA, you’ll be able to handle any aspect of heating and cooling equipment including the installation, maintenance and repair. Techs also address air quality including filtration and humidity. Work settings can range from residential to commercial settings like schools or movie theatres. Technicians who address the Refrigeration part of the job will find themselves in areas with large refrigerators or freezers such as grocery stores.
Employment opportunities for HVAC/R professionals in VA is vast. Businesses such as universities, factories and other large companies may employ a company-wide HVAC technician. Others may work for an HVAC service company which can respond to service calls in many different settings. Some HVAC professionals even have their own business. Attending an HVAC school in VA can provide you with the knowledge and skills that you need to be successful in any setting.
Scope of Work: Much like other careers, HVAC/R work offers a choice: do you want to specialize in a few things or provide a broad range of services? Generalists are able to do a variety of job types. HVAC Specialists may be really good at a unique service such as installation or cleaning.
High Demand for HVAC Technicians in Virginia
Those who complete HVAC/R training in VA have many opportunities available. There is a national shortage of HVAC technicians.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the demand for HVAC technicians is expected to increase by 4% through 2024. Projection.org estimates that the career will expand by 10% by 2028. Virginia ranks among the highest category when it comes to the number of HVAC techs employed. The career outlook is great for those attending accredited HVAC schools in VA.
This website has more information about the outlook of HVAC careers in VA.
HVAC Salary in VA
Qualified HVAC worker salary in Virginia averaged $50K to $54K in 2019, according to the BLS website. Factors that increase HVAC worker salary include HVAC certification and licensing, experience and a degree from an accredited HVAC school.
Do I need a college degree to be an HVAC Technician?Even though this is a labor intensive career, having a degree will boost your skills, knowledge, resume and chances of success. HVAC technicians are using more and more high-tech equipment in their every day work. With constant advances, heating, cooling and filtration systems are becoming extremely precise and effective. Customers are controlling the heating and cooling of their whole house with their cell phones! After achieving an HVAC degree, you will have the technical knowledge and skills to keep up with the advancements and updates. When you are ready to apply for on-the-job training in an apprenticeship, potential employers are more likely to choose the candidate who has already gained background knowledge and put in the work of earning a degree. Approaching the field with a two year or four year degree demonstrates your commitment and ensures that you are able to put in hard work and face various challenges.
What type of HVAC Degree do I need?
If you’re interested in getting a degree from an accredited HVAC school in VA, you will first need to decide whether a Bachelors or Associates degree is right for you.
Here are the levels of an HVAC/R education.
- Basic Education: You will need a high school or GED to get into an accredited HVAC school.
- Certificate: An HVAC certificate is the first level of training that you need. Some accredited HVAC schools in VA have a shorter training program where you can graduate with only your certificate.
- Associates Degree: The more training you have, the higher salary you will be able to earn. This 2-year degree provides the basic overview of the career and gives you what you need to be a great general HVAC technician. Lots of schools offer this degree.
- Bachelor’s degree: This four year program is best for technicians who want to dive deeper and truly be an expert in their field. It qualifies you for more job opportunities and higher pay.
Check out the detailed descriptions below for more information about each option.
Some employers value both the work and the degree so much that they are willing to help cover the cost of further education. You could earn a paycheck and tuition towards a 2-year or 4-year degree.
Associates Degree in HVAC
An associates degree may be a first stop for some and an end goal for others. It can be enough training to get your foot in the door. This 2-year degree is a good goal for people who need some training first, but can’t afford a full four years before getting in the workforce. Others use an associates degree as a stepping stone towards a bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor’s Degrees in HVAC
HVAC technicians who hope to own their own business, do contracting work or be in leadership may want to pursue a bachelor’s degree. It is common for workers with an associates degree to pursue their bachelors degree after they have worked a few years in the field, especially when employers will help pay for it!
