Fremont, CA HVAC Schools – Training Programs & Certification

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Native Americans long inhabited the area known today as Fremont, California (CA). The Spanish established a mission in the late 1700s, and most of the land was ultimately distributed through land grants.

Fremont boomed during the Gold Rush days, but agriculture sustained the economy; the now-defunct Palmdale Winery was once the largest winery in California. Fremont is now considered “big-business friendly” and its nearness to Silicon Valley has attracted high-tech and innovative companies such as Tesla. The City has a high concentration of startups in the biotech, clean technology, and manufacturing industries. Currently, professional, scientific, and technical services are significant contributors to the economy, followed by healthcare services, information and management services, and manufacturing.

Fremont, California is part of the San Francisco Bay Area. As such, residents enjoy long summers that are warm and dry. Temperatures from June through September range from highs in the upper 70s to lows of about 50 degrees. Little rain falls during July and barely measurable amounts occur in August. The remaining summer months receive less than half-an-inch of precipitation each. December and January are tied as the coldest month of the year. Each has an average high of 58 degrees and an average low of 42. December has close to three inches of rain and January has slightly more than that amount of precipitation. February is the wettest month, but the total is still less than three-and-a-half inches. Occasionally, Fremont has a record-setting high that can exceed 80 degrees or a record-setting low that drops below freezing.

Although the weather in Fremont is generally mild and without temperature extremes, the residents rely on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort at home. Most of the City’s industry depends on technology, which requires the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R) in order for electronic equipment to operate correctly. Many of the facilities need specialized climate-controlled rooms or areas to maintain specific levels of humidity, airflow, and temperature as well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) accumulates data such as employment trends and wages for careers across all industries. The BLS (2019) reports that 3,150 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA area, which includes Fremont, as of May 2018. Industry organizations provided assistance to the technicians and their employers and include the following:

  • Air Conditioning Trade Association
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of Northern California
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association Of San Francisco
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
  • Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association Bay Area Chapter
  • UA Plumbers, Pipefitters, Refrigeration Fitters and Service Technicians Local 38

These and other industry associations work to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards to ensure the safety of technicians and the public.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Fremont, CA

The BLS (2019) also accumulates data that allows them to project job growth. They anticipate that new job openings for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians will increase by 13 percent nationwide between 2018 and 2028. That’s faster than the 5 percent increase they expect for all US occupations during the same decade.

Technicians within California have an even more favorable forecast. Projections Central predicted a 19.6 percent statewide increase in new HVAC positions statewide between 2016 and 2026.

New construction is the primary reason for growth in the HVAC and HVAC/R industry. Fremont’s focus on attracting businesses and qualified workers creates a continuing demand for new commercial buildings and homes. Every new structure includes the installation of HVAC or HVAC/R systems. High-tech industries also demand sophisticated climate-control systems, especially in contemporary “smart” buildings. Older buildings that are being put to new uses must have their aging HVAC equipment replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet energy efficiency and pollution standards.

Complex climate-control equipment and systems demanded by today’s technology require trained HVAC and HVAC/R technicians to install, maintain, and service. Technicians seeking the best job opportunities are expected to be proficient troubleshooters, have computer skills, and understand electronics. Workers who prefer to specialize in the installation of new equipment may sometimes experience periods of unemployment if construction declines. Fremont’s success as a business-friendly city and its economic strength means that a decline is unlikely in the foreseeable future. Technicians who specialize in maintenance and service can expect full employment as businesses and homeowners keep their existing systems operating efficiently all year regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in Fremont, CA

Data from the BLS reveals that HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide received a median salary of $47,610 as of May 2018. Technicians in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA area, which includes Fremont, received an annual median salary of $60,750 during the same year. Although that appears to be a significant benefit, California also has a relatively high cost of living.

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

United States California San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 27,720 3,150
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $58,130 $68,210
10th Percentile $29,460 $32,900 $35,980
25th Percentile $36,520 $39,610 $49,190
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $55,140 $60,750
75th Percentile $60,900 $70,020 $88,360
90th Percentile $76,230 $94,380 $114,960

HVAC Apprenticeships in Fremont, CA

Contemporary climate control systems are complex and require skilled technicians. Although workers in the past who wanted to become HVAC technicians took jobs as assistants and learned their skills through on-the-job training, few such opportunities exist today for untrained workers.

Aspiring technicians today can acquire the skills needed for the best job opportunities by participating in an apprenticeship or by attending formal classes. Training also enables them to potentially start at higher wages and earn more throughout their career. The average apprenticeship includes 2,000 hours of on-the-job experience combined with 144 hours of classwork each year for three to five years.

