HVAC Education and Training Requirements in West Virginia
The State of West Virginia offers a wide range of HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) training programs at the certificate, diploma and associate degree levels. There are nine technical institutions at different locations that provide HVAC training and certification. Whether you’re an adult learner or still in the process of graduating out of high school, if you have a technical aptitude and enjoy working with your hands, a career in the HVAC industry in the State of West Virginia may be a great fit for you.
HVAC technicians install, maintain and repair heating, cooling and refrigeration systems and equipment in residential and commercial settings. Owing to the nature of the work, HVAC technicians must not only have a thorough understanding of the systems involved, but they must also have a reasonably high level of skill and expertise to be able to work on different types of equipment. In order to allow aspiring students to get a more well-rounded training experience as well as to make them more employable, most training programs in West Virginia include a practical or hands-on training component in addition to a theory or classroom training component. This helps the student learn and practice his skills prior to applying them in real life.
Entry into a majority of training programs in the state requires a high school diploma or GED, though at least one institution offers an HVAC technical education program for high school students in their junior or senior year in Kanawha County. Knowledge of basic math and proficiency in English are also necessary.
For certificate and diploma level training programs, classroom training is provided on topics such as fundamentals of gas heating, air conditioning and refrigeration controls, heat load calculations, residential and commercial refrigeration, electricity and electrical components, and in some instances, basics of sheet metal repair. With the emphasis today on eco-friendly building solutions, some diploma programs also provide courses based on energy efficiency and green technology systems. Most certificate and diploma programs offer students flexibility with the option to attend classes part-time or during evening hours.
Practical on-the-job training is usually provided in a lab setting where students get the opportunity to work on HVAC systems and equipment using tools and gauges that HVAC technicians use on a daily basis. Laboratory experiences are designed to parallel the activities of an HVAC technician, and include the installation, servicing, replacement and repair of major and minor HVAC components. Troubleshooting and fault analysis of individual units as well as entire systems is covered in the advanced stages of some programs.
At least two institutions in the State of West Virginia offer Associate of Applied Science degrees in the fields of refrigeration, air conditioning and heating technology. Associate degree programs differ from certificate and diploma courses in that they include a general education curriculum in addition to the technical curriculum. General education courses cover subjects like college composition, technical mathematics, communication and critical and analytical thinking. These courses provide students a comprehensive education experience that can help them manage their careers more effectively.
Technical courses cover subjects such as heating systems, climate control, basic refrigeration, duct layout and prints. Some associate degree programs also include basic elements of science and technology in their curriculum. Courses such as basic principles of electricity, industrial electricity, electrical control mechanisms, and applied physics help graduates carry forward their education to bachelor level degree programs. More importantly, these additional courses make graduates more employable in the HVAC industry and allow them to seek better salaries. Intensive laboratory training sessions, field experiences and trips to HVAC businesses and industries round out the curricula of associate degree programs.
With a growing need for heating and cooling spaces in residential and commercial establishments in the Mountain State, there is a strong demand for HVAC professionals. Graduates of training programs in the state can gain entry-level employment as an “HVAC Technician in Training” in positions such as residential/commercial system installers, servicers, and repairers; field service technicians; HVAC troubleshooters; HVAC equipment service and sales, etc.
To work on HVAC equipment as a licensed technician, a person must pass a Business & Law exam as well as an HVAC technical exam. The business & law exam includes topics such as business organization, financial management, project management, tax law, labor law, and lien law among others. The technical exam covers general HVAC knowledge, load calculations, code requirements, ducting and insulation, HVAC controls, etc. After passing the exams and meeting the necessary documentation requirements, an HVAC contractor’s license is issued by the West Virginia Division of Labor.
In addition to a contractor’s license, an EPA certification by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be necessary if the scope of work includes servicing and repair of high or low-pressure refrigeration systems.
Further education options
Graduates who complete an associate degree program can often transfer credits to a bachelor level program in engineering disciplines such as Mechanical or Electrical engineering. Not only does this help them gain more in-depth knowledge about HVAC technology, but it also opens up an entirely new domain within HVAC. Bachelor degree programs can help graduates obtain entry-level positions in the research and development of HVAC systems and equipment. Such positions help them move into careers and projects that involve designing and upgrading complex climate control systems in a commercial or industrial setting.
The West Virginia Division of Labor does not require licensed HVAC professionals to undergo continuous education as a prerequisite to maintaining or renewing their license. However, with advances in technology and an increasing awareness about the need to protect our environment, the HVAC industry is changing and improving all the time. Industry experts therefore recommend that HVAC technicians will be well served to constantly upgrade and enhance their knowledge and skills to stay abreast with the latest HVAC technologies.