HVAC Training Schools in California

Connect With HVAC Schools

With California in the middle of an historic drought with record-breaking temperatures, it’s no surprise that the demand for qualified HVAC professionals in the Golden State has been on the rise. In fact, local news station KTLA (June 2016) recently reported on widespread triple-digit temperatures across the southern region of the state. Consequently, several counties—Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Riverside—opened “cooling centers” to bring some relief to local inhabitants.

 

Fortunately for workers in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (i.e., HVAC-R or HVAC), there is a wealth of professional associations, chapters of trade groups, and other networking support groups around the state. In fact, the Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA) based in Manteca, CA is a nonprofit, which organizes educational seminars, apprenticeships, and events to support HVAC workers. The California Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) Association provides legal advocacy, widespread training events, conferences, and a federally registered apprenticeship program. This association best summarized its central mission on its website: “The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association is dedicated to the advancement and education of the plumbing and HVACR industry for the health, safety, and comfort of society and the protection of the environment.”

And the vast array of professional groups and societies is only part of the good news. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) reported that California boasts 21,280 HVAC mechanics and installers—the third most among US states—and pays an average annual salary of $53,050, 12 percent higher than the national average in this occupation ($47,380).

HVAC workers in CA and beyond take on a variety of responsibilities such as installing, maintaining, and repairing HVAC systems and components; reading blueprints; ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal regulations; responding to customer service needs and educating clients on proper use of HVAC equipment; documenting all activities in a logbook; testing parts for proper functioning and energy efficiency; and maintaining their state licensure through the CA Contractors State License Board. Also, HVAC professionals may work across the range of systems, or they may specialize in a specific technique or technology (e.g., solar panels, commercial refrigeration, testing & balancing). Additionally, it’s important to note people who work with the disposal, recycling, or recovery of refrigerants must hold the federally mandated EPA Section 608 certification.

HVAC workers not only ensure that residential and commercial spaces are comfortable for people, but they also safeguard the transport of perishable foods and medicines. They serve an invaluable service in California and across the country. Read on to learn more about the bright occupational outlook for HVAC workers in CA, including the salary prospects, accredited training programs, and licensure information.

Featured Online Programs

Penn

Learn online, at a pace that's right for you

Online HVACR Technician Career DiplomaRequest Info
Online Automotive HVAC Essentials Certificate Request Info

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in California

As mentioned in the introduction, there’s a strong demand for HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers in California. In fact, the CA Employment Development Department (EDD) points out that as the state population continues to grow, so to does the construction of new residential, commercial, and industrial structures which need temperature-control systems. The EDD also mentioned that as HVAC technologies, components, and legislation continue to evolve—sometimes increasing in complexity—the demand for qualified HVAC professionals rises. Overall, HVAC systems not only require regular maintenance, but they also typically need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years.

Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) support the EDD’s promising assessment. By illustration, the BLS predicts a 14 percent increase in openings for HVAC installers and mechanics nationwide between 2014 and 2024. This is twice as robust as the average growth projected for all occupations during that time period (7 percent). With the addition of 39,600 opportunities for HVAC workers around the country, the career landscape in this field is expected to be promising on into the future.

According to the BLS (Dec. 2015), one in ten HVAC workers were self-employed in 2014, and 63 percent were in the plumbing, heating, and air conditioning contractors industry. While some HVAC techs in CA work normal business hours, others may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, or holidays, particularly in the busy winter and summer seasons.

As a further testament to the abundant opportunities in this field Indeed (Aug. 2016) posted recent job opportunities with CA-based employers such as Coca Cola, Airtek Indoor Air Solutions Inc., Pierce Heating & Air Conditioning, One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning, Madison Air Inc., Hard Hat Hub, Smits Solar Heating and AC, Highlands Trade Partners, Courtesy Refrigeration, and JR’s Heating & AC Services Inc., to name a few.