A bachelor’s degree adds advanced knowledge and skills in areas such as system configurations, environmental impacts, and energy auditing and details related to doing contracting work. Only 5% of HVAC technicians hold a Bachelor’s Degree. Those who have a bachelor’s degree have greater chances of landing a high paying job of their choice.
Do I Really Need a Degree? The Benefits of HVAC Schools in VA
Getting an HVAC diploma will increase your chances of getting the jobs you want at a better pay scale. You’re likely to get a higher income right out of the gate when you have a degree than if you didn’t have the years of training and practice under your belt.
Another benefit to having a degree is that it allows you to master the basics. You will be ready to specialize and earn certifications in unique services areas. With more specialties and certifications, you’ll be in high demand.
HVAC/R systems are more technology based and complicated than they used to be. An accredited HVAC school in VA can teach you the basics of those systems and prepare you for the advances up ahead. WIthout a degree, you would have to fumble through the challenges and changes as you work. Employers are willing to pay a higher wage for an HVAC technician who has a degree than one who has only completed an apprenticeship. If you have an accredited degree, employers can be sure that you have learned all of the information that you need to be a great technician.
Cost of HVAC Schools in Virginia
HVAC degrees are available at community colleges, universities or vocational training schools. Depending on which type of program you choose, the cost of an associates degree can range from $5,000 to $15,000.
Although the price tag can be a little intimidating, consider it to be an investment. The return is a rewarding, unique career with good pay.Accredited HVAC Schools in Virginia
Searching for the right school can be a daunting task.
Pick HVAC has designed a tool to help you find the top Accredited HVAC Schools in Virginia. Type in your zip code for a list of schools in VA. From there you will be able to request more information from the schools that you’re interested in. Why Choose an Accredited HVAC School?
For a school to be accredited, a third party has to review and approve the program. This ensures that it covers all of the topics and meets all of the standards you would need to be an excellent technician. Joining an accredited HVAC-R program in VA gives you the peace of mind to know that you’re getting a well-rounded education. This makes for a smooth transition from the classroom to the field. Follow the link for an article by Air Conditioning, Hearing, Refrigeration News about the importance of attending an accredited training program.
Finding an HVAC School in Virginia
After you use the Pick HVAC search tool to find a school and request more information, weigh the factors of each option. Here are some important things to keep in mind about each school:
- The Campus - It helps to step foot onto the campus. A quick tour will give you a good overall feel of the program. You can also make an appointment with a department representative or financial aid counselor. Consider learning facilities, study areas, commute, parking and housing.
- Job Placement - Many schools help students find an internship or job after they graduate. Ask about how they help transition graduates into the field.
- Reviews - What kind of reputation does this program have? Ask a few HVAC technicians in your area or read online reviews.
- Training - Does a school specialize in any area? What kinds of jobs are their recent graduates getting?
Choosing the right HVAC School in VA for you
You’ll be investing a lot of time and money in the training program that you choose. It’s important to consider all of the things that will impact your learning. Use this list to make sure you’ve covered all of your bases
Accreditation - This one makes the top of the list. Make sure the program you choose will teach you everything you’ll need to know on the field.
- Cost - Schools like community colleges may carry a smaller price tag. Larger schools such as universities are likely to bring a higher cost. Extra cost often has extra benefits so be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each.
- Location - Are you able to relocate or commute to classes every day? There are many accredited HVAC schools in VA that would be a great choice. Find one in the location of your choice!
- Platform - Some schools offer online training. That can be convenient if you’re already settled and can’t commute. We recommend choosing a school with at least some hands-on training.
- Experienced Teachers - Instructors who have been in the field will have more experience to draw on and share. The best schools have instructors who have many years invested into HVAC work.
- Financial Aid - Student aid is available for many HVAC training schools in VA. Learn more by requesting information through our exclusive HVAC School Search Tool above.
What Do You Learn in HVAC Training Programs?
For information about the program at a specific school, use the Search Tool above. By requesting more information about a particular program, you’ll be able to find out exactly what their program includes. There are a few core requirements that most schools cover.
