HVAC Programs in Los Angeles, CA

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For Californians interested in becoming heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) professionals, there is an abundance of 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, and notably, some unlicensed HVAC workers have gotten into trouble for not obtaining the proper documentation.

In fact, the California Department of Consumer Affairs reported that in 2010, the Contractors State License Board’s (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) organized a sting operation against 13 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 prior to installing or making any changes to a building’s HVAC unit which cost $500 or more.

So what exactly do HVAC professionals in Los Angeles do? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (BLS OOH 2016), 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 choose to 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 not only by region, but also by specialty as well. There is one mandatory credential for all HVAC technicians who handle refrigerants: the EPA’s 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 2016), the demand for HVAC professionals is on the rise, particularly as the population increases across the state. Climate control systems are especially crucial in places like Los Angeles during the warmer summer months. The EDD also points out that HVAC equipment these days is growing evermore complex, thereby increasing the likelihood of malfunctions, repairs, or simple customer education on how to control thermostats. Furthermore, California is relatively progressive when it comes to 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 LA bright.

In more granular terms, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) found that across the country, openings for HVAC techs are expected to swell 14 percent between 2014 and 2024. This equates to 39,600 jobs nationwide. That is twice the average growth rate anticipated in all occupations during that time period (7 percent). And the growth of HVAC positions is expected to be even more robust in California according to the most recent data from CareerOneStop (2014), a data organization which is partnered with the US Department of Labor. CareerOneStop found that California-based openings in HVAC are poised to grow 23 percent between 2012 and 2022. With this expected addition of 4,600 jobs across the Golden State—many of them in Los Angeles—there are expected to be ample opportunities in this field in the coming decade.

Finally, the BLS (2015) found that California is one of the top three employers in this field with 21,280 HVAC technicians working. Impressively, the Los Angeles metropolitan area employs the second most HVAC technicians of any city in the country at 5,740.

HVAC Technician Salary in Los Angeles

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2015), HVAC mechanics and installers make more money on average in Los Angeles than figures nationally. In fact, the BLS (2015) reported an average annual salary of $47,380 among the 274,680 technicians nationally. This figure swelled to $53,440 in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan area, and $53,580 in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale area.

In more detailed terms, here were the annual salary percentiles for HVAC technicians nationwide (BLS 2015):

United States (274,680 HVAC technicians employed): $47,380 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,790
  • 25th percentile: $34,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,110
  • 75th percentile: $58,070
  • 90th percentile: $71,690

In hourly terms, this amounts to $22.78 per hour on average with the following percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $13.36/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.79/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.69/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.92/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $34.47/hr.

By comparison, here were the salary averages, number of HVAC technicians employed, and wage percentiles within the two BLS-designated metropolitan regions of LA (BLS 2015):

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (7,600 HVAC technicians employed): $53,440 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $29,020 ($13.95/hr.)
  • 25th percentile: $37,980 ($18.26/hr.)
  • 50th percentile (median): $50,960 ($24.50/hr.)
  • 75th percentile: $67,920 ($32.65/hr.)
  • 90th percentile: $81,850 ($39.35/hr.)

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division (5,740 employed): $53,580 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,490 ($12.26/hr.)
  • 25th percentile: $37,330 ($17.95/hr.)
  • 50th percentile (median): $52,180 ($25.09/hr.)
  • 75th percentile: $69,080 ($33.21/hr.)
  • 90th percentile: $81,900 ($39.37/hr.)

Not surprisingly, these figures also tended to vary based on source of data. California’s Employment Development Department (EDD 2015) found the following ranges for HVAC professionals across CA:

  • 25th percentile: $39,327
  • 50th percentile (median): $53,696
  • 75th percentile: $67,377

These figures roughly corresponded with the BLS (2015) California-wide percentiles in this occupation:

California (21,280 HVAC techs employed): $53,050 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $29,970
  • 25th percentile: $37,900
  • 50th percentile (median): $51,120
  • 75th percentile: $64,440
  • 90th percentile: $80,840

Indeed (2016) found an average annual salary of $44,000 among HVAC techs in Los Angeles, and Payscale (2016)—an aggregator of self-reported salaries—found the following percentiles among its 36 responding vet techs in LA:

  • 10th percentile: $10.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $20.00/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $26.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $46.00/hr.

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 which are beyond the scope of this article.

Accredited HVAC Programs in Los Angeles

For prospective HVAC technicians in the City of Angels, there is a variety of accredited HVAC programs to get a person prepared for the career. Although graduating from an accredited program is not essential to qualify for C-20 contractor licensure or essential certifications (e.g., EPA Section 608), the accreditation status of one’s program can be an indicator of the quality of instruction and indicate to potential employers the rigorousness of one’s 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 as a whole, and is one of the six regional accreditation agencies recognized by the US Department of Education’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Finally, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) accredits distance-based programs. For more information about HVAC program accreditation, please visit the HVAC programs homepage.

So how much education do HVAC techs in LA typically have prior to seeking employment? According to CareerOneStop (2015), 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: 11.7 percent
  • High school diploma or GED: 39.5 percent
  • Some college, no degree: 30.9 percent
  • Associate’s degree: 13 percent
  • Bachelor’s degree: 4.1 percent
  • Master’s degree or above: 0.7 percent

The bulk of respondents have at least a high school diploma, and many have some postsecondary training. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2015) adds that many HVAC professionals get 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 prior to entering the workforce.

Mount San Antonio College (MTSAC) of Walnut, CA provides an associate of science (AS) degree in air conditioning and refrigeration technology. As the only PAHRA-accredited program in the state of California, MTSAC has a work-study component for interested students in addition to training in refrigerant handling, welding, and mechanical & electrical operation. This program is also offered as a certificate.

Capstone College of Pasadena provides a 36-week (900 hour) HVAC technician training program to get techs prepared for entry-level employment. Capstone seeks to instruct students in areas such as common HVACR 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 get the opportunity to use the same equipment as top-notch industry professionals. Some courses in this program include HVAC theory, brazing & soldering, refrigerants & charging techniques (EPA refrigerant certification), and heating fundamentals.

Los Angeles Trade-Tech College (LATTC) provides an associate of science (AS) degree in refrigeration & air conditioning mechanics. Requiring a time commitment of 21 hours weekly, this program features courses such as electrical mathematics, refrigeration component instruction, fundamentals of refrigeration, and pipe & tube joining processes. 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 certificate and associate of arts (AA) options in this field.

El Camino College of Torrance also has a 60-unit associate of science (AS) degree program with coursework in electrical applications, refrigeration & air conditioning control systems, solar basics, heating technologies, commercial refrigeration applications, HVAC customer service, and fundamentals of pneumatic (i.e., pressurized air or gas) controls. This school offers four unique tracks for specialized instruction:

  • Heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR)
  • Refrigeration
  • Air conditioning (pending approval from the California Community Colleges System Office)
  • Air Conditioning and refrigeration Electric Controls (pending approval from the CA CC System Office)

 

Online HVAC Training

For some students with professional, familial, or other types of time commitments which make attending a traditional program difficult, there is a distance-based HVAC training program available. Brownson Technical College of Anaheim offers both on-campus and a blended learning (i.e., online and on-campus hybrid) option. In the 40-week blended program, students are required to visit campus 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 & copper works; EPA, safety, customer service & basic HVAC/R competency; commercial refrigeration; and building performance. Brownson prepares its students to sit for national certification exams including the EPA Section 608, North American Technician Excellence, and HVAC Excellence credentials.

For more information about the types of certifications available, please visit the HVAC certifications page.