HVAC Training Schools in Modesto, California (CA)

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The city of Modesto, CA, began as a railroad stop and became a town in 1870. According to tradition, the founders wanted to name it after William Ralston, a wealthy and influential Californian. Ralston declined the honor, however, and the town was named Modesto in recognition of his modesty. Its growth since then has been anything but modest.

Now the county seat for Stanislaus County and part of the BLS-designated Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto area, Modesto is California’s 19th largest city. Its location in the fertile Central Valley led to a thriving economy initially reliant on agriculture, but as the city grew, the economy diversified.

Modesto is currently a regional healthcare center and home to expanding industries that include retail trade, manufacturing, and information services, in addition to the strong agricultural base. “As established industries evolve and new industries move in . . .” workers are “gaining technical skills.” Modesto is home to the world’s largest winery, E & J Gallo, and its associated wine bottle manufacturing facility, the largest globally. Del Monte Foods, Foster Farms Dairy, and other food-related companies also have facilities in the area.

The summers in Modesto are hot and dry, with average temperatures in the 90s F from June through September. During July and August, temperatures can spike above 100 degrees, with 113 degrees setting records during July. Average precipitation from April through October is less than one inch each month. Winters bring moisture and much-needed relief from the summer heat. Temperatures begin dropping below 80 degrees in October, with November through March reporting average daytime highs in the upper 50s to 60s. Average lows those months hover in the upper 30s and low 40s. Freezing temperatures are a rarity, although not unknown in record-setting cold years. An average of slightly more than two inches of rain falls each month from December through March.

The prolonged summer heat often keeps Modesto residents indoors. They depend on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort in their homes and workplaces. The food processing plants, canneries, warehouses, and industrial and manufacturing facilities add refrigeration (HVAC/R) to their climate control systems. Healthcare facilities, educational institutions, and technology-based companies frequently need specialized climate-control systems to keep their equipment operating correctly.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022), 430 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed in Modesto as of May 2021. National, state, and local industry associations provide resources and support to technicians and employers. These include:

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • California Building Industry Association (CBIA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)
  • UA Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 442
  • Valley Builders Exchange

These organizations cooperate with others in the industry, regulatory agencies, and businesses to establish and maintain educational, licensing, and performance standards for the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Modesto, California

Continued growth nationally and locally is expected in the HVAC industry. BLS (2022) statistics indicate a 5 percent nationwide increase in job openings between 2021 and 2031. State figures from Projections Central (2022) are more optimistic. They expect a 13.8 percent increase in HVAC openings around California between 2020 and 2030.

The construction of commercial facilities and new residences drives the growth of the HVAC industry. Renovation or remodeling of existing structures is a significant factor in industry growth. Obsolete and aging climate control systems and equipment must be repaired, replaced, or retrofitted to operate efficiently. On occasion, systems in new structures are replaced due to technological advances or to meet unique business needs. California regulations emphasize energy efficiency and pollution reduction, which also contribute to the HVAC industry growth.

Homeowners and businesses expect “smart” buildings. They want sophisticated climate-control equipment and systems. Installing or servicing the complex systems requires HVAC technicians who are skilled troubleshooters, proficient with computers, and understand electronics and high-tech. Their training and expertise provide the best employment opportunities.

Technicians who specialize in new construction may occasionally experience unemployment if construction declines. A decline doesn’t seem likely in the foreseeable future, as “Modesto is on a sustainable growth track . . ..” The city is “developing a strong presence in advanced manufacturing including off-site home and commercial construction.”

Technicians specializing in maintenance and service can expect continuous employment as businesses and homeowners rely on year-round climate control regardless of the economy.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Modesto, California

According to the BLS (May 2021), HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,630. Their data shows that Modesto, CA, area technicians also earned an annual median salary of $48,630. The cost of living in California is much higher than in other American states; however, it is significantly lower in Modesto than in other parts of the state, making the local wages comparable to national statistics.

According to the BLS (May 2021), national, state, and regional earnings of HVAC professionals are as follows:

United States California Modesto, CA
Number of HVAC professionals employed 356,960 32,640 430
Average annual salary $54,690 $61,670 $55,800
10th percentile $34,320 $37,200 $36,720
25th percentile $38,450 $46,640 $46,090
50th percentile $48,630 $59,750 $48,630
75th percentile $62,000 $75,170 $61,210
90th percentile $78,210 $94,740 $77,770

HVAC Apprenticeships in Modesto, California

In the past, workers who wanted to become HVAC technicians found jobs as helpers and learned their skills through on-the-job training. Few such opportunities exist today for untrained workers. Most aspiring technicians now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Trained technicians have better job opportunities and can potentially start at higher wages and earn more throughout their careers. Time invested in classes varies according to the level of expertise sought.

Apprenticeships include specified hours of on-the-job training, usually 2,000 hours, and classroom work, usually 144 hours, annually for three to five years.

The State of California Department of Industrial Relations maintains a database of HVAC apprenticeship programs. As of September 2022, two programs are available: one in Sacramento and one in Modesto. PHCC Of The Greater Sacramento Area U.A.C. offers a 60-month Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Service And Repair (Residential And Commercial) program. Central Valley Motherlode Plumbers, Pipe And Refrigeration Fitters offers a 60-month Refrigeration And Air Conditioning Mechanic program at the JATC in Modesto.

Aspiring technicians who cannot attend a local program may select an HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship program from industry associations such as the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Details are available on each organization’s website.

Accredited HVAC and HVAC/R Schools in Modesto, California

Workers choosing to attend a school should select an accredited institution. Accreditation means that an independent agency evaluates the quality of the school’s program, including the curriculum and the instructors. HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) accredit HVAC programs.

