HVAC Schools in Sacramento, CA – Degrees & Certification

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During the summer, Sacramento, California is ranked as one of the sunniest locations in the United States, with July boasting more than 14 hours of sunshine a day. Summers are hot, and winters are wet and often foggy. Sacramento is the sixth largest city in California and the fastest growing city in the state. With varied temperatures ranging from the 30s to 90s F coupled with the expanding population, Sacramento residents have a growing demand for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals to remain comfortable.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019), there were 2,700 HVAC installation, mechanical, and maintenance workers employed in the Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade area, and California’s capital is home to two trade associations that serve the HVAC industry:

  • The Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA): Members are non-union HVAC, mechanical, and service contractors
  • The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA): Members are union HVAC contractors in Sacramento and surrounding areas

Notably, the following nationwide organizations also provide training and support to HVAC and refrigeration (HVAC/R) technicians:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

These and other associations and societies have chapters throughout California as well as online services.

So what do these professionals do within Sacramento? HVAC and HVAC/R workers install, maintain, and service equipment that controls air quality and temperature. They work in private residences, offices, institutions, and hospitals. Technicians must be able to follow blueprints and design specifications. They may be responsible for verifying that installations are in compliance with state and federal regulations.

Technicians must understand the wiring and controls that each kind of equipment takes, and be able to test and calibrate those controls. Another part of their work involves connecting equipment to air ducts, electrical, piping lines, and other components. They inspect and service installed systems, which can include troubleshooting to locate and repair defective parts. The work of HVAC and HVAC/R technicians requires knowing how to use a variety of hand and specialized tools. They solder or braze parts when needed. Technicians travel to job sites and maintain detailed records of all work performed. Each technician is responsible for keeping all their certifications and licensing current.

This guide covers HVAC training schools in Sacramento, including the expected salaries, industry growth, and how to get certified.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Workers in Sacramento, CA

The demand for HVAC technicians nationwide continues to grow. According to the BLS (May 2019), the number of technicians openings in the U.S. is expected to grow 13 percent between 2018 to 2028. That’s much faster than the average expected growth over that same decade for all occupations (5 percent).

According to the Forbes rankings for “Best Places for Doing Business and Careers,” the major industries in the Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA metropolitan area are government, healthcare, and technology. Notably, all three of these industries depend on climate-controlled buildings.

HVAC and HVAC/R growth in Sacramento, CA is fueled by several factors, including:

  • Construction of new commercial buildings and residences
  • Increased demand for climate control
  • Increased complexity of new climate control systems
  • Requirements that older systems be replaced, retrofitted, or repaired
  • A contemporary focus on improving energy efficiency and reducing pollution

The BLS (May 2019) reported that most HVAC technicians are employed by construction companies, and nine percent are self-employed. Others work for schools and retail or wholesale companies. Technicians usually work full time, although many put in overtime hours during peak demand.

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians work indoors and outdoors in bad weather. Indoor work can be uncomfortably hot or cold when systems fail. They may also have to work in cramped areas that force them into awkward positions. It’s worth noting that technicians experience a higher rate of injury than workers in other trades. Injuries can include electrical shocks, burns, or muscle strains from moving heavy equipment. Workers are also exposed to toxic chemicals.

There’s perhaps no better way to demonstrate the thriving HVAC industry in an area than through a common job search online. The 180 job listings on Indeed (July 2020) were primarily for technicians experienced with installing and repairing residential HVAC systems. The 214 listings on Monster (July 2020) included a need for an HVAC service manager. In short, the HVAC industry is especially robust in Sacramento.

HVAC Worker Salary in Sacramento, CA

The BLS (May 2019) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730 as of May 2019. Technicians in Sacramento, CA received an annual median salary of $56,330.

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

The BLS (May 2019) reported the following salary figures in the Sacramento area:

United States California Sacramento, CA
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 29,650 2,700
Annual mean wage $51,420 $59,550 $55,830
10th percentile $30,610 $33,580 $33,210
25th percentile $37,660 $41,730 $41,610
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $56,690 $56,330
75th percentile $62,070 $71,710 $65,970
90th percentile $77,920 $93,740 $78,370

The national figures were a bit different according to another source of data, Payscale (July 2020), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles for the United States:

  • 10th percentile: $31,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,097
  • 90th percentile: $74,000

HVAC Apprenticeships in Sacramento, CA

Although individuals may eventually work their way up to become HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers without formal training, those who complete an apprenticeship program or attend an accredited school generally can start with higher wages and may earn more throughout their career.

Heres are two standout HVAC apprenticeship offerings in the Sacramento area.

