HVAC Programs in Riverside, CA – Degrees & Certification

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The summers in Riverside, California (CA) are hot and dry. The temperatures start climbing into the 80s in May and reach the mid-to-high 90s by July. Record-setting temperatures can be as high as 118 degrees during the summer months. Summer evenings are about 30 degrees cooler than the daytime highs. The average rainfall is less than a tenth of an inch each month from May through September.

Riverside winters are colder and wetter. The daylight hours hover in the upper 60s and the nights are about 20 degrees cooler. In record-setting years, the lows can drop below freezing, falling into the teens. More rain starts falling in November and breaks the one-inch mark in December. January and February receive more than two inches each month before it decreases to less than an inch by April. Snow in Riverside is a rarity, although it can frost the nearby hillsides.

The California Citrus industry had its beginnings in Riverside during the 1870s. The Parent Washington Navel Orange Tree is still living in a protected site and is one of the state’s historic landmarks. The citrus industry, however, began to decline years ago due to dwindling water resources and urbanization. The economy has diversified and is now based on logistics, healthcare, construction, manufacturing, and professional services.

Riverside is the county seat, and one of the two major cities in the Inland Empire metropolitan area. A recent analysis from the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development found that the Inland Empire region had strong economic growth in 2018 and is expected to continue growing. Historic sites, such as the Mission Inn, and events such as the Riverside Air Show, draw visitors.

Riverside, California (CA) residents are often kept inside by the weather as well as the air quality. Until several years ago, Riverside was reported as having levels of air pollution higher than most other cities. The city made a concerted effort to clean up and significantly reduced the levels of smog. The air quality today is impacted by the wind that blows the smog from Los Angeles and Long Beach into the area. Residents rely on heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) in their homes and workplaces to keep them comfortable, especially on windy days.

Industry, commercial buildings, and public venues frequently require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R). Healthcare centers, research facilities such as those at the UCR campus, historic sites, and museums often require specialized climate-controlled buildings or rooms.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020), 3,500 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA area. The following industry organizations provided training and support to the workers:

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • Associated General Contractors of California Riverside-San Bernardino District
  • Building Industry Association of Southern California Riverside County Chapter
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association Of Orange County, Riverside, And San Bernardino
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
  • Southern California Contractors Association
  • UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 364

Industry organizations and associations work with other groups and government agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards. They serve all aspects of the HVAC and refrigeration industry to ensure the safety of technicians and the public.

Read on to learn more about the bright occupational outlook for HVAC workers in Riverside, CA, including the salary prospects, accredited training programs, and licensure information.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Riverside, CA

According to BLS (2021) data, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can expect a 4 percent increase in new job openings nationwide between 2019 and 2029. New positions for all US occupations are also expected to increase by 4 percent during that same decade.

The outlook for California HVAC technicians is even more favorable than the national statistics. The job prediction from Projections Central (2021) indicates a 12.5 percent statewide increase—the addition of 4,100 new positions—between 2018 and 2028.

The primary reason for the growth of the HVAC industry is new construction. The population of Riverside continues to increase. Businesses and individuals have discovered that the city is more affordable than coastal areas and offers the services and facilities they need. The homes, offices, and commercial structures to accommodate them all require the installation of modern climate-control equipment and systems.

Although Riverside is not yet a technology hub, the newer “smart” buildings create a need for specialized systems. The emphasis on pollution control in the Inland Empire means that aging equipment in older buildings must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet contemporary pollution reduction and energy efficiency standards.

HVAC technicians require training to install, maintain, and service the sophisticated climate-control equipment and systems in modern buildings. Technicians are expected to be knowledgeable about electronics and computerized systems. Although technicians who specialize in new installations may occasionally experience unemployment in some areas, that is unlikely in Riverside in the foreseeable future. It’s anticipated that the favorable business environment in the city will continue to attract newcomers.

Technicians who specialize in maintenance, repairs, or services can expect year-round employment as businesses and homeowners need to keep their equipment operating efficiently regardless of the economy.

Also, a brief survey of popular job posting websites further demonstrates the wealth of opportunities in this field. For example, Indeed (June 2021) yielded 217 potential openings in Riverside for HVAC professionals with companies such as Trane Technologies, Sears Home Services, RighTime Home Services, Inland Quality, Emcor, and Hensel Phelps.

HVAC Salaries in Riverside, CA

According to the BLS (May 2020), HVAC professionals earn relatively generous salaries, particularly in California. HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $50,590 according to a May 2020 BLS report. Technicians in Riverside, CA received an annual median salary of $48,500.

As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) found that California was the fourth most expensive state, coming in behind only New York, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii. For HVAC technicians, this means relatively high salaries may still not go as far as lower salaries in other states, so that is something to keep in mind.

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

United States California Riverside, CA
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 344,020 32,410 3,500
Average mean wage $53,410 $63,560 $52,090
10th Percentile $31,910 $35,450 $32,450
25th Percentile $39,320 $45,940 $37,280
50th Percentile (Median) $50,590 $59,800 $48,500
75th Percentile $64,350 $77,890 $62,590
90th Percentile $80,820 $100,120 $77,230

The BLS (May 2020) reported that there were 32,410 HVAC mechanics and installers across California, the second-most among all US states.