HVAC Excellence has accredited the following California schools:

  • Brownson Technical School, Anaheim, CA
  • Cypress College, Cypress, CA
  • North American Training Center, Redlands, CA

PAHRA has accredited Mount San Antonio College, Walnut, CA

Mount San Antonio College is included in the profiles below due to its accreditation. Attending it would probably require Modesto students to relocate, as the commute is too long to be practical.

Other reputable agencies have accredited the remaining schools.

DeHart Technical School

DeHart is a privately owned institution currently offering four training programs. Students learn through classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the lab. Class size is limited to 20 students, and the coursework is available during days and evenings to accommodate employed students. Specific coursework may be completed remotely. The programs include:

  • Facilities Maintenance HVAC Course 1 (six months, $7,435)
  • HVAC/R Facilities Maintenance Course 3 (12 months, $17,990)
  • Advanced Training Module (two months, $2,700)
  • Refrigeration Practices, EPA & Brazing (one month, tuition TBD)

The HVAC/Facilities Maintenance Course 2 program is not currently available. When the program is available, it takes three months to complete, and the tuition is $13,860.

The Facilities Maintenance HVAC Course 1 curriculum includes HVAC electrical applications, refrigeration practices, EPA, wiring diagrams, troubleshooting, gas and electric heating, and residential and light commercial electrical and plumbing. Students enrolled in the HVAC/R Facilities Maintenance Course 3 build on the basics from the Course 1 curriculum with advanced coursework that includes electrical, plumbing, and refrigeration. They also complete additional coursework in HVAC installation and preparation for NATE (North American Technical Excellence) certification.

The Advanced Training Module curriculum includes basic refrigeration, components of commercial and special refrigeration applications, evaluation of refrigeration systems, low-temp refrigerant equipment, ice machines, ice machine components, ice machine sequence of operation and ice production, and ice machine cleaning, sanitizing, and troubleshooting. The Refrigeration Practices, EPA & Brazing program includes coursework relevant to refrigeration management.

  • Location: Modesto, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training
  • Tuition: Noted above
  • Program length: Noted above

Institute of Technology

The Institute of Technology is a private vocational school that offers an HVAC diploma program. Students are taught via classroom lectures and hands-on training in labs. As of the date of this writing, the school is offering the program on a hybrid basis. Students are advised to consult with an admissions representative regarding their options for specific classes.

The curriculum includes HVAC fundamentals, an introduction to HVAC concepts, basic HVAC/R, advanced HVAC/R, EPA regulations and preparation for the universal certification exam, and professional development. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as entry-level HVAC technicians.

  • Location: Clovis/Fresno, CA; Modesto, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • Tuition: $20,727.50
  • Program length: 40 weeks

Mount San Antonio College

Students enrolled at Mt. SAC may select from an HVAC certificate program and an HVAC degree program. Both programs are based on classroom lectures followed by hands-on training in the lab. Graduates are prepared to seek entry-level positions as technicians.

Enrollees choosing the certificate program complete the following coursework: HVAC/R technical mathematics, HVAC/R welding, A/C codes and standards, refrigeration fundamentals, HVAC/R electricity, gas heating, heat load calculations and design, commercial HVAC/R, air properties and measurement, and commercial systems. They are awarded their certificate after 31.5 units.

Students enrolled in the degree program complete the same technical coursework as those in the certificate program. In addition, they complete general education coursework that includes public speaking, composition, arts, humanities, lifelong understanding, political science, physical education, and science. They receive their degree after 65.5 to 68.5 units.

  • Location: Walnut, CA
  • Accreditation: PAHRA, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Program length: Certificate (one year); degree (two years)

UEI College

UEI, a private school, offers an HVAC technician training program at its Stockton campus. Coursework is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on training. The curriculum includes basic electricity, motors, and HVAC controls, refrigeration theory and application, HVAC troubleshooting, heat pump systems, heating systems, duct design, reading blueprints, load calculation, commercial refrigeration systems, specialized commercial refrigeration, green awareness, regulations, building automation, and electrical and mechanical troubleshooting.

Students are prepared to take the EPA Section 608 exam and the R-410-A certification exam. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Stockton, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • Tuition: $21,500
  • Program length: Ten months

Modesto students who cannot attend one of the above schools may find that online institutions can better meet their needs. More information on accredited programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in Modesto, California

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who handle refrigerants are subject to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, which require them to pass the EPA certification exam. Certifications are available in four levels, each with a specific exam based on the type and size of equipment on which a technician works, as follows:

  • Type I – for servicing small appliances
  • Type II – for servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and automotive air conditioning
  • Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances
  • Universal – for servicing all types of equipment

Details of the criteria for each certification are available on the EPA website.

Technicians increase their employability by obtaining Section 608 and other industry certifications. Various industry organizations offer study materials and exams, including:

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

Check each organization’s website for availability, scheduling, and fees. There is additional information on the HVAC certifications page.

As per the California Contractors State Licensing Board, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians employed by a contractor are not required to obtain a state license. Technicians who advertise their services are classified as contractors and must be licensed. HVAC contractors need the C-20 specialty license, and HVAC/R contractors need the C-38 specialty license. Most applicants must pass exams in law and business, and trade. All applicants must then submit proof of the following to obtain their license:

  • Minimum of four years of journey-level experience
  • At least $2,500 in working capital
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • General liability insurance
  • A $15,000 bond

All applicants must be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check. Licenses are renewed every two years. The initial license and renewals require payment of a fee.

The City of Modesto requires all home and commercial businesses operating within city limits to obtain a business license. The fees vary according to whether the business is commercial, home-based, or conducting a business located outside the city limits operating within the city limits.

Stanislaus County issues business licenses for businesses located outside city limits, primarily for home-based operations.

Licensing regulations are subject to change. HVAC professionals are encouraged to confirm that they comply with current guidelines before starting a project.

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.