Sacramento-Sierra’s Building & Construction Trades Council

The Sacramento-Sierra’s Building & Construction Trades Council sponsors the Sheet Metal Worker/HVAC Mechanic Apprenticeship Program. Applicants for this apprenticeship must be:

  • At least 18 years old (proof of age required)
  • Able to perform physical tasks and activities
  • A high-school graduate or have GED equivalent
  • Able to pass a drug-screen test
  • Able to provide a DMV printout of driving record
  • Able to pass a written entrance exam that includes math

After meeting the requirements to enter the program, applicants seek employment with a company from a list of participating businesses. Workers are qualified as pre-apprentice employees until their employer sponsors their entrance into the apprenticeship program. They must also receive acceptance from the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) before entering the program. The apprenticeship program lasts 60 months. Apprentices learn the following through coursework and hands-on-training:

  • Safety
  • Welding and soldering
  • Use of tools and equipment
  • Green construction practices
  • Pattern development and drafting
  • Plans and specifications
  • Codes and Standards, including the California Mechanical Code
  • LEED, Title 24, and SMACNA standards
  • Testing, balancing, servicing, and repair
  • Energy costs and efficient HVAC systems
  • Principles of airflow and efficient duct design
  • Fasteners and hangers that meet seismic requirements
  • Fabrication and installation methods

More information, including videos, is available on their website.

  • Location: Sacramento, CA
  • Duration: 60 months

Air Conditioning Trade Association

The Air Conditioning Trade Association offers apprenticeship programs and other classes online. Graduates receive a certificate of completion. Those who finish 6,500 work hours and pass the journey-level exam will receive the journey-level card, enabling them to work at the higher-paying journey-level jobs. The website includes information on requirements and course work.

This program teaches apprentices how to read blueprints, as well as install and fabricate them. They also learn how to take on supervisory responsibilities on making journeymen. Classes include specific assignments assuring that students receive actual hands-on experience. To further their understanding, students also attend 12-hour weekend lab sessions four times a year. As part of these, they receive hands-on training from ACTA instructors and also take exams based on the activities completed.

  • Location: Manteca, CA
  • Duration: Four years

Accredited HVAC Schools in Sacramento, CA

Charles A. Jones Career & Education Center

The Charles A. Jones Career & Education Center, operated by the Sacramento City Unified School District, also offers an HVAC training program. The program includes 990 hours during a 33-week program. The classes are accredited by the Commission of the Council on Occupational Education. Students participate in coursework and hands-on demonstrations of skills. They learn how to install and repair HVAC equipment in large and small systems. They are taught how to handle refrigerants safely. Graduates receive a certificate of completion and skills sheet as a “Heating/Air Conditioning Installer and Service Technician.”

Admission requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent, attending CAJ orientation, and assessment test scores (Reading: 230; Math: 235).

Students in this program delve into topics such as fundamentals of refrigeration; heating and air conditioning safety, tools, components and terminology; airflow and heat load; service and repair of window units, split systems, package systems; green awareness; and critical thinking and proper troubleshooting techniques.

  • Location: Sacramento, CA
  • Expected Time to Completion: 33 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $9,295 for the program

Center for Employment Training

Students can also receive hands-on training in HVAC and green technology at the Center for Employment Training where they will learn the skills needed for servicing and installing HVAC systems. They will learn about safety, basic electricity, hand tools, as well as equipment related to HVAC maintenance and repair. Apart from tools and equipment, they will also learn about the basics of refrigeration, silver brazing, soldering, and ductwork. Students will have the opportunity to work with actual commercial and residential HVAC systems for rebuilding, tear down, installation, and troubleshooting.

Program courses include HVAC safety and tools; HVAC mathematics; principles of electricity; refrigeration and recovery; heating equipment; pipe fitting, brazing, and soldering; duct work; green HVAC technology; basic computers; and customer service. The program takes 900 hours, which the average student can complete in eight or nine months.

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to take up various entry-level jobs in HVAC field, including that of an HVAC installer/ or service technician or helper; refrigeration mechanic or repairer; air conditioning installer or service technician; commercial or residential HVAC installer or service technician or helper.

  • Location: Coachella, Colton, Sacramento, and San Jose, California
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Eight to nine months
  • Estimated Tuition: $14,500

Sacramento City College

Sacramento City College offers a certificate of achievement and associate of science (AS) degree programs for HVAC. These programs are a part of the engineering design technology program offered by the college. The certificate class teaches students how to prepare HVAC mechanical designs for buildings. It requires 32 units of coursework. The HVAC systems design degree program requires 60 units to be completed within two years. Students continue to learn how to develop HVAC system designs using computer-aided design (CAD) technology.

