HVAC Training Schools in Stockton, CA

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Stockton, California (CA) is located within the San Joaquin Valley and surrounded by the waterways of the California Delta. The San Joaquin River connects Stockton to the San Francisco Bay, creating an inland seaport city.

Initially settled by Native Americans, the city saw an influx of Europeans during the California Gold Rush days. Agriculture later became the mainstay of the economy. The seaport, waterways, railways, airport, and highway system helped Stockton attract new businesses and diversify the economy. Its financial success backfired when the real estate bubble burst and in 2012, the city filed for bankruptcy. It has since recovered, and recent economic reports are optimistic about continued growth, indicating that “Stockton not only has turned the corner from the recession and is now one of the most fiscally solvent cities in the country.”

Another economist explained that “the e-commerce revolution” has led to “increasing number of logistics and distribution centers throughout the region. Warehouse construction and operations, trucking, and myriad related businesses have brought jobs, income, and consumer spending on housing, goods, and services.” He adds that the economic outlook “generally is positive.”

Stockton’s weather is hot and dry during the summer and mild and wet during the winter. Although the temperatures on summer days soar into the 90s, the nights are typically 30 to 40 degrees cooler. Rainfall is scant. The winter temperatures hover around the 60s during daylight hours and drop to the 40s at night. Freezing temperatures are rare. Rain can exceed three inches a month during the winter, but it is seldom cold enough to snow.

Although the weather isn’t as extreme in Stockton as it is in other cities, the residents need heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) to work, play, and relax in comfort. The upswing in the economy and expected continued growth in tech businesses have created an additional need for climate-controlled facilities. Agriculture and related support industries require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) reports that 340 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in the Stockton-Lodi, CA area as of May 2018. Various industry organizations provide support and training to technicians. These include:

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

Industry organizations work with governmental agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance guidelines designed to ensure the health and safety of members and the public.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Stockton, CA

Job opportunities for HVAC technicians are increasing nationwide. The BLS (2019) expects the demand for new technicians nationally to increase 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. That is much faster than the average 7 percent increase projected for all occupations in the U.S. during the same decade. The demand for new technicians in California is growing even faster than national expectations. Projections Central predicts a 19.6 percent statewide increase in the demand for technicians by the end of 2026.

The rapid growth of the HVAC industry is attributed to several factors. Equipment and systems in older structures must be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet contemporary standards for energy efficiency and reducing pollution. The construction of new residences and commercial facilities contributes significantly to the installation of modern climate control systems. The expansion of e-commerce in Stockton requires “smart” systems that are technologically advanced.

Modern climate control systems are complex and require trained technicians to install and maintain. Technicians must be proficient with electronics and computer-controlled equipment. Those with excellent troubleshooting skills typically have better job prospects. Workers who specialize in new installations occasionally experience seasonal unemployment, but Stockton’s flourishing economy makes that unlikely. Homeowners and businesses depend on their equipment and systems regardless of the economy, so technicians skilled in maintenance and repair services can expect year-round employment.

HVAC Salaries in Stockton, CA

The BLS (May 2019) reported that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $47,610 as of May 2018. Technicians in the Stockton-Lodi, CA area received an annual median salary of $45,270. The table below shows the differences in national, California, and Stockton-Lodi salaries of HVAC professionals:

United States California Stockton-Lodi, CA
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 27,720 340
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $58,130 $47,320
10th Percentile $29,460 $32,900 $28,260
25th Percentile $36,520 $39,610 $32,860
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $55,140 $45,270
75th Percentile $60,900 $70,020 $59,490
90th Percentile $76,230 $94,380 $66,840

HVAC Apprenticeships in Stockton, CA

HVAC and HVAC/R workers traditionally learned the craft through on-the-job training. Most workers now serve an apprenticeship or attend classes. Trained workers have better employment opportunities, typically start at higher beginning wages, and potentially earn more throughout their career.

The typical apprenticeship takes three to five years of on-the-job training coordinated with classroom work. Apprentices who complete the program are granted journey-level status.

The State of California Department of Industrial Relations maintains a database of apprenticeship programs. As of July 2019, four HVAC-related programs are available in San Joaquin County; however, not all programs are accepting apprentices at all times. The programs are sponsored by the Pipe Trades and Sheet Metal Workers unions at their Joint Apprentice Training Committee (JATC) centers.

California Apprenticeship Coordinators Association provides trade apprenticeships throughout the state. A five-year HVAC apprenticeship program is available in Modesto, sponsored by UA Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 442.

The Institute of Heating and Air Conditioning Industries, Inc sponsors HVAC training modules at the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Energy Training Center in Stockton. The classes are conducted in the evenings and include subjects such as:

  • Gas heating
  • Refrigeration
  • Commercial HVAC/R
  • Air distribution

Each module is independent of the others so that students take only those relevant to their employment goals.

