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Virginia HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Virginia

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Table of Contents
  1. Licensing Requirements for HVAC Technicians in Virginia

  2. Types of HVAC Licenses in Virginia

  3. Steps to Get an HVACR Contractor License in Virginia

  4. Benefits of Getting an HVAC License in Virginia

  5. What Is the Median Salary for an HVAC Technician in Virginia?

  6. How Much Does It Cost to Get an HVAC License in Virginia?

  7. How to Get an HVAC License in Virginia

  8. How Long Does it Take to Get an HVAC License in Virginia?

  9. Virginia HVAC Training Programs and Schools

  10. Virginia HVAC Licensing Exam Details

  11. Who Issues HVAC Licenses in Virginia?

  12. Does My Virginia HVAC License Work in Any Other State?

  13. HVAC-Specific Requirements

  14. Other Requirements Unique to Virginia

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration systems are becoming increasingly technologically advanced. It takes a great deal of study and practice to become familiar with these heating and cooling systems and proficient at designing, installing, and repairing them. 

Also, with more of an emphasis being placed on energy efficiency and reducing pollution, systems need to be retrofitted, upgraded or replaced entirely to remain compliant. The Commonwealth of Virginia requires extensive training and experience before issuing a license to work independently in this growing field.

There are over 342,000 Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers in the United States, according to the Board of Labor and Statistics, and 11,670 work in Virginia.

Trained HVAC professionals are in high demand to keep up with this thriving industry. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029—adding more than 15,000 of these skilled workers to the ranks.

The licensing requirements for HVAC workers and contractors vary from state to state and even from locality to locality. In fact, it is stated explicitly on the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation website that, “Individual tradesmen may also be subject to local ordinances, laws, or other requirements imposed by other state agencies, courts, or certain localities. Questions about local ordinances, etc. should be directed to the community in which the individuals plan to engage in their trade.”

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Licensing Requirements for HVAC Technicians in Virginia

Is a license required to perform HVAC work in Virginia? Yes.

To be an HVAC technician in Virginia you must be licensed.

The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulations requires that applicants seeking licensure meet certain entry qualifications. DPOR and its regulatory boards establish entry requirements for HVAC, plumbers, electricians, and other trades based upon a combination of education, examination, and/or experience. In some cases, holding a valid license in another state will satisfy some requirements to obtain licensure by reciprocity.  The Board for Contractors regulates and licenses HVAC tradesmen in Virginia.

Types of HVAC Licenses in Virginia

What are the different types of HVAC licenses in Virginia?

There are three basic levels of HVAC  licenses in Virginia. You qualify for each of them through a combination of formal education and practical experience. You’ll begin as an apprentice, but that does not require a license. You cannot work unsupervised as an apprentice. As an apprentice, you are basically working as an entry-level employee for an HVAC company or contractor to gain the practical experience required to get a license while taking classes to learn the theoretical or conceptual parts of the trade required.

Journeyman License:  A journeyman HVAC license is the first level of licensure in Virginia. It allows you to work in the field unsupervised on projects valuing less than $1,000. To qualify for a journeyman HVAC license you must acquire a minimum number of years of practical experience and classroom instruction and pass a state-mandated test. There are several ways to satisfy the experience and education requirements necessary for pre-approval for the exam.

  • Earn a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in a related field like mechanical engineering and get one year of hands-on experience in the field.

  • Earn an Associate’s degree or diploma certificate from a two-year HVAC program at a technical college or trade school and two years of work experience.

  • Accrue four years of work experience and 240 hours of formal vocational training.

  • Each additional year of practical experience can substitute for hours of vocational training. 1 year equals 80 hours of classroom work, up to a maximum of 200 hours; so

    • 5 years of experience plus 160 hours of vocational training

    • 6 years of experience plus 80 hours of vocational training

    • 7 or more years of experience plus 40 hours of vocational training; or

    • Accumulate 10 years of verified practical experience in the trade.

Master License: A master license allows you to plan and lay out the details for installation and supervise the work of installing, repairing, and maintaining HVAC systems to comply with the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code on projects valuing less than $1,000. Again, to qualify for a master license you must acquire a minimum amount of practical experience. There are two ways to do that to be allowed to sit for the exam. 