HVAC Technician Salary in CA

As mentioned in the introduction, not only do HVAC workers in California have a bright employment climate replete with job openings, but they also get paid higher than HVAC professionals nationwide. As proof of point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) found that the 274,680 HVAC workers around the country had an average annual salary of $47,380. In California, the 21,280 workers enjoyed a mean annual salary of $53,050. Interestingly, Indeed (Aug. 2016) found a substantially lower average for HVAC workers in CA at $44,000, but the BLS figures are more reliable given their much larger sample size.

In granular terms, the BLS (May 2015) found the following national percentiles for HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers:

United States (274,680 HVAC workers): $47,380 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,790
  • 25th percentile: $34,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,110
  • 75th percentile: $58,070
  • 90th percentile: $71,690

In hourly terms, these numbers equated to:

US: $22.78/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.36/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.79/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.69/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.92/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $34.47/hr.

Notably, Payscale (Aug. 2016)—a site which relies on self-reported salary data—found differing percentiles among its 486 responding HVAC workers around the country:

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $35,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,266
  • 75th percentile: $53,000
  • 90th percentile: $67,000

Impressively, the BLS (May 2015) found that HVAC professionals in California enjoy substantially higher salaries than national averages and percentile figures:

California (21,280 HVAC workers): $53,050 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $29,970
  • 25th percentile: $37,900
  • 50th percentile (median): $51,120
  • 75th percentile: $64,440
  • 90th percentile: $80,840

Translated into hourly figures, these BLS (May 2015) figures equated to:

California: $25.51/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $14.41/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $18.22/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $24.58/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $30.98/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $38.86/hr.

It’s important to keep in mind that while the salaries for HVAC workers in CA are relatively generous, the cost of living in the Golden State is also higher than most US states. In fact, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2016) found that CA is the fourth most expensive state in the country. Please keep this in mind while evaluating the following regional figures.

The BLS (May 2015) has designated 31 regions in CA. It’s no surprise that the Silicon Valley currently pays the highest salaries in this profession. By illustration, the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara region paid an annual average salary of $79,750, the top-paying metropolitan area in the nation. Listed with the number of HVAC techs employed, the average annual salaries, and the percentiles, here’s an overview of HVAC salaries in areas of CA. These are grouped into Northern and Southern regions of the state, using Fresno as the dividing line:

Northern California:

Chico, CA (80 workers): $48,060 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,850
  • 25th percentile: $36,500
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,580
  • 75th percentile: $60,760
  • 90th percentile: $74,030

Madera, CA (80 workers): $43,870 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,950
  • 25th percentile: $33,880
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,770
  • 75th percentile: $48,320
  • 90th percentile: $59,330

Merced, CA (90 workers): $47,630 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,910
  • 25th percentile: $34,590
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,150
  • 75th percentile: $59,440
  • 90th percentile: $70,210

Modesto, CA (280 workers): $47,550 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,920
  • 25th percentile: $34,310
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,280
  • 75th percentile: $56,790
  • 90th percentile: $86,680

Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA Metropolitan Division (1,370 workers): $61,530 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $37,410
  • 25th percentile: $46,340
  • 50th percentile (median): $57,490
  • 75th percentile: $72,920
  • 90th percentile: $96,170

Redding, CA (120 workers): $51,190 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $36,340
  • 25th percentile: $41,990
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,990
  • 75th percentile: $61,610
  • 90th percentile: $72,760

Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA (1,700 workers): $49,560 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,020
  • 25th percentile: $36,270
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,240
  • 75th percentile: $61,320
  • 90th percentile: $74,200

Salinas, CA (140 workers): $60,970 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,940
  • 25th percentile: $39,580
  • 50th percentile (median): $63,780
  • 75th percentile: $76,680
  • 90th percentile: $92,540

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA (2,020 workers): $60,990 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $36,050
  • 25th percentile: $45,070
  • 50th percentile (median): $57,780
  • 75th percentile: $74,960
  • 90th percentile: $93,980

San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division (550 workers): $57,520 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,150
  • 25th percentile: $40,240
  • 50th percentile (median): $53,140
  • 75th percentile: $75,560
  • 90th percentile: $91,460

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA (790 workers): $79,750 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $50,800
  • 25th percentile: $64,520
  • 50th percentile (median): $75,570
  • 75th percentile: $96,260
  • 90th percentile: $120,260

Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA (unknown number of HVAC workers): $50,680 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,890
  • 25th percentile: $35,320
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,400
  • 75th percentile: $61,660
  • 90th percentile: $80,960

Santa Rosa, CA (210 workers): $62,290 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $36,420
  • 25th percentile: $50,950
  • 50th percentile (median): $59,990
  • 75th percentile: $77,420
  • 90th percentile: $92,330

Stockton-Lodi, CA (400 workers): $44,740 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,980
  • 25th percentile: $32,600
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,980
  • 75th percentile: $57,410
  • 90th percentile: $66,240

Vallejo-Fairfield, CA (200 workers): $38,270 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $19,360
  • 25th percentile: $19,900
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,750
  • 75th percentile: $47,020
  • 90th percentile: $65,940

Yuba City, CA (70 workers): $52,410 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $29,080
  • 25th percentile: $38,260
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,030
  • 75th percentile: $61,380
  • 90th percentile: $87,370

North Coast Region of California Nonmetropolitan Area (180 workers): $50,010 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,760
  • 25th percentile: $36,290
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,500
  • 75th percentile: $60,010
  • 90th percentile: $75,850

North Valley Region of California Nonmetropolitan Area (unknown number of HVAC workers): $38,750 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,850
  • 25th percentile: $34,760
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,950
  • 75th percentile: $43,140
  • 90th percentile: $47,540

Northern Mountains Region of California Nonmetropolitan Area (130 workers): $54,580 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,330
  • 25th percentile: $38,410
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,350
  • 75th percentile: $67,270
  • 90th percentile: $90,070

Southern California:

Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, CA Metropolitan Division (1,860 HVAC workers): $53,000 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $33,580
  • 25th percentile: $39,510
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,730
  • 75th percentile: $63,080
  • 90th percentile: $81,680

Bakersfield, CA (480 workers): $50,430 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,980
  • 25th percentile: $35,650
  • 50th percentile (median): $50,730
  • 75th percentile: $63,680
  • 90th percentile: $75,230

El Centro, CA (80 workers): $49,540 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,970
  • 25th percentile: $39,890
  • 50th percentile (median): $51,740
  • 75th percentile: $59,870
  • 90th percentile: $67,760

Fresno, CA (630 workers): $43,240 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,630
  • 25th percentile: $29,620
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,690
  • 75th percentile: $56,620
  • 90th percentile: $63,450

Hanford-Corcoran, CA (50 workers): $46,530 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $19,920
  • 25th percentile: $43,230
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,940
  • 75th percentile: $55,760
  • 90th percentile: $60,190

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (7,600 workers): $53,440 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $29,020
  • 25th percentile: $37,980
  • 50th percentile (median): $50,960
  • 75th percentile: $67,920
  • 90th percentile: $81,850

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA (5300 workers): $47,190 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $30,990
  • 25th percentile: $36,410
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,270
  • 75th percentile: $56,530
  • 90th percentile: $64,070

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA (2,630 workers): $48,470 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,480
  • 25th percentile: $36,940
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,190
  • 75th percentile: $57,690
  • 90th percentile: $66,140

San Diego-Carlsbad, CA (1,830 workers): $53,760 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,010
  • 25th percentile: $43,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $54,630
  • 75th percentile: $62,810
  • 90th percentile: $75,720

San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA (220 workers): $38,920 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $21,320
  • 25th percentile: $24,040
  • 50th percentile (median): $29,250
  • 75th percentile: $57,220
  • 90th percentile: $63,990

Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA (unknown number of HVAC workers): $46,830 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,130
  • 25th percentile: $33,040
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,520
  • 75th percentile: $58,810
  • 90th percentile: $67,680

Visalia-Porterville, CA (150 workers): $52,680 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $19,190
  • 25th percentile: $36,940
  • 50th percentile (median): $52,730
  • 75th percentile: $62,620
  • 90th percentile: $89,950

Accredited HVAC Schools in CA

There are various routes to becoming a qualified HVAC professional in California. In the past, pursuing an apprenticeship under the guidance of an experienced professional was common. Apprenticeship programs today typically last three to five years and involve at least 144 hours of formal instruction and 2,000 hours in the field. For example, the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Joint Journeymen and Apprentice Training Center based in Los Angeles is open to applicants with at least a high school diploma or GED and proof of having completed specific coursework (e.g., algebra, geometry) or passing a qualifying math exam.