Additional HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs are available through national industry associations such as:

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

Details are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Stockton, CA

As an alternative to an apprenticeship, workers may choose to attend an accredited school. Accreditation is the process of evaluating the quality of an educational program by an independent agency. The program curriculum and instructors are evaluated. When choosing a school, it’s essential to verify that it is accredited and the credibility of the organization that accredited it.

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
  • El Camino College, Torrance, CA
  • Mount San Antonio Community College, Walnut, CA
  • North American Training Center, Redlands, CA

Mount San Antonio Community College is included in the schools profiled below, as it is the closest school with accreditation, although attending would probably require Stockton students to temporarily relocate as the commute is too long to be practical otherwise.

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.

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: Modesto, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Tuition: $17,888
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 40 weeks

Mount San Antonio Community College

Mount Sac offers an HVAC/R technology certificate and degree program. Students in both programs attend classroom lectures and receive hands-on training in the lab. Students may transfer credits earned in either program to a four-year program after consultation with an academic advisor.

The curriculum for the certificate program includes the following: air properties and management, codes and standards, electrical fundamentals,
gas heating, heat load calculations and design, mechanical refrigeration, refrigeration fundamentals, technical mathematics, and welding. Students complete 31.5 units to earn their certificate and are qualified to seek entry-level employment as HVAC technicians.

Students enrolled in the degree program complete 60 units that include the above coursework as well as selected general education from the categories of communication and critical thinking, science and math, art and humanities, social science, lifelong understanding, and electives.

  • Location: Walnut, CA
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; HVAC Excellence; Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificate one year; degree two years

San Joaquin Delta College

The college offers two certificate programs, one for HVAC and one for refrigeration, as well as an HVAC/R degree program. Coursework for all programs includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab.

The curriculum for the HVAC certificate program includes: air conditioning, refrigeration, components and circuits, troubleshooting, HVAC systems, heat pumps, residential gas heating, commercial gas heating, industrial safety and health, and industrial mathematics.

Students may choose from electives that include the fundamentals of electricity, commercial air conditioning design, metal trade layout and forming, and welding. Students complete 43 units to earn their certificate.

Students seeking the refrigeration certificate complete the same curriculum but with some differences in their choice of electives. They complete 30 units to earn their certificate.

The curriculum for the degree program includes all the coursework in the certificate programs as well as required general education coursework. Students complete 60 units to earn their degree.

  • Location: Stockton, CA
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificates 18 months; degree two years

UEI College

UEI, a private institution, offers an HVAC certificate program. Coursework is a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. Classes are available days and evenings.

The curriculum includes the following:

  • Basic electricity, motors, and controls
  • Refrigeration theory and application
  • HVAC troubleshooting
  • Heat pump systems
  • Heating systems and boilers
  • Duct design
  • Blueprint reading
  • Green awareness
  • Regulation and building automation
  • Electrical and mechanical troubleshooting
  • Preparation for industry exams

Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment as HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Stockton, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
  • Tuition: $19,900
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 41 weeks

Stockton students may prefer to attend an online school due to time or distance restrictions. For more information on accredited programs available, visit the online HVAC training page here.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Stockton, CA

HVAC technicians that work with refrigerants are required by federal law to obtain Section 608 certification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Workers must pass an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. Four levels of certification are available, based on the kind and size of equipment. Technicians who work on all types of HVAC systems typically obtain the Universal certification, which includes all equipment. Practice exams are available on the EPA website, and various organizations offer classes and opportunities to pass the exams.

Additional certifications increase the employability of technicians. Industry organizations offer training and certifications, including Section 608 certification. These include, but are not limited to:

  • HVAC Excellence – trains HVAC technicians and certifies their competence
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE) – provides training and certification in HVAC and HVAC/R knowledge
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) – certified instructors teach basic and advanced HVAC and HVAC/R coursework online

Their websites include details about the certifications, cost, and requirements. Visit the HVAC certifications page for further information.

The California Contractors State Licensing Board requires HVAC contractors to be licensed for all projects that exceed $500. HVAC technicians are not required to be licensed unless they are self-employed. Self-employed individuals are considered contractors. Obtaining a license requires submitting a completed application, a fee, and proof of the following:

  • Four years of journey-level experience
  • At least $2,500 in working capital proof
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • General liability insurance
  • A bond

Applicants are also expected to pass an exam on business and a second one on trade and law. Technicians who submit proof of five years of journey-level experience with a licensed contractor may apply for an exam waiver. All applicants must disclose criminal convictions and be fingerprinted. Licenses are renewed every two years.

Neither the County of San Joaquin nor the City of Stockton requires an additional contractor’s license. However, the City requires contractors and self-employed technicians to obtain an annual business license. The fee varies.

HVAC technicians are responsible for complying with changing licensing and certification requirements, and are therefore encouraged to contact the relevant agencies before beginning 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.