According to another source of data, the national figures were slightly different, Payscale (June 2021), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $32,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,839
  • 90th percentile: $77,000

HVAC Apprenticeships in Riverside, CA

The complexity of modern climate control systems requires technicians who have participated in an apprenticeship or attended formal classes. Trained workers not only have more employment opportunities, but they also typically start at higher wages and potentially earn more throughout their careers.

The average apprenticeship takes four to five years to complete. Most encompass 2,000 hours of on-the-job training coordinated with 144 hours of technical instruction each year. The State of California Department of Industrial Relations maintains a database of HVAC apprenticeship programs.

That site currently lists a 48-month HVAC workers Sheet Metal Technician apprenticeship and a 60-month residential and commercial HVAC/R service and repair apprenticeship sponsored by the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California in Sacramento.

The UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 364 sponsors a plumbing and steamfitting apprenticeship in Colton. There is no fee for the training. Further details are available by personal contact.

Riverside workers who are unable to participate in a local apprenticeship program can obtain training from national industry associations such as the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc (ABC)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

Further information is available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Riverside, CA

Workers planning to attend a school should first ensure that it is accredited. Accreditation is the process by which the school’s curriculum and instructors are evaluated by an independent agency.

Two industry 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 the following programs:

  • Brownson Technical School, Anaheim CA
  • Cypress College, Cypress, CA
  • Mount San Antonio Community College, Walnut, CA
  • North American Training Center, Redlands, CA

Center for Employment Training

CET offers career training in HVAC and green technology providing students with the skills needed for installing and servicing HVAC systems. Students learn via hands-on training and formal classroom lectures. Evening classes are available. Students in this program will learn about basic electricity, hand tools, safety, as well as HVAC equipment related to maintenance and repair. They also learn about silver brazing and soldering, ductwork, and the basics of refrigeration.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as HVAC tools, applied mathematics, HVAC safety, electricity, refrigeration & recovery, pipe fitting, brazing, & soldering, heating equipment, ductwork, green technology, computer basics, and customer service.

Students also are prepared for seeking a job, including interview and resume skills. The school provides job placement assistance for graduates. Graduates will be ready to take up roles such as HVAC installer, refrigeration mechanic, air conditioning installer, service technician, and many more.

  • Location: Colton, CA
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Format: On-campus
  • Expected Time to Completion: Eight to nine months
  • Estimated Tuition: $14,500

InterCoast Colleges

InterCoast is a private institution with several campuses in California offering an HVAC technician certificate program, including one in Riverside. Coursework combines classroom lectures with hands-on training in the lab. Students may attend the lectures on campus or they may opt to complete everything except the lab work online.

This curriculum of this 39-credit program includes courses in introduction to trades, construction math, OSHA safety & NEC, introduction to electrical theory & conductors, practical applications of electrical theory, basic refrigeration components & applications, EPA 608 transition & recovery, heating systems, air conditioning and heat pump systems, and air distribution & installation.

The program will prepare students to install, repair, service, and maintain HVAC systems in residential homes, retail stores, and other buildings. Graduates will be able to take positions such as HVAC service technician, HVAC installer, HVAC mechanic, and many such roles.

  • Location: Riverside, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • Format: On-campus and online
  • Expected Time to Completion: Nine months
  • Estimated Tuition: $19,200

Masters Vocational College

MVC, a private institution, offers HVAC training as part of its green technology program. The program is designed to prepare students to install and repair HVAC systems and use computer design systems (CAD).

Made up of 41.5 credits, the curriculum includes courses in trade math, electricity, HVAC systems, photovoltaic installation, CAD and blueprint reading, heating systems, heat pumps, blueprint reading, PV installation, and commercial package units. Students are also prepared for certifications that include the EPA 608, electrician certification, and HVAC technician certification.

Graduates of the program will be ready to take up roles such as heating ventilation installer, heat pump installer, air conditioning systems technician, and residential and commercial installer.

  • Location: Riverside, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • Format: On-campus and online
  • Expected Time to Completion: 26 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $11,900

North American Training Center

North American Training Center is a technical school that offers a certificate program in HVAC/R, electricity, and control technology. Students receive hands-on practice on real-life equipment in a fully equipped lab and may attend classes during the day or in the evening.

The curriculum includes electricity, commercial and industrial buildings, gas and hydronic heating, heat pumps, HVAC/R, and technical discovery, which includes electronic technology. Graduation is contingent upon passing the EPA Section 608 exam, the R-410A safety exam, and the HVAC Excellence exams in air conditioning and electricity.

Graduates of the program learn safety practices, acquire working skills for servicing and maintaining industry equipment, and gain a technical working knowledge of the trade fundamentals.

  • Location: Redlands, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Format: On-campus
  • Expected Time to Completion: Day (24 weeks); evening (39 weeks)
  • Estimated Tuition: $9,500

Riverside City College

The RCC offers certificate and degree HVAC/R programs in both residential and commercial technology. Both include classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the lab.

