HVAC Trade Schools in Bakersfield, CA

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Bakersfield, California (CA) is hot during the summer. Daytime temperatures are consistently in the 90s, soaring above 100 degrees on the hottest days. Skies are clear and rainfall averages less than a tenth of an inch each month. Summer nights are cooler, averaging temperatures in the 60s. Winters bring some relief from the heat, with daytime temperatures fluctuating between 56 and 69 degrees. Nighttime lows rarely drop below 40 degrees. Winter gets more rain, ranging from one-half inch to slightly more than an inch monthly. Snow is extremely rare.

The economy of Bakersfield rests on the tripod of agriculture, manufacturing, and oil. As the seat of Kern County, government agencies in Bakersfield also contribute to the economy. The city’s location in the fertile San Joaquin Valley combined with the climate has made it one of the most productive agricultural areas in the U.S. Oil was discovered in Kern County in the 1800s and the oil fields still yield millions of barrels annually. Various companies that provide products and services related to the agricultural and petroleum industries are headquartered in the area.

The weather and air quality keep Bakersfield residents indoors. They rely on heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort in their homes and workplaces. Industrial facilities, especially those that rely on specialized processes, offices, and public venues often require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) reports that 360 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in Bakersfield, CA who had an annual mean wage of $49,160. National, state, and local industry organizations provide support and training to technicians. Among them are:

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association
  • UA Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, & Service Techs Local 460

Industry associations coordinate with other agencies and authorities to establish educational and performance standards to ensure the health and safety of their members and the public.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Bakersfield, CA

According to the BLS (May 2019), openings for new employees in all occupations in the U.S. is expected to increase by an average of 5 percent between 2018 and 2028. Opportunities for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians are expected to grow more than double to 13 percent nationwide during the same decade. California is predicted to need new technicians at an even faster rate.

CareerOneStop —a data organization partnered with the US Department of Labor—reported that there would be a 20 percent increase in HVAC positions across California between 2016 and 2026. With the predicted addition of 3,530 fresh HVAC positions in CA and 42,800 openings nationwide, there is ample evidence that this is a promising profession in CA and across the country.

The construction of commercial buildings and new residences is the primary factor driving the growth of the HVAC industry. “Smart” buildings need increasingly sophisticated equipment and systems. The increased emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution, as well as more stringent environmental standards, means that climate control equipment in existing buildings must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded.

Modern climate control systems are complex and require trained technicians to install and maintain. Technicians must be skilled in using computers and understanding electronics. They are also expected to be proficient with troubleshooting. Workers who specialize in new installations occasionally experience seasonal unemployment. As Bakersfield is a growing city with an expanding economy, a slowdown in climate control installations isn’t expected in the foreseeable future. Maintenance and repair services provide year-round employment, as businesses and residents need to keep their equipment and systems in good operating order regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in Bakersfield, CA

HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730 according to a May 2019 BLS report. Technicians in Bakersfield, CA received an annual median salary of $47,800. As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2020) found that California was the fourth most expensive state, coming in behind only New York, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii.

The table below compares national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals:

United States California Bakersfield, CA
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 342,040 29,650 360
Average mean wage $51,420 $59,550 $49,160
10th Percentile $30,610 $33,580 $31,790
25th Percentile $37,660 $41,730 $37,200
50th Percentile (Median) $48,730 $56,690 $47,800
75th Percentile $62,070 $71,710 $60,830
90th Percentile $77,920 $93,740 $69,990

The BLS (May 2019) reported that there were 29,650 HVAC mechanics and installers across California, the second-most among all US states.

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (August 2020), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $30,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,868
  • 90th percentile: $74,000

HVAC Apprenticeships in Bakersfield, CA

As in many of the construction trades, HVAC workers in the past took jobs as helpers and learned their craft through on-the-job training. Opportunities for finding work without prior training have significantly declined. Appropriate training is available by participating in an apprenticeship program or by attending classes. In addition to providing more employment opportunities, training potentially means higher beginning wages and greater career earnings.

Apprenticeship programs vary but typically require a three- to five-year commitment. All provide on-the-job training averaging 2,000 hours annually, and an average of 144 hours of classroom work each year. A database of apprenticeship programs is available at the State of California Department of Industrial Relations website. As of August 2020, four HVAC-related programs are available in Kern County.

Applicants must:

  • Be at least 17 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Read, write, and speak English
  • Pass a written exam

The program takes five years to complete.

