HVAC Programs in Los Angeles

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Californians interested in becoming heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC-R) professionals have many accredited HVAC programs in Los Angeles. In the Golden State, HVAC workers must have a C-20 contracting license to perform maintenance on and install these systems. Notably, some unlicensed HVAC workers have gotten into trouble for not obtaining the proper documentation.

In the past, the Contractors State License Board’s (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) has organized sting operations against HVAC technicians who had been operating illegally according to California’s Energy Efficiency Standards. These rules stipulate that contractors must get a city or county permit before installing or making any changes to a building’s HVAC unit, which costs $500 or more. The Board maintains a “most-wanted” list of violators.

So what exactly do HVAC professionals in Los Angeles do? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (BLS OOH 2023), these skilled technicians perform a variety of tasks such as installing, repairing, or maintaining HVAC systems; performing tests on fuel pumps, air ducts, insulation, pipes, water systems, electrical circuits, and other components of systems to ensure proper functioning; making suggestions to increase energy efficiency; interpreting blueprints and using them to inform repair and installation of HVAC equipment; and complying with all local, state, and federal legislation regarding these systems (e.g., EPA codes).

Many HVAC technicians specialize in a particular aspect of maintenance and installation of HVAC systems, such as commercial refrigeration, solar panel installation, or residential HVAC maintenance, to name a few. It’s important to note that licensing and certification requirements vary by region and specialty. There is one mandatory credential for all HVAC technicians who handle refrigerants: EPA Section 608 certification.

Read on to discover the occupational demand for HVAC techs, the salary prospects, and the wealth of accredited HVAC programs in Los Angeles.

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Demand For HVAC Technicians in Los Angeles

According to California’s Employment Development Department (EDD), the demand for HVAC professionals is rising, particularly as the population increases across the state. Climate control systems are especially crucial in places like Los Angeles during warmer summers. The EDD also points out that HVAC equipment is growing more complex these days, thereby increasing the likelihood of malfunctions, repairs, or simple customer education on controlling thermostats.

Furthermore, California is relatively progressive regarding investments in renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, natural gas). This agenda, coupled with an overall concern for increasing energy efficiency in systems, makes the prospects for HVAC professionals in Los Angeles bright.

In more granular terms, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2023) found that across the country, openings for HVAC techs are expected to swell 6 percent between 2022 and 2032. This equates to 23,000 new jobs nationwide. That is twice the average growth rate anticipated in all occupations during that time period (3 percent).

And the growth of HVAC positions is expected to be even more robust in California, according to the most recent data from Projections Central (2023), a data organization partnered with the US Department of Labor. Projections Central found that California-based openings in HVAC are poised to grow 13.8 percent between 2020 and 2030. With this anticipated addition of 4,800 new jobs across the Golden State—many of them in Los Angeles—there is expected to be ample opportunities in this field in the coming decade.

Finally, the BLS (May 2022) found that California employs the most workers in this field, with 38,370 HVAC technicians currently working. Impressively, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan area employs the second-most HVAC technicians of any city in the country at 10,780.

HVAC Technician Salary in Los Angeles

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022), HVAC mechanics and installers make more money on average in Los Angeles than figures nationally. In fact, the BLS reported an average annual salary of $57,460 among the 374,770 technicians nationwide. This figure swelled to $68,680 in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan area.

In more detailed terms, the table below compares the average annual salary percentiles for HVAC technicians nationwide as well as California and the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan areas (BLS May 2022):

United States California Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 374,770 38,370 10,780
Average Annual Salary $57,460 $67,430 $68,680
10th Percentile $36,170 $38,900 $40,080
25th Percentile $44,100 $46,990 $47,530
50th Percentile (Median) $51,390 $60,830 $61,310
75th Percentile $65,630 $78,810 $79,750
90th Percentile $82,630 $103,670 $106,030

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (2023), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 25th percentile: $36,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $54,628
  • 75th percentile: $84,000

Indeed (2023) reported that the average salary for an HVAC technician is $62,572 per year in Los Angeles, CA.

It is important to remember that while the salaries for HVAC workers in CA are relatively generous, the cost of living in the Golden State is also higher than in most US states. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2023) found that California was the fourth most expensive state, coming in behind only Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii.