  • Provide evidence that you have one year of experience as a licensed journeyman; or

  • Accumulate 10 years of verified practical experience in the trade.

Contractor License: There are three levels of HVAC Contractor License in Virginia you can acquire AFTER you earn your master license. In most cases, the type of contractor license you should apply for is based on the value or contract price of the projects your business will be bidding on or engaged in. Any project that has a contract price of $1,000 or more requires a contractor license. For each of the three classes, you must complete a mandatory 8-hour pre-education course from an approved provider.

  • Class A — A Class A license is unlimited. It has no restrictions on job size. To qualify for it you must have five years of experience and a minimum of $45,000 business capital.

  •  Class B — A Class B license restricts you to individual projects of less than $120,000 and less than $750,000 in projects over the course of the year. You need a minimum of three years of experience and at least $15,000 in business capital.

  • Class C —A Class C license is restricted to projects of less than $10,000 with not more than $150,000 in projects for the year and requires two years of experience.

Steps to Get an HVACR Contractor License in Virginia

  1. You must be at least 18 years of age.

  2. You must meet the educational requirements by passing all required courses before sitting for the state-mandated examination.

  3. You must meet all of the practical experience requirements before sitting for the state-mandated examination.

  4. You must pass the applicable state-mandated exam(s).

  5. You must disclose your physical home address; a post office box alone is not acceptable.

  6. You must pay the appropriate exam and license fee.

  7. Each applicant is required to report any conviction of a felony or a misdemeanor in any jurisdiction. Any plea of nolo contendere shall be considered a conviction. The Board may deny licensure at its discretion based on the information provided. However, the board addresses each on a case-by-case basis and will not only consider the nature of the crime, but also how long ago it occurred and behavior displayed since.

  8. The applicant shall report any suspensions, revocations, or surrendering of a certificate or license in connection with a disciplinary action or which has been the subject of discipline in any jurisdiction prior to applying for licensure or certification in Virginia. The Board for Contractors may deny licensure at its discretion based on the information provided.

  9. Each applicant for a home improvement contractor's license must meet the financial solvency guidelines. Any applicant who does not meet the financial solvency guidelines may purchase a surety bond.

  10. You cannot become an HVAC contractor in Virginia without also being licensed as a master in your field, and carrying the appropriate insurance coverage.

Benefits of Getting an HVAC License in Virginia

There are many benefits you’ll see from getting your HVAC license in Virginia.

  • Most importantly, it is required by law in Virginia to be licensed through the state to legally perform any HVAC work.

  • It will make you a more attractive candidate to prospective employers.

  • A trade license is proof of your experience and skill.

  • Only licensed HVAC contractors can: operate a business and advertise services, obtain commercial insurance, pull building permits and pass inspections, bid on public and government projects.

  • Having a license protects your company and customers.

  • It also increases your earning potential.

What Is the Median Salary for an HVAC Technician in Virginia?

The annual mean wage for Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers is $51,420 nationwide according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the Bureau reports Virginia’s annual mean wage for these workers is slightly less, at $50,460.

The salary for an HVAC worker in Virginia increases as you acquire more experience, according to indeed.com.

HVAC Technician: The average salary for an HVAC Technician is $22.64 per hour in Virginia and $6,125 overtime per year.

HVAC Installer: The average salary for an HVAC installer is $22.96 per hour in Virginia and $6,094 overtime per year.

HVAC Mechanic: The average salary for an HVAC Mechanic is $24.67 per hour in Virginia and $8,750 overtime per year.

HVAC Supervisor: The average base salary for an HVAC Supervisor is $73,267 per year in Virginia and $11,250 overtime per year.

How Much Does It Cost to Get an HVAC License in Virginia?

There are different fees associated with each license class in Virginia.

  • Journeyman

    • License Fee: $130

    • Exam Fee: $100

  • Master

    • License Fee: $130

    • Exam Fee: $125

  • Contractor – Class A

    • License Fee: $385

    • Exam Fee: $85

  • Contractor – Class B

    • License Fee: $370

    • Exam Fee: $72

  • Contractor – Class C

    • License Fee: $235

    • Exam Fee: no exam required with a Master HVAC license

All licenses must be renewed every two years, which costs $90.