Courses in these programs include technical graphics with CAD, building mechanical design documents, beginning 3D modeling-CREO, plumbing and piping systems design, building electrical design documents, architectural/structural drafting, building electrical systems design, and work experience in engineering design technology.

Students will develop a number of practical skills through the program such as performing design calculations, building mechanical and plumbing systems, applying commonly used design techniques, and developing proficiency in using CAD software. They are prepared for entry-level employment in electrical, mechanical, and architecture engineering, and commercial construction fields.

  • Location: Sacramento, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months for the AS degree
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($46 per unit); Non-resident ($353 per unit)

There is a wealth of accredited programs within other regions of CA, including the PAHRA-accredited Mount San Antonio Community College of Walnut, CA and the HVAC-Excellence accredited El Camino College, Torrance, CA.

Mount San Antonio Community College

Mount San Antonio Community College, located in Walnut, offers an associate of science (AS) degree in air conditioning & refrigeration and a certificate of achievement in air conditioning & refrigeration. These programs impart the theory-based and hands-on fundamentals of dealing with HVAC systems, including performing residential heat loads, troubleshooting components, and properly disposing of refrigerants.

Courses in these degree programs include welding for air conditioning and refrigeration; air conditioning codes and standards; refrigeration fundamentals; electrical fundamentals for air conditioning and refrigeration; gas heating fundamentals; and advanced mechanical refrigeration.

Most notably, Mount San Antonio has the distinction of being the only program in the Golden State to be both HVAC Excellence- and PAHRA-accredited. The certificate consists of 31.5 credit-hours and the associate of science (AS) degree is made up of 64.5 credit-hours.

Along with classroom knowledge, students also gain valuable hands-on experience with handling refrigerants, welding, electrical and mechanical operations, and building automation.

  • Location: Walnut, CA
  • Accreditation: Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA); HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (12 months); AS degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: $46 per unit

El Camino College

El Camino College offers an associate in arts degree and numerous certificates of achievement in air conditioning and refrigeration. Students in these programs develop valuable skills in troubleshooting, installation, and service of commercial, industrial, and residential heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems. They become proficient at reading wiring diagrams, diagnosing control circuits, interpreting the Uniform Mechanical Code, operating equipment for tests, and servicing pneumatic and electronic controls. Students completing these programs can work as advanced apprentices or entry-level HVAC technicians upon graduation.

The air conditioning and refrigeration electric controls certificate consists of 13 credit-hours. It includes courses such as electrical applications; HVAC electronics; refrigeration and air conditioning control systems; electric control; and HVAC customer service and environmental protection agency (EPA) and NATE certification training.

The refrigeration certificate also consists of 13 credit-hours. The curriculum includes courses such as refrigeration and air conditioning control systems; commercial refrigeration applications; air conditioning fundamentals; and HVAC customer service, and environmental protection agency (EPA) and NATE certification training.

The air conditioning certificate comprises 17 credit-hours. Sample some of the courses: electrical applications; heating technologies; air conditioning fundamentals; energy-efficient residential, commercial and industrial air conditioning; and HVAC customer service and environmental protection agency (EPA) and NATE certification training.

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and refrigeration certificate is made up of 39 credit-hours and includes all the above-mentioned courses, with the addition of fundamentals of automation systems; energy control and optimization systems; and business mathematics.

Finally, the associate in arts degree is made up of 60 credit-hours, and includes all courses from the above-mentioned certificates. It also includes additional electives such as cooperative work experience education; business mathematics; building fundamentals; and computer information systems.

  • Location: Torrance, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: AA degree (24 months); certificate (12 to 24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($46 per unit)

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Sacramento, CA

All technicians who work with refrigerants are required by federal law to obtain the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing exams on the safe handling of refrigerants. Four levels of certification are available that apply to the size and type of equipment. The Universal certification allows technicians to work on all equipment. Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations. These include:

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) – Courses are taught by certified instructors and are available online. Technicians can study basic and advanced HVAC and HVAC/R principles.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE) – Training and certification in HVAC and HVAC/R knowledge areas.
  • HVAC Excellence – Dedicated to improving HVAC technician competence through training and certification.

These and others offer Section 608 testing and certification.

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who are employed in California are not required to be licensed, but self-employed technicians and contractors who provide services exceeding $500 must be licensed by the State Contractors License Board. The HVAC trades are classified as a Class “C” Specialty Contractor’s License and given a designation of C20 – Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor.

As a final note, depending on the scope of the HVAC work involved, residents of Sacramento and the surrounding areas may be required to get permits from the Community Development Division of the City.

It’s strongly recommended that all HVAC professionals ensure they have all necessary credentialing prior to beginning work.

Farheen Gani

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).