Overall, the discrepancies between the salaries for HVAC professionals in LA could be attributed to the nature of self-reported information, the relatively small sample size for Payscale, or other factors beyond this article’s scope.

Accredited HVAC Training in Los Angeles

For prospective HVAC technicians in the City of Angels, there are a variety of accredited HVAC programs to prepare a person for the career.

Although graduating from an accredited program is not essential to qualify for a C-20 contractor license or other essential certifications (e.g., EPA Section 608), the accreditation status of a program can be an indicator of the quality of instruction and indicate to potential employers the rigorousness of preparation in the field. The two main accrediting agencies for these programs are the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) and HVAC Excellence.

Additionally, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accredits institutions and is one of the six regional accreditation agencies recognized by the US Department of Education Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Finally, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) accredits distance-based programs.

So how much education do HVAC techs in LA typically have before seeking employment? According to CareerOneStop (2023), here is the distribution of the highest level of educational attainment among HVAC techs nationally aged 25 to 44:

  • Less than a high school diploma: 11 percent
  • High school diploma or GED: 40 percent
  • Some college, no degree: 29 percent
  • Associate’s degree: 14 percent
  • Bachelor’s degree: 5 percent
  • Master’s degree or above: 1 percent

The bulk of respondents have at least a high school diploma, and many have some post-secondary training. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2023) adds that many HVAC professionals are educated in vocational and technical schools over a period of six months to two years, often achieving a certificate or associate degree. While many HVAC techs in the past typically learned their skills on the job through apprenticeships and other mentoring programs, these days it’s increasingly common for people in this field to have some formal education before entering the workforce.

Mount San Antonio College

Mount San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) in Walnut, California provides an associate of science (AS) degree in air conditioning and refrigeration technology. It is the only California program with PAHRA and HVAC Excellence accreditation. Mt. SAC has a work-study component for interested students and training in refrigerant handling, welding, and mechanical and electrical operation. Classes are available on days and evenings.

The 61-credit associate of science degree includes courses such as refrigeration fundamentals; welding for AC & refrigeration; heat load calculation & design; gas heating fundamentals; air properties and measurement; and commercial systems, among others.

A 31.5-credit certificate program is also offered in air conditioning and refrigeration.

  • Location: Walnut, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC); HVAC Excellence; PAHRA
  • Expected Time to Completion: AS degree (two years); certificate (one year)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($46 per credit); out-of-state ($334 per credit)

Capstone College

Capstone College in Pasadena provides an HVAC technician training program to prepare techs for entry-level employment. Coursework can be completed in 30 weeks for full-time students and 48 weeks for students attending part-time during the evenings.

This 56.5-credit program includes courses such as refrigerants, & charging techniques; brazing & soldering, HVAC sheet metal installation; HVAC electrical, HVAC schematics, national and local codes; HVAC theory; HVAC tools, materials, and supplies; HVAC air conditioning and heating fundamentals; and HVAC trade orientation, human relations, safety first aid, construction math.

Capstone College seeks to instruct students in common HVAC-R systems, electrical components, how to test equipment, safety procedures, compliance with the law, sheet metal work, schematics, and more. In this school’s state-of-the-art lab, students can use the same equipment as top-notch industry professionals.

  • Location: Pasadena, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Eight to 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $16,850 total tuition

Los Angeles Trade-Tech College

Los Angeles Trade-Tech College (LATTC) offers an associate of science (AS) degree program in refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics. As part of the program, students also receive their EPA Section 608 certification, a mandatory credential for people who work with refrigerants. Please note that LATTC also offers a certificate option in this field.

Requiring a time commitment of 21 hours weekly, this associate of science program features courses such as pipe and tube joining processes; air conditioning and refrigeration principles and practices; applied calculations and measurements; refrigeration electrical circuits and controls; refrigeration system components; applied refrigeration and air conditioning principles; refrigeration servicing procedures; air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics; and gas heating systems, among others.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($46 per unit); non-resident ($342 per unit)

El Camino College

El Camino College in Torrance, California also has an associate of science (AS) degree program with coursework in electrical applications; refrigeration and air conditioning control systems; heating technologies; commercial refrigeration applications; HVAC customer service; energy efficient residential, commercial, and industrial air conditioning; fundamentals of automation systems; and energy control and optimization systems.