How to Get an HVAC License in Virginia

HVAC Technicians in Virginia begin as either an entry-level worker, an apprentice or a student and must work toward a journeyman’s license. You must be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or GED equivalency. Then you will need to acquire some combination of formal education and practical experience. 

There are a couple of ways you can satisfy these two components.

EDUCATION/ WORK EXPERIENCE:

  • Earn a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in a related field like mechanical engineering and get one year of hands-on experience in the field.

  • Earn an Associate’s degree or diploma certificate from a two-year HVAC program and a technical college or trade school and two years of work experience.

  • Complete an approved apprenticeship program. There are a few offered through local unions in Virginia, but most are offered by individual employers and typically run five years. They satisfy the educational and practical experience requirements required by Virginia to apply for a journeyman license.

  • Attend a vocational school and complete 240 hours of vocational training through a certificate or diploma program and accumulate four years of work experience.

  • Each additional year of practical experience can substitute for hours of vocational training. 1 year equals 80 hours of classroom work, up to a maximum of 200 hours; so

    • 5 years of experience plus 160 hours of vocational training

    • 6 years of experience plus 80 hours of vocational training

    • 7 or more years of experience plus 40 hours of vocational training; or

    • Accumulate 10 years of verified practical experience in the trade.

APPLY TO TAKE EXAMINATION: After you have satisfied the time and training requirements, you will need to pass the licensing examination. Virginia has contracted with PSI Testing Services to administer all of the trade and contractor exams. You must apply to the Board to be permitted to take the exam. To apply you will complete this Tradesman Exam & License Application. There are two ways to complete it. This page on the DPOR website explains how to use either an interactive or static form. Then you will mail it along with a check or money order made payable to the Treasurer of Virginia or a completed credit card insert to:

Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation Board of Contractors 9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 400 Richmond, VA 23233

TAKE LICENSING EXAM: The Board will determine if you are eligible to test. If you apply through reciprocity from another state or if you have completed an approved apprenticeship program, you may be exempt from testing. The PSI Individual License and Certification Candidate Information Bulletin provides information about the examination and the process. As soon as you finish the computerized test, your result will appear. The Board will be notified and your Journeyman license will be mailed to you.

ADDITIONAL WORK EXPERIENCE: If you choose to pursue a Master license, you will need to accrue additional work experience.

  • Document and demonstrate one year of experience as a licensed journeyman; or

  • Accumulate 10 years of verified practical experience in the trade.

APPLY TO TAKE EXAMINATION: Once you’ve fulfilled the work experience requirements, you may apply to take the master license exam. It’s the same form again, but you select the Master Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVA) option this time.

TAKE LICENSING EXAM: The Board will determine again if you meet the eligibility requirements to test. The Candidate Information Bulletin provides information about the examination and the process. As soon as you finish the computerized test, your result will appear. The Board will be notified and your Master license will be mailed to you.

PSI can be reached at:

PSI Examination Services (PSI) 3210 E. Tropicana Las Vegas, NV 89121 1-855-340-3910 www.psiexams.com

CONTRACTOR REQUIREMENTS:

As with any profession, the longer you practice the trade the more you know. That may lead you to the decision that you’d like to be a licensed contractor. Contractor licenses in Virginia are issued to business entities, not to individuals. So, you’ll own your own business and be able to take on larger projects. With a Master HVAC License and at least two years of experience, you can apply for a contractor’s license in Virginia.

There are three levels of contractor licenses.

  • Class A — Unrestricted. No limits on job size. Requires five years of licensed master level experience and a minimum of $45,000 of business capital.

  • Class B — Restricted to individual projects of less than $120,000 and less than $750,000 in projects per year. Minimum of three years of experience with master license and at least $15,000 in business capital.

  • Class C — Restricted to projects of less than $10,000 with not more than $150,000 in projects for the year. Requires two years of experience.

There is a mandatory 8-hour Pre-License Education course required for each of these licenses that must be taken from an approved provider. Class A, B, and C applicants will all need to fill out the Board of Contractors License Application. Class A and Class B applicants need to complete the financial statement form or the surety bond form to demonstrate that they meet the financial stability requirement. The state-mandated examination for each level gets progressively more in-depth and requires a wider base of knowledge reflecting the increased responsibility at each level. You will also have to declare your area of specialization. If you are strictly an HVAC contractor, that is the only specialty you’ll designate, but for some larger contractors, you may have several. There are also requirements for designating Responsible Members and Qualified Individuals in the company. For smaller contractors, you may fill all of those roles, but for larger commercial groups you may have multiple people filling these roles.