Students seeking a certificate in residential technology complete 27 credits, while the commercial technology certificate requires 36 credits. The curriculum explores topics such as basic and advanced HVAC/R, electricity, HVAC/R system designs, energy conservation methods for HVAC/R, safe refrigerant handling & management, gas heating, building automation fundamentals, and boiler and hydronic heating.

Enrollees in the degree program complete all of the technical coursework. Additional coursework in general education electives from natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, English, and self-development make up the 60 units required for graduation.

Graduates have the technical knowledge and skills to seek employment as technicians qualified to install, maintain, repair, and service HVAC/R systems.

  • Location: Riverside, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Format: On-campus
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (one year); degree (two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: $46 per unit

San Bernardino Valley College

San Bernardino Valley College offers an HVAC/R certificate program and an HVAC/R degree program preparing students for employment in the HVAC/R field.

The technical curriculum includes HVAC/R fundamentals, domestic and commercial refrigeration, electricity, air distribution systems, welding, and technical math. Students in the certificate program may choose to take automotive HVAC, to complete a total of 27 to 32 units.

Students in the degree program complete all of the technical curriculum as well as electives from the general education coursework. They complete a total of 60 units to earn their degree. Graduates of both programs are prepared to sit for industry exams that include Section 608 certification.

The school also offers a refrigeration service engineer society (HVAC) certificate of achievement for technicians who want to renew their NATE certifications. The curriculum includes 40 units of advanced coursework encompassing compressors, condensers, cooling towers, heat transfer and distribution, gas and hot water heating, tools, controls, troubleshooting, and heat pumps. Graduates are qualified to seek advanced levels of employment.

  • Location: San Bernardino, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Format: On-campus
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificates (vary); degree (two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents ($46 per unit); out-of-state ($186 per unit)

Summit College

Summit offers HVAC/R training at three California campuses, including one close to Riverside in San Bernardino. Students learn via classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. They may choose to attend during the day or in the evenings. The faculty of the program includes experienced instructors who have real-world HVAC experience.

Comprising 54 credits, the curriculum includes courses such as principles of heat, energy, and pressure; electrical systems and components; brazing; commercial refrigeration and environmental systems; HVAC system design; residential and commercial HVAC/R; refrigerants; and green job training.

Students will also complete an externship and are prepared to take the EPA Section 608 exam. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as entry-level commercial, industrial, and residential HVAC technicians. They will be prepared to take up opportunities at electric power companies, building equipment contracting firms, utility system construction sites, nonresidential building construction, and homes, businesses, and factories.

  • Location: San Bernardino, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • Format: On-campus
  • Expected Time to Completion: Nine months
  • Estimated Tuition: $15,788

UEI College

UEI, a private trade school, has several campuses that offer HVAC training, including one in Riverside. The training is a combination of hands-on practice in a modern lab and classroom lectures. Students in this program will be provided with the experience and knowledge needed for entry-level positions in the HVAC industry. They develop the skills required for installing and maintaining HVAC equipment.

The curriculum includes electricity, motors, and controls; refrigeration theory and application; HVAC; troubleshooting; heat pump systems; heating systems; duct design, reading blueprints, load calculation; commercial and specialized refrigeration systems, green awareness; regulations; and building automation.

Students will also complete an externship and prepare for the Section 608 and R-410 certification exams. Passing the Section 608 exam is required for graduation. Passing the R-410 exam is advised but not required for graduation. Graduates receive a diploma and are prepared to seek entry-level employment as HVAC and HVAC/R technicians, HVAC mechanics, or HVAC specialists.

  • Location: Riverside, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Expected Time to Completion: Ten months
  • Estimated Tuition: $19,900

Riverside students who are unable to attend one of the above schools may find that online HVAC training at an accredited online school may better meet their needs.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Riverside, CA

Many schools prepare students for industry certification exams. The most important one is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification, which all techs who handle refrigerants must obtain. The certification exam tests the technician’s ability to handle refrigerants safely. Four levels of certification are available based on the type and size of equipment the technician works on. Technicians who work on all equipment should take the exam for Universal certification. Practice exams are available.

Technicians may obtain Section 608 and other industry certifications, as well as additional training from industry organizations such as the following:

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

There is also more information on the HVAC certifications page, as well as on each organization’s web page.

An employed HVAC or HVAC/R technician in California is not required to obtain a state license. Self-employed technicians are classified as contractors and must obtain the required specialty license from the California Contractors State Licensing Board. HVAC contractors need a C-20 license, and C-38 licenses are for refrigeration contractors.

All applicants must pass exams in business, trade, and law unless they have proof of five years of journey-level experience with a licensed contractor. They must also submit proof of the following to obtain a 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. The initial license and renewals require a fee.

The City of Riverside requires all companies doing business within the city to obtain a business license. Licenses are renewed annually.

As licensing guidelines are always subject to change, HVAC technicians are encouraged to ensure that they comply with state, county, and city licensing agencies before working on any 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.