HVAC Trade Schools in Chula Vista, CA

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Chula Vista has been occupied for thousands of years, starting with Native Americans who originally inhabited the land. The Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 1500s and claimed land in Mexico and what is now California. After the Mexican-American War in the 1800s, California became part of the US. It received its name, which means “beautiful view,” during that time.

The economy was based on agriculture, primarily lemon groves, until post-WWII. The area began growing then, and despite a few economic downturns, has never stopped expanding. According to one report from World Population Review, “Chula Vista has seen significant population growth because of its thriving economy and the support that is offered for small businesses.”

The economy has diversified into industries that include health care, professional services, science-related businesses, and technology. According to the San Diego EDC (Oct. 2018), Chula Vista recently formed a partnership with nearby San Diego to “develop and test drones to support police officers and firefighters during emergencies.” Chula Vista’s location on San Diego Bay, along with its marinas, luxurious golf courses, sports venues, and nature attractions draw thousands of tourists, creating a flourishing hospitality industry.

Summers in Chula Vista, California (CA) are warm and dry. August and September are the hottest months, with daytime temperatures reaching the upper 70s. Nighttime temperatures average in the mid-60s. There’s no precipitation in August, and slightly more than one-tenth of an inch in September. Less than half an inch of rain falls during each month from May through October. December through February are the coldest months as well as the wettest. The daytime temperatures average in the upper 60s. Nighttimes cool to the mid-40s. February experiences the most rain, with more than two inches falling that month.

Although the residents of Chula Vista enjoy many outdoor activities thanks to the mild climate, heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) is essential for comfort in their homes and workplaces. Commercial enterprises, especially those that utilize technology, require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R) to keep the electronic equipment operating correctly. The entertainment and hospitality venues also depend on HVAC/R to keep their customers comfortable. Health care centers and research facilities such as those at local universities often require specialized climate-controlled buildings or rooms.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) shows that 1,930 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in the San Diego-Carlsbad, CA area, which includes Chula Vista, as of May 2018. Technicians and their employers received training and support from industry organizations such as the following:

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, San Diego Chapter
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association
  • UA Plumbers, Steamfitters & HVAC/R Local 230

Organizations such as these work with industry groups and government agencies to establish educational, performance, and licensing standards for the safety of technicians and the public.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Chula Vista, CA

The BLS (2019) data predicted a 13 percent increase in the demand for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians nationwide between 2018 and 2028. HVAC technicians in California can expect an even more favorable job outlook than the national statistics. Projections Central (2019) predicted a 19.6 percent statewide increase—5,600 new positions created—between 2016 and 2026. New job opportunities for all US occupations are only expected to increase by an average of 5 percent during that same decade.

Construction of residences and commercial structures is the primary source of expansion of the HVAC industry. Prosperous and growing cities like Chula Vista that have transitioned to technology-related industries have a continuing demand for new buildings. The specialized industries and electronic equipment used by most companies create the need for complex climate-control systems. In addition, older buildings put to new uses often have to have the aging equipment replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet contemporary pollution reductions and energy efficiency standards.

The sophisticated climate-control equipment and systems in modern buildings require trained technicians to install, maintain, and service, especially when used in modern “smart” buildings.

As well as mechanical skills, technicians are expected to be knowledgeable about electronics and computerized systems. They must also be expert troubleshooters. Technicians who specialize in new installations may occasionally experience unemployment, although that is unlikely in Chula Vista in the foreseeable future. The growth of businesses and hospitality venues means that HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can anticipate full employment. Those who specialize in maintenance, repairs, or services can expect year-round employment as businesses and homeowners need to keep their equipment operating efficiently regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in Chula Vista, CA

According to BLS, HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide received a median salary of $47,610 as of May 2018. Technicians in the San Diego-Carlsbad, CA area, which includes Chula Vista, received an annual median salary of $58,460 that same year. The difference in earnings is less significant than it appears, as the cost of living in California is higher than in other US states.

National, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals are compared in the following table:

United States California San Diego-Carlsbad, CA
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 27,720 1,930
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $58,130 $58,770
10th Percentile $29,460 $32,900 $36,730
25th Percentile $36,520 $39,610 $48,180
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $55,140 $58,460
75th Percentile $60,900 $70,020 $68,770
90th Percentile $76,230 $94,380 $81,250

HVAC Apprenticeships in Chula Vista, CA

Like workers in most trades, those who wanted to become HVAC technicians in previous times took jobs as assistants and learned their skills through on-the-job training. These days, however, the complexity of modern climate control systems requires trained technicians who have participated in an apprenticeship or attended formal classes. Training not only opens up more employment opportunities but also enables workers to typically start at higher wages as well as earn more throughout their career.

Apprentices typically receive 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and complete an average of 144 hours of classwork each year for three to five years. Workers can find resources and a database of HVAC apprenticeship programs at the State of California Department of Industrial Relations website.

That site currently lists a 60-month HVAC/R Mechanic sponsored by the San Diego & Imperial Counties UA Local 230 (JATC) at the San Diego Training Center. There is also a 48-month HVAC apprenticeship available in Poway that is sponsored by the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc San Diego Chapter. Another program is a 60-month residential and commercial HVAC/R service and repair apprenticeship sponsored by the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California in Sacramento.

Carini Heating, Air and Plumbing, a family-owned company in San Diego, offers apprentice training for HVAC installation and repair. Details are available through personal contact.

Workers in Chula Vista who are unable to participate in a local apprenticeship program can obtain training from industry associations such as the following:

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

Their websites have information as to curriculum, schedules, and fees.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Chula Vista, CA

Accreditation is the process by which an independent agency evaluates the curriculum and instructors of an educational institution. Aspiring technicians who plan to attend a school are advised to make sure it is accredited.

Two industry organizations accredit HVAC programs. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has awarded 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

Although the commute would probably require Chula Vista students to relocate to attend an accredited school, Brownson Technical School and Cypress College are included in the profiles below as they are the two closest schools.

Brownson Technical College

Brownson, a private school, offers three programs:

  • HVAC/R Technology 40-week program
  • HVAC/R Technology 88-week program (part-time attendance)
  • HVAC/R Technology blended, online 40-week program

The “master commercial/domestic refrigeration” program has been taught in the past but is currently not accepting new students.

Students may choose to attend classes full- or part-time. Coursework is available during the day and in the evening. Some coursework may be completed online through the blended program. Students learn via classroom lectures followed by hands-on training in a fully equipped lab.

The curriculum is the same for all programs and includes thermodynamics, refrigeration, copper works, electrical, HVAC system components, installation and servicing, customer service, light commercial HVAC, gas heating, direct digital and other controls, heat pumps, ice machines, and building performance. Coursework also prepares students to take the exams for industry certifications such as EPA Section 608 and 410A.

  • Location: Anaheim, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $17,220
  • Format: On-campus and online
  • Program Length: Noted above

Cypress College

Students at Cypress can select an HVAC/R degree program, or they may choose from certificate programs such as the following:

  • Mechanical systems core – 12 units
  • A/C building commissioning – 24 units
  • A/C codes and estimating – 23 units
  • Commercial air conditioning – 25 units
  • Commercial refrigeration – 21.5 to 22 units
  • Heat pumps – 24 units
  • HVAC/R project management – 21 units
  • A/C environmental controls – 25.5 to 26 units
  • HVAC/R – 38.5 to 39

Technical coursework includes selections from the following: thermodynamics and heat transfer; air conditioning; piping, tools, and safety; blueprint reading and dimension analysis; refrigerants; customer relations; electricity; gas heating and carbon monoxide; boilers and hydronic heating; commercial refrigeration; A/C controls and energy management; heat pumps; building commissioning; load calculations; commercial A/C; codes and estimating; and HVAC special products.

Students in the certificate programs complete technical coursework that fits the certificate they are seeking. They do not have a general education requirement. If their academic advisor approves, they may enroll in more than one certificate program at a time.