These days, it’s increasingly common for HVAC professionals in CA to enroll in a six month to two year diploma, certificate, or degree program at an accredited school. There are two main entities which accredit HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). Please visit those websites or the HVAC programs homepage to learn more about the program accreditation process.

As of August 2016, there were two programs in CA accredited by HVAC Excellence. Mount San Antonio Community College of Walnut offers its HVAC program as either an associate of science (AS) degree or a certificate of achievement. This program imparts the theory-based and hands-on fundamentals of dealing with HVAC systems, including how to perform residential heat loads, troubleshoot components, and properly dispose of refrigerants. Courses in the AS degree program include welding for air conditioning & refrigeration; air conditioning codes & standards; refrigeration fundamentals; electrical fundamentals for air conditioning & refrigeration; gas heating fundamentals; and advanced mechanical refrigeration. Most notably, Mount San Antonio has the distinction of being both HVAC Excellence- and PAHRA-accredited.

Cypress College also offers a two-year program accredited by HVAC Excellence which boasts opportunities for specialization within the industry in applied engineering, sales, estimating & system design, and building automation & manufacturing.

The University of California—Berkeley Extension also offers an HVAC certificate program. Ideal for applicants with degrees in engineering looking to reboot their careers, Berkeley’s coursework includes HVAC system design considerations; HVAC control & energy management systems; HVAC ductwork & piping systems; HVAC system load calculation & psychrometry (e.g., determining the thermodynamic properties of gases and vapors); and building systems & technology. This program costs between $4,400 and $4,700.

Finally, Brownson Technical School based in Anaheim provides both on-campus and blended learning opportunities. Boasting a 12,000 sq. feet facility, the blended learning students spend 13 hours per week in-house and complete their coursework online. In as few as ten months, students become proficient in eight modules of the HVAC discipline, including basic thermodynamics, refrigeration & copper works; electrical components; commercial refrigeration; DDC technologies (i.e., laser optics); and building performance. Through this program, students are also prepared to sit for the nationally mandated EPA Section 608 certification exam.
For residents of more rural regions of CA or those with inflexible schedules, attending an on-campus program can be difficult. Luckily there’s a range of distance-based HVAC programs available as well. To learn more, please check out the online HVAC programs page.

HVAC Licensing in California

As mentioned above, there is one mandatory certification for all people nationwide who work with refrigerants: the EPA Section 608 certification. There are four subtypes of this credential: type 1 (small appliance), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal). Many vocational and trade schools in CA offer preparation for one of these exams as part of their curricula. For those which don’t, the Environmental Protection Agency has provides a list of Section 608 certification programs.

There’s also a wide range of skills-specific certifications for HVAC professionals in CA offered through North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams or ICE); HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus); the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator); and others. These credentials can demonstrate various competencies and enhance an HVAC technician’s employment prospects or salary. To discover the wide range of national certifications available, please check out the main HVAC credentials page.

Finally, state licensure is mandatory for HVAC workers in CA who provide services in excess of $500. The main state credentialing agency is the CA Contractors State License Board. To become licensed as an HVAC professional, a person must meet the following requirements:

  • Submit a C-20 license application to the Board
  • Have at least four years of experience
  • Show proof of having at least $2,500 in working capital
  • File a bond with the registrar for $10,000
  • Pass two exams (business & law and a trade-specific test)
  • Pay licensure and examination fees

The California Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning Contractor exam tests applicants’ competency in four areas:

  • Evaluation, Design, and Estimation (26 percent of exam questions)  
  • Fabrication, Installation and Startup (27 percent)  
  • Troubleshooting, Repair, and Maintenance (22 percent)  
  • Safety (25 percent)  

To learn more in depth about the requirements, please visit the Contractors State License Board website.