All of this can seem pretty daunting, but there is a Step By Step Guide to Obtaining Your Contractor License on the DPOR website to help walk you through the intricacies.

How Long Does it Take to Get an HVAC License in Virginia?

It will take a minimum of four years to qualify to take the Journey Level licensing exam in Virginia and then at least an additional year working as a Journeyman to qualify for the Master level. However, even if part of that time is dedicated to classes you will likely be working and earning money the whole time.

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Virginia HVAC Training Programs and Schools

For the most part, there are two ways to get the practical experience and the formal education you need to qualify to take the journeyman license exam. You can either go to college or vocational school and get an entry-level job to gain practical experience or you can join an HVAC apprenticeship program.

Virginia mandates that vocational training courses must be completed through Approved Tradesman Formal Vocation Training Providers; that is, accredited colleges, universities, junior and community colleges, Virginia Apprenticeship Council programs, or proprietary schools approved by the Virginia Department of Education. It’s important that you make sure the school you attend is acceptable to the Board.

Nationwide, the trade has two main organizations that approve HVAC programs and schools: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

HVAC Excellence has accredited the following programs in Virginia:

  • Advanced Career Education Center at Hermitage in Henrico, VA

  • Bridging Communities Regional Career and Technical Center in New Kent, VA

  • Edison Academy in Alexandria, VA

  • Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount, VA

  • Norfolk Technical Center in Norfolk, VA

  • Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge, VA

  • The Hanover Center for Trades and Technology in Mechanicsville, VA

  • Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center in Virginia Beach, VA

There are currently no PAHRA accredited programs in Virginia.

Virginia’s Community College System has several campuses that offer an associate of applied science degree in HVAC as well as several certificate HVAC programs. There are also many more options for online training like Fortis or Penn Foster. Most, if not all, of these programs will provide you with the opportunity to earn your EPA federally mandated certification.

Here are three great lists of the best HVAC schools in Virginia:

Tuition: The cost of tuition depends on the program you choose. According to Education Cost Helper, an HVAC certificate can cost as little as $1,200. Tuition for an associate’s degree can cost $15,000. A bachelor’s degree from a state university can cost about $40,000 and private universities can be as much as $50,000 per year.

Apprenticeship: If you choose to forego a more traditional college degree, a formal apprenticeship can give you the hands-on and classroom instruction you need. They will also likely require you to earn your EPA certification to handle refrigerants. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Division of Registered Apprenticeship is your resource to finding approved apprenticeships. There are a few offered through local unions in Virginia, but most are offered by individual employers. They satisfy the educational and practical experience requirements required by Virginia to apply for a journeyman license and in some cases, the state-mandated examination is not required. Oftentimes, the educational component of the apprenticeships is provided through the Community College system.

Here are some other benefits they tout:

  • As a full-fledged employee of the sponsoring company, a Registered Apprentice completes a minimum of 2,000 hours of supervised on-the-job training and a minimum of 144 hours of related technical instruction for each year of apprenticeship.

  • Apprenticeship terms are occupation-specific, but the average term is four years.

  • Successful completion of the Registered Apprenticeship Program earns the apprentice nationally recognized state certification as a journeyperson.

  • All apprentices are registered through a Department of Labor and Industry apprenticeship consultant.

The Frequently Asked Questions page of the site will give you a better understanding of this option.

Program Prerequisites: You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED.

On-the-Job Experience: While on the job, you will need to have good customer service skills, be detail-oriented, have some mechanical capability, and be physically fit because the job can include some heavy lifting and hours of walking, standing, and working in tight spaces.

Virginia HVAC Licensing Exam Details

PSI Examination provides examination services for the Virginia Board of Contractors. Before an individual can take an examination for licensure as journeyman, master, or contractor they must apply to the Board to receive permission. The Board will determine if you are eligible to test based on your practical experience and education. If you apply through reciprocity from another state or if you have completed an approved apprenticeship program you may be exempt from testing. The PSI Individual License and Certification Candidate Information Bulletin explains the process and details each of the journeyman and master exams. The Contractor Examination Candidate Information Bulletin does the same for the contractor exam.