Plumbers & Steamfitters UA Local 460 sponsors HVAC-related apprenticeships. Applicants should contact them at the union hall in Bakersfield for information on the schedule of programs, requirements, and fees.

Workers who are unable to participate in a local apprenticeship program can find HVAC and HVAC/R programs through national industry associations such as:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc (ABC)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

Details are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Bakersfield, CA

Workers planning to attend a school should first determine if the chosen school is accredited. Accreditation is the process by which an independent agency evaluates the curriculum and instructors presenting the program.

Two industry organizations provide accreditation for HVAC programs. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has provided accreditation to Mount San Antonio Community College in Walnut, CA. HVAC Excellence has accredited the following programs:

  • Brownson Technical School, Anaheim CA
  • Cypress College, Cypress, CA
  • El Camino College, Torrance, CA
  • Mount San Antonio Community College, Walnut, CA
  • North American Training Center, Redlands, CA

El Camino College is included in the schools profiled below, as it is the closest school to Bakersfield with accreditation, although attending would probably require students to temporarily relocate as the commute is too long to be practical otherwise.

Bakersfield College

Bakersfield College offers an HVAC technology certificate (certificate of achievement) program and an HVAC technology degree (associate of science) program. Coursework for both programs includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab.

Students in the certificate program complete 26 units, including the following courses: principles of air conditioning, electricity applied to HVAC, refrigeration technology, ice machine service and repair, industrial refrigeration operations, programmable logic controllers, and industrial technology careers.

Graduates are prepared to sit for the EPA Section 608 certification exam and to seek entry-level employment as HVAC service and installation technicians.

In addition to the courses mentioned above, degree-seeking students complete general education requirements that include composition, math, oral and written communication, natural science, humanities, behavioral science, social science, American institutions, multicultural studies, and self-development.

These programs prepare students for entry-level employment in the HVAC/R field. They will be able to troubleshoot and repair HVAC/R systems and will also be introduced to more complex systems typical to industrial refrigeration and ice machines. They will be able to take up roles such as HVAC/R service technician, sales representative, industrial refrigeration operations, and installation technician.

  • Location: Bakersfield, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Expected time to completion: Certificate (one year); degree (two years)
  • Estimated tuition: $46 per unit

College of the Sequoias

The College of the Sequoias offers a certificate of achievement and a degree program (an associate of science) in environmental control technology (HVAC). Both programs include classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. The college also offers a skill certificate in ECT air conditioning, heating and refrigeration systems. Students enrolled in the certificate of achievement program complete courses in sheet metal, electricity and controls, and commercial and domestic HVAC/R. They are awarded their certificate at the completion of 32 units.

Students enrolled in the degree program complete the same technology coursework as the certificate with the addition of the following: heating systems and controls, commercial refrigeration systems, electrical theory and application to HVAC controls, and HVAC circuits. They also complete general education electives, for a total of 60 units to earn their degree.

The skill certificate consists of eight credit-hours. Courses include basic refrigeration, introduction to air conditioning/refrigeration, heating systems and controls, and commercial refrigeration systems controls.

These programs prepare students for entry-level jobs in the HVAC/R industry. They can take up roles such as service technician HVAC/R, outside sales, wholesale counter person, maintenance technician, sheet metal installer, and sheet metal fabricator.

  • Location: Visalia, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Expected time to completion: Certificate (one year); degree (two years)
  • Estimated tuition: $46 per unit

El Camino College

El Camino College offers an HVAC degree program and the following four certificates of achievement in air conditioning and refrigeration:

  • Air conditioning certificate – 17 units
  • Air conditioning and refrigeration electric controls certificate – 13 units
  • HVAC/R certificate – 39 units
  • Refrigeration certificate – 13 units

These programs help students develop valuable skills in installation, troubleshooting, and servicing of industrial, commercial, and residential HVAC/R systems. They become skilled at reading diagrams related to wiring, understanding control circuits, reading the Uniform Mechanical Code, using equipment for tests, and servicing electronic controls. After completing these programs, students can work as entry-level HVAC technicians or advanced apprentices upon graduation.

The air conditioning and refrigeration electric controls certificate includes courses such as HVAC electronics, electrical applications, refrigeration and air conditioning control systems, HVAC customer service and EPA and NATE certification training, and electric control.

The refrigeration certificate includes courses such as refrigeration and air conditioning control systems, air conditioning fundamentals, commercial refrigeration applications, and HVAC customer service, and (EPA) and NATE certification training.