A database of HVAC apprenticeship programs is maintained by the State of California Department of Industrial Relations. As of January 2020, six programs were listed, five of which are close to Fremont: a 60-month air conditioning mechanic program, a 24-month air conditioning specialist program, a 24-month service technician program, and a 60-month test, adjust, and balancing technician program. These training programs are available through the Bay Area Sheet Metal JAC in San Leandro. The United Association Local Union 342 JATC also sponsors a 60-month refrigeration fitter/air conditioning mechanic program in Concord, CA.

Various industry associations sponsor HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs. Fremont workers who are unable to attend local programs may find that one of the following will better meet their needs:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association

Details as to programs, schedules, and fees are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Fremont, CA

When choosing a school, it is essential to determine if it is accredited and by which organization. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the curriculum and instructors of a school’s program.

Two industry organizations are responsible for accrediting 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

Please note that while all of these programs are too far from Fremont for a daily commute, all of the following HVAC training schools are regionally accredited and provide employment-ready skills.

Center for Employment Training

CET has several campuses in California that offer career training in HVAC and green technology, and the San Jose campus is the closest to Fremont. Coursework is available during the days and evenings.

The program includes classroom lectures combined with hands-on training in a fully equipped lab. The curriculum includes job and tool safety, applied mathematics, electricity, refrigerants, heating equipment, pipe fitting, brazing, soldering, duct work, green technology, computer basics, and customer service. Students also learn interview and resume skills in preparation for seeking employment. The school provides job placement assistance for graduates as well.

  • Location: San Jose, CA
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Tuition: $14,500
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Eight to nine months

Laney College

Laney College gives students four environmental control technology certificate programs from which to choose:

  • Building automation systems – 48 units
  • Commercial HVAC systems – 52.5 units
  • Refrigeration technology – 16.5 units
  • Residential and light commercial HVAC/R – 27 units

Credits earned in the certificate programs may be applied toward the degree programs of the same names, except for the refrigeration technology program, which does not have a degree option.

In the past, certificates in building performance and energy proficiency (29.5 units) and energy efficiency sales and auditing (13.5 units) were available; however, both are currently inactive.

The curriculum for the active programs includes electricity; PC hardware; building software; technical math; motors and drives; mechanical and electrical devices; direct digital controls; troubleshooting; reading and interpreting blueprints; testing, adjusting, and balancing HVAC; welding; HVAC installation; psychrometrics and load calculations; system design; mechanical and electrical codes; and refrigeration. Each certificate program requires additional advanced coursework relevant to the certificate.

Degree-seeking students complete all coursework required for the certificate programs, as well as advanced technology coursework, and general education classes that include electives from natural science, social and behavioral science, humanities, language, and ethnic studies to obtain the 60 units needed for the degree.

  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificates vary; degree two years

San Jose City College

The SJCC offers two HVAC/R technology certificate programs as well as an HVAC/R technology degree program. All programs are presented via classroom lectures followed by hands-on training in the lab.

Students in the HVAC/R technology Level 2 certificate program complete 20.5 units that include HVAC/R principles, intermediate air conditioning, refrigeration service, and facilities management.

Those in the HVAC/R technology Level 3 certificate program complete all of the Level 2 coursework and add coursework in hydronics and air systems, control systems, and technical electives, for a total of 30 units.

Participants in the degree program complete all of the above coursework, then choose from technical electives that include computer information systems, residential/commercial wiring, residential/commercial plumbing, electricity, boilers, programmable logic controllers, sheet metal principles, and industrial electronics and controls. They also complete general education electives that include written and oral communication, critical thinking, physical sciences, life sciences, fine arts, humanities, social and behavioral science, physical health, and cultural diversity. They earn their degree at the completion of 60 units.

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

Fremont workers who are unable to attend a local school may find that online HVAC training at an accredited online school may be a viable option to obtain the education required for entrance to the field.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Fremont, CA

Technicians are required by federal law to pass an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. The four levels of certification are based on the size and type of equipment on which the technician works. A technician who works on all types of HVAC and HVAC/R equipment should obtain universal (type IV) certification. Practice exams and additional information are available on the EPA website.

Technicians may acquire their Section 608 certification and other industry certifications that increase employability from organizations such as these:

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

Each organization details their offerings and fees on their website. Further information is available on the HVAC certifications page.

Employed HVAC and HVAC/R technicians are not required to be licensed by the California Contractors State Licensing Board. If advertising their services, technicians are classified as self-employed contractors and are required to obtain licensing. HVAC contractors need the C-20 specialty license, and HVAC/R contractors need the C-38 specialty license. Unless they can submit proof of five years of journey-level experience with a licensed contractor, applicants must pass exams in business, trade, and law. All applicants must then submit proof of the following to obtain their license:

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

Licenses are renewed every two years. Initial licenses and renewals require payment of a fee.

The City of Fremont requires all businesses to register. The initial fee is $30, as is the annual renewal fee.

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.