Exam Questions and Time Limits: Both the Journeyman and Master HVAC Examinations have 85 items and a time limit of 210 minutes. You need to get 60 correct to pass the Journeyman test and 64 correct to pass the Master test. Both are open book and the references that are allowed for each are listed in the Candidate Information Bulletin.

A Class C Contractor license does not require additional testing. Class B requires you to take the General Portion of the exam and the Rules and Regulation Portion. For a Class A license, you’ll also have to take the Advanced Portion.

Fees: The Master exam costs $125. The Journeyman exam costs $100. The Class A test costs $85 for all three portions. Class B costs $72 for the two portions. For Master and Journeyman you can register and pay online at the PSI site or print the registration form at the end of the Bulletin and mail it to:

PSI Attn: Examination Registration VA TR 3210 E. Tropicana Ave. Las Vegas, NV 89121

For Contractors, you can register and pay online at the PSI site or print the registration form at the end of that Bulletin and mail it to:

PSI Attn: Examination Registration VA CON 3210 E. Tropicana Ave. Las Vegas, NV 89121

You may pay by credit card, money order, company check, or cashier's check made payable to PSI. Cash and personal checks are not accepted. 

Exam locations: PSI has testing centers throughout Virginia. They are located in:

  • Vienna, VA

  • Richmond, VA

  • Virginia Beach, VA

  • Roanoke, VA

  • Charlottesville, VA

Who Issues HVAC Licenses in Virginia?

The Virginia Board for Contractors issues all trade and contractor licenses in the Commonwealth. The email address for the Board is:

contractors@dpor.virginia.gov

The phone number for the Board office is: 804-367-2785

Does My Virginia HVAC License Work in Any Other State?

Yes, Virginia has a reciprocity agreement with Maryland. You would still apply using the Tradesman Exam & License Application.

HVAC-Specific Requirements

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Certification: Everywhere throughout the country, including Virginia, federal-level EPA regulations under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act require that technicians who maintain, service, repair, or dispose of equipment that could release refrigerants into the atmosphere must be certified. EPA Section 608 HVAC Certification is required for any professional who conducts refrigerant line-pressure tests or handles or adds refrigerant to existing air conditioning systems.

Most training programs can direct you to how and where to get that certification and many even make it part of the curriculum, or your employer/apprenticeship will require you to get it before handling refrigerant. You can also go to EPA.gov and key in 608 Certification in the search bar to find out which institutions in your state offer certification programs.

Certification Exam: You must acquire your EPA Certification from an approved organization. A list of these organizations can be found on the EPA’s website. There are four types of EPA Certifications for Refrigerant. They allow for different levels of certification for different scopes of work.

  • Type I: For servicing small appliances containing five pounds of refrigerant or less.

  • Type II: For servicing high-pressure units that contain five pounds or more of refrigerant (including most small commercial and residential systems).

  • Type III: For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances.

  • Universal: For servicing all systems and appliances covered under Types I, II, and III. Generally more useful than targeting any one specific certification.

Core Exam: For all certifications, you must pass the “Core Section” of the EPA certification exam. It covers the following topics:

  • Ozone depletion

  • Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol

  • Section 608 regulations

  • Substitute refrigerants and oils

  • Refrigeration

  • The Three R’s (Recover, Recycle, Reclaim)

  • Recovery techniques

  • Dehydration evacuation

  • Safety

  • Shipping

National HVAC Certifications

Other certifications can help you demonstrate your proficiency to potential employers and clients. North American Technical Excellence (NATE) certification, ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) certification, and other professional certifications are not required but can add to your marketability as a service provider and therefore increase your opportunity to make more money.

Other Requirements Unique to Virginia

To keep your state-issued license current, Virginia requires you to renew it every two years. Licenses expire two years from the last day of the month in which they were issued. The cost to renew is $90.

Continuing Education

The Commonwealth of Virginia requires you to complete three hours of approved Continuing Education in HVAC to maintain your eligibility for licensure.

Resources

You can stay up to date on all HVAC industry news in several ways:

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