- Air Conditioning
- Humidity control
- Installation and Set-up – Residential and Commercial
- Repair – Residential and Commercial
- Refrigerants as a Specialty (some schools)
- Introduction to Green Systems
This is only a list of the basics. Discover what each individual program has for you when you use the school search tool and request more information.
HVAC Training Curriculum
A good HVAC School in VA will provide hands on learning and classroom learning. This allows you to learn the information quickly and then practice it yourself.
The classroom work might include things like reading and listening to instructors teach. They will cover many different topics like electric circuits, environmentally friendly technologies, sensors, circuitry, typical heat sources, humidity and water molecules, and the tools and units you’ll use. Hands-on practice will happen in the class labs. You’ll get to experience assembling, installing and repairing the actual equipment.
Whether in the classroom or the lab, most HVAC training schools will cover these subjects:
- Electric wiring, controls and circuitry
- Ductwork sizing calculations
- Heating equipment including boilers and pumps
- Heating and cooling zoning systems
- Refrigerant temperature controls and piping
- Using power tools
- Heat sources: natural gas, propane and petroleum systems
- Guidelines, ethics, safety requirements, OSHA regulations
HVAC Certification and Licensing
In many careers you need a licence in order to do the work. You can also get extra certifications to add to your list of qualifications.
Licence: A document issued by the government to prove that you are qualified to be an HVAC technician. You get this through your own state government. Accredited schools cover all of the basics you need so that getting a license is a smooth process.
Certifications: HVAC technicians have the opportunity to get certifications that show knowledge and skill in special service areas. These are not required, but extremely beneficial. When you have a certification, you’re recognized as an expert in a specific area of the HVAC profession.
To get certified, you have to pass a test to show your knowledge. Highly certified HVAC/R professionals are sought after and well-respected. Earning certifications gives you an edge above other applicants for work advancements like raises and promotions. Some specialty jobs even require a specific certification.
One prestigious certification is the HVAC Excellence Certification. Technicians can earn a Professional or Master Specials Level certification by proving how many years of field work they have had and passing a comprehensive exam. There are a variety of HVAC certifications that apply to any area of the field. This gives you a chance to keep learning and showcasing your unique skill set.
Common Certifications for HVAC Workers
- EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Type I Certification - For servicing small appliances, air conditioners, domestic refrigeration, vending machines
- EPA Type II Certification – For servicing high pressure systems, residential air conditioning and refrigeration units, heat pumps
- EPA Type III Certification – For servicing low pressure systems, chillers
- Universal EPA Certification – Covers all of the above
- EPA 608 Certification (Refrigerants) - Required for maintenance, service, repairs, or disposal of appliances that contain regulated refrigerants.
The North American Technical Excellence is the largest non-profit organization that represents HVAC technicians. It is made up of and supports HVAC technicians. Technicians can become certified by passing online courses. NATE offers a variety of certifications:
- #1) Ready to Work Certification
- #2) HVAC Support Technician
- #3) NATE Certification: Core and Specialty Tests
- #4) Senior Level Efficiency Analyst Certification
- Certified HVAC Professional (CHP-5)
You can find more information on NATE certifications on their website.
HVAC/R Professional Organizations
Professional organizations can be a very helpful way to collaborate, network, and research in your career. Being part of one or more can boost HVAC worker salary and opportunity. Below is a list of some HVAC/R professional organizations.
- Air Conditioning Contractors of America.
- American Society of Heating, refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
- Air Movement and Control Association (AMCA).
- HVAC Excellence.
- Refrigeration Engineers Society (RSES).
- Women in HVACR.
- Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE1).
- United Association (UA).
- Radiant Professional Alliance.
- International Institute of Refrigeration.
- Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).
- Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC).
- Refrigeration Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA).
Occupational Information Network
Also known as ONet, this site provides a lot of resources and education to HVAC/R professionals. Check out ONet for additional information about HVAC careers in Virginia. This national site provides educational resources and career information. Here you’ll find information about salary, job opening, work activities, and job specific information.