The air conditioning certificate involves courses such as electrical applications, air conditioning fundamentals, heating technologies, energy-efficient residential, commercial and industrial air conditioning, and HVAC customer service and (EPA) and NATE certification training.

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and refrigeration certificate includes all of the above-mentioned courses, with the addition of energy control and optimization systems, fundamentals of automation systems, and business mathematics.

Finally, the associate in arts degree includes all courses mentioned above, including additional electives such as cooperative work experience education, business mathematics, building fundamentals, and computer information systems.

  • Location: Torrance, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Expected time to completion: Certificates vary; degree (two years)
  • Estimated tuition: $46 per unit

San Joaquin Valley College

SJVC, a private junior college, offers an HVAC/R Technology certificate program and a degree program. The focus of both programs is career development. All students must attend a career services seminar in addition to the required coursework. The coursework includes preparation for the EPA Section 608 exam and the tuition includes the fee for taking the exam. The curriculum for the certificate includes the following: HVAC/R theory and application, electricity theory and application, air distribution systems, and advanced HVAC/R. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment as HVAC/R technicians and other positions in the industry.

Students enrolled in the degree program complete the above curriculum, with the addition of advanced electricity. They also meet general education requirements that include composition and reading, algebra, natural science, philosophy, ethics, psychology, and sociology.

Upon completion of this program, students will be able to discuss theories of HVAC/R and relate these concepts to practical applications, apply proper procedures for the installation, operation, maintenance and repair of both residential and light commercial HVAC/R equipment and systems, create effective reports and documents, and demonstrate proper usage of the basic tools of the trade. They can take up roles such as HVAC mechanics and installers, general maintenance and repair workers, refrigeration mechanics and installers, and HVAC/R mechanics and installers.

  • Location: Bakersfield, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Expected time to completion: Certificate (10 months); degree (14 months)
  • Estimated tuition: $26,357

UEI College

UEI, a private institution, offers an HVAC training program. Coursework is taught through a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on practice in a lab. The curriculum includes basic electricity, controls and motors, refrigeration theory and application, HVAC troubleshooting, heat pump systems, heating systems and boilers, duct design, green awareness, blueprint reading, regulation and building automation, and electrical and mechanical troubleshooting.

The coursework includes preparation for the EPA Section 608 and R410A certification exams. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment as HVAC/R technicians. They can take up roles such as HVAC technician, air conditioning technician, HVAC mechanic, refrigeration technician, and HVAC specialist.

Taught by industry professionals, students throughout the program will learn and practice HVAC installation, repair, maintenance, basic design, and troubleshooting.

  • Location: Bakersfield, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected time to completion: Ten months
  • Estimated tuition: $19,900

Bakersfield students who are unable to attend an on-campus school may find that an online institution will meet their educational needs. For more information on accredited programs available, visit the online HVAC training page.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Bakersfield, CA

HVAC technicians who handle refrigerants are required by federal law to obtain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. Certification requires passing an exam on refrigerant safety. Technicians choose from four levels of certifications that are based on the size and type of equipment. The Universal certification allows technicians to work on all equipment. Various organizations offer classes and administer the exam.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations, which also offer Section 608 testing and certification. These include, but are not limited to:

  • HVAC Excellence
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

Their websites include details about the certifications, cost, and requirements. For further information, visit the HVAC certifications page.

The California Contractors State Licensing Board requires HVAC contractors to obtain Class C licensing as a specialty contractor. C-20 licenses are HVAC, and C-38 licenses are for refrigeration contractors. Self-employed technicians are considered contractors and must have the relevant contractor’s license.

Applicants must pass exams in business, trade, and law, then submit proof of the following to obtain a license:

  • Four years of journey-level experience
  • At least $2,500 in working capital proof
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • General liability insurance

Licensing also requires a bond and payment of a fee. Licenses are renewed every two years. An applicant that can submit proof of five years of journey-level experience with a licensed contractor may obtain an exam waiver.

Neither the County of Kern nor the City of Bakersfield requires additional contractor licensing. The City requires all businesses to obtain a business license. The fee varies.

HVAC technicians are responsible for obtaining any required licensing and professional credentials. As requirements are always subject to change, technicians should verify they are in compliance with current regulations or ordinances prior to starting a project.

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith was introduced to the HVAC industry when she worked as a bookkeeper and secretary for a small air-conditioning contractor. She eventually became a CPA and started her own practice specializing in small business taxes and accounting. After retiring from business, she began writing articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. She also authored four books. Sandra makes her home in the mountains with a rescue dog that naps on her lap as she writes.