HVAC Training Schools in Fresno, CA

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Fresno, California (CA) sits in an area classified as semi-arid. Summers are long, hot, and dry, with temperatures consistently in the high 90s during the day. Residents experience relief from the heat at night when temperatures drop an average of 30 degrees. Most days are sunny, and rainfall is minimal. Winters are cooler (but not cold) most of the time. Nighttime lows occasionally dip to freezing levels, but generally hover in the high 30s to low 40s. An average of more than two inches of rain falls monthly during the winter and snow is rare.

Located in the fertile San Joaquin Valley, the City of Fresno is the Fresno county seat. The county is “one of the most productive agricultural counties in the nation.” The economy has long been based on agriculture and related food-processing industries, but the area is experiencing diversification. Industry giants such as Amazon, Ultra, and Gap are taking advantage of Fresno’s central location and transportation hubs to establish fulfillment centers in the area. Economic development is shifting to high tech companies. Plans for a large industrial park are winding their way through the approval process.

Fresno’s mayor believes that the “entire economy here is growing,” adding that there are signs that “companies are ready to invest in building new businesses.” The performing arts, cultural events, historic sites, and outdoor recreation support a growing hospitality industry.

The weather—particularly the hot summers and wet winters—makes heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) essential in homes and workplaces. Agriculture and food processing facilities require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R) to keep their products fresh. Warehouses, tourist venues, and operations that rely on technology all need specialized climate control.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) reports that 730 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in Fresno, CA as of May 2018. Industries such as the following provide training and networking to the technicians and their employers:

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Associated General Contractors of California
  • National Association of Women in Construction Fresno Chapter
  • Northern California Mechanical Contractors Association
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of California
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association
  • UA Local 246 Plumbers and Pipefitters

These and other industry associations coordinate with state and local agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards designed to ensure the health and safety of members and the public.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Fresno, CA

The BLS (2019) expects job opportunities in all occupations in the U.S. to increase an average of 7 percent during the decade ending in 2026. The nationwide demand for new HVAC and HVAC/R technicians is expected to increase by 15 percent—more than double the national average—between 2016 and 2026. And the rate of increase in job opportunities for technicians in California exceeds national expectations. Projections Central anticipates a 19.6 percent statewide increase, which is 5,600 new positions for technicians by the end of 2026.

Construction of new residences and commercial structures is the primary factor driving the growth of the HVAC industry. The newer “smart buildings” require sophisticated climate control systems. Homeowners and businesses alike want systems and equipment that are energy efficient. When new systems are not installed, the old equipment and systems in existing buildings must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet contemporary environmental standards.

Due to the complexity of modern climate control systems, technicians must undergo extensive training. They are expected to understand electronics and computerized systems. They also need to hone their troubleshooting skills to have the best job prospects. Technicians who work exclusively as installers may occasionally experience unemployment. As the economy in Fresno is continuing to grow and attracting new businesses and more workers, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians are unlikely to experience a slowdown in jobs in the foreseeable future. Technicians who maintain and repair existing equipment can expect year-round employment as Fresno homeowners and businesses need to keep their systems in good operating order regardless of the economy.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Fresno, CA

The BLS (May 2019) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $47,610 as of May 2018. Technicians in Fresno, CA received an annual median salary of $47,970. It’s important to keep in mind that the cost of living in California is higher than in other states.

The table below is a comparison of national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals:

United States California Fresno, CA
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 27,720 730
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $58,130 $49,830
10th Percentile $29,460 $32,900 $30,190
25th Percentile $36,520 $39,610 $36,000
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $55,140 $47,970
75th Percentile $60,900 $70,020 $60,170
90th Percentile $76,230 $94,380 $76,560

HVAC Apprenticeships in Fresno, CA

HVAC and HVAC/R workers in the past took jobs as assistants and learned their craft through on-the-job training. Although that is still possible, it’s become challenging to find employment without training. Most workers now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Their training gives them more employment opportunities as well as higher wages as beginners. They also potentially earn more throughout their career.

An apprenticeship typically takes three to five years to complete. Apprentices receive on-the-job training (2,000 hours annually), along with classroom work (about 144 hours annually). The State of California Department of Industrial Relations maintains a database of apprenticeship programs. As of July 2019, five HVAC-related programs are available in Fresno county, sponsored by unions at their Joint Apprentice Training Committee (JATC) centers. Not all programs accept apprentices at all times.

UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 246 offers a five-year refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic apprenticeship. Along with paid on-the-job training, apprentices are expected to attend classes two nights a week for ten months of each year. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED, be at least 18 years old, pass a written and an oral exam, have a valid driver’s license, and pass drug testing.