Students in the degree program complete all of the technical curriculum. They also meet a general education requirement with coursework that includes humanities, social sciences, mathematics, oral and written communication, problem solving, professional development, physical sciences, and cultural diversity, for a total of 60 units to earn their degree.

  • Location: Cypress, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificates vary; degree two years

Palomar College

Palomar offers an HVAC/R certificate of achievement program and an HVAC/R degree program. Students in the certificate program complete 16 units of coursework as follows: HVAC/R mechanical, electricity, heating, refrigerant management, controls and management, and advanced HVAC/R.

Degree-seeking students complete the same coursework and add technical mathematics, industrial safety, cooperative education, and metal layout for fabrication. They complete 27 to 31 units of technical courses, then add general education classes to meet the 60 units required to earn their degree.

  • Location: San Marcos, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificates 34 weeks; degree two years

San Diego City College

The SD City College offers a degree in HVAC/R and Environmental Control Technology, as well as the following certificate programs:

  • Advanced air conditioning and direct digital controls – 33 units
  • HVAC and advanced refrigeration – 31 units
  • HVAC and solar energy – HVAC systems design – 31 units

The certificate in HVAC and solar energy and the certificate in stationary facilities engineering and general maintenance technician are not currently available.

The technical curriculum includes the following courses: basic and advanced HVAC/R, power and control systems, fluid flow dynamics, heating systems, system design, direct digital controls, construction drawings and estimating, and environmental control technology. All of the technical coursework includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab.

Students in the certificate program select the curriculum appropriate for their certificate. Students in the degree program must complete at least 36 units from the technical curriculum in addition to the 60 units required to earn their degree from general education classes.

  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificates vary; degree two years

UEI College

UEI, a private trade school, has several campuses that offer HVAC training, including one in Chula Vista. Students learn via classroom lectures followed by hands-on practice in modern labs.

The following subjects are part of the curriculum: electricity, motors, and controls; refrigeration theory and application; HVAC; troubleshooting; heat pump systems; heating systems and boilers; duct design, reading blueprints, load calculation; commercial and specialized refrigeration systems, green awareness; regulations; and building automation. Completion of an externship is required.

Students also prepare for and take the Section 608 certification exam as one of the criteria for graduation. They also prepare for the R-410 exam, but passing it and achieving certification is not required for graduation. Graduates receive a diploma and are prepared to seek entry-level employment as HVAC and HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Chula Vista, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuous Education and Training
  • Tuition: $19,900
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 36 weeks

Workers in Chula Vista who are unable to attend a local school may find that online HVAC training at an accredited online school may provide a viable training option.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Chula Vista, CA

Federal law mandates that technicians who handle refrigerants obtain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. Certification is based on the size and type of equipment on which the technicians work. The certification requires passing an exam on refrigerant safety. Technicians who anticipate working on all equipment should take the exam for Level IV, or Universal, certification.

Industry organizations such as the following offer testing to technicians for Section 608 and other industry certifications:

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

Their websites include details of availability, locations, and fees. Further information is available on the HVAC certifications page.

California does not require HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who are employed to obtain a state license. Technicians who are self-employed are classified as contractors and must obtain the required specialty license from the California Contractors State Licensing Board. C-20 licenses are for HVAC contractors, and C-38 licenses are for refrigeration contractors.

Applicants for licenses must pass exams in business, trade, and law unless they have proof of five years of journey-level experience with a licensed contractor. All applicants must submit proof of the following to obtain a license:

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

Payment of a fee is also required. Licenses are renewed every two years.

The City of Chula Vista requires anyone conducting business within the City limits to obtain a business license. The license must be renewed annually, and fees are based on the number of employees.

As licensing agencies can change their regulations at any time, HVAC professionals should confirm that they are in compliance with current requirements before beginning a project.

Barry Franklin

Barry is the Editor in Chief of HVACClasses.org, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures, which he joined as partner in 2013 after almost 20 years in the financial software industry.