The college also has a 36-credit certificate of achievement in HVAC-R; a 13-credit certificate of achievement in HVAC-R electric controls; a 13-credit certificate of achievement in refrigeration; a 17-credit certificate of achievement in air conditioning; a 7-credit certificate of accomplishment in HVAC-R automation fundamentals; a 14-credit certificate of accomplishment in HVAC-R energy efficiency; an 8-credit certificate of accomplishment in HVAC-R heating technologies; a 10-credit certificate of accomplishment in HVAC-R electrical fundamentals; a 5-credit certificate of accomplishment in HVAC-R fundamentals; and an 8-credit certificate of accomplishment in HVAC-R refrigeration fundamentals.

  • Location: Torrance, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: AA degree (two years); certificate (one to two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($46 per unit); out-of-state ($296 per unit)

NIU College

NIU College offers a 220-hour advanced HVAC technology program that helps students in acquiring working knowledge of the cooling and heating cycles. Students learn about the fundamental principles of electrical systems and controls associated with HVAC systems and the concepts and principles associated with the EPA Section 608 Certificate.

Graduates will be provided with advanced HVAC and heat pump system training. The curriculum includes courses such as introduction to the HVAC trade; copper and plastic piping practices; soldering and brazing; ferrous metal piping; basic electricity; introduction to cooling; introduction to heating; and air distribution systems.

  • Location: Woodland Hills, CA
  • Accreditation: N/A
  • Expected Time to Completion: 11 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $12,118 total tuition

Cypress College

Designed as a bridge program between engineering and service technology, Cypress College’s associate in science program in air conditioning and refrigeration provides graduates with technical knowledge and skills to support engineering applications.

This 67- to 69-credit program includes courses such as principles of thermodynamics and heat transfer; piping prac-tools and safety; blueprints and dimension analysis; refrigeration certification training; technician customer relations; electricity for air conditioning and refrigeration; gas heat transfer systems; sustainability design and application; commercial refrigeration; and commercial air conditioning, among others.

In addition to the associate in science degree, Cypress College offers several certificate programs in HVAC-R. These include an air conditioning and refrigeration certificate; an air conditioning and refrigeration project management certificate; an air conditioning customer service certificate; a commercial air conditioning certificate; a commercial refrigeration certificate; a heat pump certificate; an HVAC automated environmental controls certificate; an HVAC building commissioning certificate; and an HVAC codes and estimating certificate.

  • Location: Cypress, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: AS (four semesters); certificates (varies)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($46 per unit); non-resident ($342 per unit)

Online HVAC Training

For some students with professional, familial, or other time commitments that make attending a traditional program difficult, distance-based HVAC training programs are available.

Brownson Technical College

Brownson Technical College in Anaheim, California has been awarded accreditation by HVAC Excellence and offers both on-campus and blended learning (i.e., online and on-campus hybrid) options. In the 40-week blended program, students are required to visit the campus for only 13 hours per week to complete the hands-on component of their instruction.

Meanwhile, students take courses online to complement their in-house learning in areas such as basic thermodynamics, refrigeration, and copper works; EPA, safety, customer service, and basic HVAC-R competency; commercial refrigeration; and building performance. Brownson prepares students to sit for national certification exams, including EPA Section 608, North American Technician Excellence, and HVAC Excellence credentials.

  • Location: Anaheim, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC); HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: 40 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $17,220 total tuition

For more information about distance-based training, check out the online HVAC programs page.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Los Angeles

For all HVAC professionals dealing with environmentally sensitive refrigerants, one mandatory credential is the EPA Section 608 certification. There are four main subtypes, which vary by the type of equipment one works on:

  • Type I (small appliances)
  • Type II (high-pressure appliances)
  • Type III (low-pressure appliances)
  • Type IV (universal)

Additionally, there is a wide range of professional certifications in HVAC. These are available from organizations such as the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association, North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence, among others.

As a final note, all HVAC workers in California who provide work over $500 are required to have a state license through the California Contractors State License Board. To qualify, candidates must:

  • Submit a C-20 application
  • Have four years or more 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

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

Furthermore, those working in Los Angeles must have the requisite permits through the LA Department of Building and Safety (LADBS).

All HVAC professionals are encouraged to verify that they have all the necessary credentials prior to beginning a project.

Jocelyn Blore

Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.