Additional HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs are available 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 Fresno, CA

Determining whether a school is accredited is the first step in choosing a formal training program. Accreditation is the process by which an independent agency evaluates the curriculum and instructors of a program.

Two industry-recognized 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 programs at the following schools:

  • 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 accredited school, although attending would probably require Fresno students to temporarily relocate as the commute is too long to be practical otherwise.

El Camino College

El Camino College offers an HVAC degree program and the following certificate programs:

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

Students complete coursework in electricity, heating technology, air conditioning fundamentals, electronics and controls, and other courses relevant to the certificate they are seeking.

Students seeking a degree complete all the above curriculum and add the following: customer service, commercial refrigeration, automation systems, and energy systems and efficiency optimization. Technical electives include cooperative work experience, computer information systems, construction technology, and business. They also complete the required general education coursework required for graduation, for a total of 60 units.

  • Location: Torrance, 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

Fresno City College

The college offers an HVAC technology degree and the following certificate programs:

  • Air conditioning
  • Air conditioning, commercial, heating and ducting systems
  • Air conditioning mechanical and electrical systems
  • Air conditioning technology overview
  • Digital air conditioning controls
  • Industrial refrigeration

Each certificate has a minimum of 12 units. Not all programs are available at all times, so the curriculum and the number of additional units required for each are not listed in the current catalog. Prospective students need to consult with an academic advisor to select additional coursework.

Technical coursework for the certificate programs is also part of the degree program. All courses are taught in classroom lectures and hands-on training in a state-of-the-art lab. The degree program includes the following curriculum: technical computer applications, introduction to HVAC, HVAC comfort systems and components, troubleshooting, system processes, installation, digital control principles, and wireless hvac controls.

Students must also complete general education electives in the disciplines of natural sciences, language and rationality, social and behavioral sciences, and humanities. Students complete 60 units to earn their degree. Their credits are transferable to a four-year college.

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

Institute of Technology – Clovis

IOT, a private postsecondary vocational institution, prepares students for entry-level employment as HVAC technicians and other industry-related positions. Classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab teach students how to install, maintain, and troubleshoot HVAC systems. The curriculum includes:

  • HVAC fundamentals
  • Introduction to HVAC concepts
  • Basic HVAC/R
  • Advanced HVAC/R
  • EPA regulations and preparation for the universal certification exam
  • Professional development

Classes are available in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings.

  • Location: Clovis, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Tuition: $17,888
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 40 weeks

San Joaquin Valley College

SJVC, a private junior college, offers a certificate program and a degree program for HVAC/R technology. Students in both programs must have a valid California driver’s license and no DUI convictions in the past three years. The focus of both programs is career development. All students must attend a career services seminar in addition to the required coursework. Coursework includes preparation for the EPA Section 608 exam, and the tuition includes the fee for taking the exam the first time.

The curriculum for the certificate includes the following:

  • HVAC/R theory and application
  • Electricity theory and application
  • Air distribution systems
  • Advanced HVAC/R

Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment as HVAC/R mechanics, installers, and maintenance and service technicians.

Students seeking a degree will complete the above curriculum, with the addition of advanced electricity and general education requirements that include composition and reading, algebra, natural science, philosophy, ethics, psychology, and sociology.

  • Location: Fresno, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Tuition: Certificate $21,160; degree $30,675
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificate 40 weeks; degree 60 weeks

UEI College

UEI, a private institution, offers an HVAC certificate program. Students learn by attending classroom lectures and hands-on practice in a lab. Their studies include the following curriculum: basic electricity, motors, and controls; refrigeration theory and application; HVAC troubleshooting; heat pump systems; heating systems and boilers; duct design blueprint reading; green awareness; 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.

  • Location: Fresno
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Tuition: $19,900
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 41 weeks

Attending an on-campus HVAC may be difficult for some students due to time or distance restrictions. Online institutions may better meet their needs. For more information on accredited programs available, visit the online HVAC training page here.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Fresno, CA

Federal law requires all HVAC technicians to obtain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. Four levels of certifications are available 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.

As a final note, the California Contractors State Licensing Board requires HVAC contractors to be licensed for all projects that exceed $500. Self-employed technicians are considered contractors and must have a contractor’s license. Applicants must 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

They are also required to file a bond, pass exams in business and trade and law, disclose details of criminal convictions, be fingerprinted, and pay a fee. Licenses are renewed every two years. An exam waiver is available to applicants with proof of five years of journey-level experience with a licensed contractor.

Neither the County of Fresno nor the City of Fresno requires additional contractor licensing. However, the City does require all businesses to obtain a business license.

HVAC professionals should verify that they are meeting the requirements of the state as well as the county and city before they begin a project. Technicians are responsible for keeping their professional credentials up to date.

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.