How to Become an HVAC Tech in California
Considering a career in HVACR? Its a great time to get started, as construction continues to drive the need for skilled techs. You will need to find a program that gets you ready for certification.
Education and Training
Like in other technical fields, people in the HVAC industry require the right education and training to succeed. As such, many HVAC technicians pursue post-secondary training through technical and trade schools, as well as community colleges.
Check out these HVACR training programs in your area for more information.
How Long Does it Take?
The course options above take about 9 to 12 months. These 330 hour courses are online so you can control your pace.
Other programs in California might take you anywhere between 6 months to 2 years. The time it takes you to complete your coursework and certification is influenced by different factors such as the training program structure, delivery format, and your availability.
It’s also worth noting that full-time programs take less time compared to part-time programs. Before choosing a program, make sure you look into your availability and what you plan to achieve for a successful journey toward becoming an HVAC technician.
How Much Does It Cost?
Online programs such as the one above cost about $3000. This cost includes instructional materials and textbooks.
According to the International Association of Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration (IHACI), other programs can vary from a few thousand dollars to as much as $15,000.
Many factors go into calculating the cost, including the type of program, the particular institution you choose, your location, and the course duration. Many programs offer financial assistance such as scholarships, grants, and other forms of support.
What Will You Study?
During HVAC training, aspiring technicians delve into a range of essential subjects while also gaining hands-on experience. Here are some key areas that should be part of any class.
- Principles of heat, energy & cooling
- Safety & Best Practices – using tools and operating equipments
- Controls – how do automated components operate?
- System Components – condensers, compressors, cooling towers and heat pumps
- Commercial refrigeration
- AC dynamics such as heating, cooling and humidity
- Home appliances
- Real world simulations
- Soft skills for the job
To work as an HVAC professional in California, it’s necessary to obtain a C-20 Warm Air Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Contractor License. This license can be acquired through two avenues: completing formal education and on-the-job training, or accumulating four years of journeyman work experience.
While getting the required license is crucial, HVAC technicians have the opportunity to enhance their career prospects and expand their knowledge by pursuing additional certifications. Two popular certifications in the field are:
- The EPA license is required for anyone who handles refrigerants and demonstrates their understanding of safe handling and disposal practices.
- NATE certification is nationally recognized and validates a technician’s technical expertise and knowledge of HVAC systems.
The course listed above are geared towards prepping you for these certifications.
If you’re on a mission to become a skilled HVAC technician, one of the best paths toward that goal involves enrolling in an apprenticeship program. In California, these programs are usually available through industry associations or trade unions.
Some of the reputable associations in the region include:
- Air-Conditioning Contractors of America (TACCA)
- United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry (UA)
- Air-Conditioning Contractors of America (TACCA)
- The Association of Air Conditioning Professionals.
When you opt for an apprenticeship program, you’ll have the opportunity to work alongside experienced HVAC technicians, who will guide you through every step of the way while receiving a stipend.
The length of the apprenticeship may differ based on the program, but it usually lasts between three and five years.
In California, HVAC contractors and technicians who work on systems worth more than $500 must acquire state licensure. The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is the governing body responsible for regulating the industry and ensuring compliance.
To get a license, applicants must meet certain requirements, which include:
- Obtaining a minimum of four years of experience working in HVAC
- Apply for Original Contractors License C-20 specialty
- Passing a state exam
- Get EPA Section 608 Certification
- Purchasing a bond of $15,000
Keep in mind that the licensure requirements can differ depending on the area of specialization within the HVAC industry. Therefore, conducting thorough research to understand the criteria applicable to your specific field is vital.
Acquiring a state license not only fulfills legal obligations but also instills confidence in customers, assuring them of your qualifications and ability to deliver top-quality HVAC services.
If you intend to become an HVAC professional in California, you will need to pass two exams in order to obtain licensure. The HVAC exam and the business and law exam are both required, and passing scores for both are 70% or higher.
The HVAC exam is 100 multiple-choice questions and will test your knowledge of HVAC systems. You must complete it in four hours to attain at least 70%.
The business and law exam, meanwhile, has 50 multiple-choice questions. You will have two hours to complete this test, and it focuses on California’s HVAC laws as well as general business practices.
As a unique requirement in California, HVAC contractors must also complete the Asbestos Open Book Examination. This exam aims to prioritize the safe handling of HVAC systems during installation or repairs to ensure the safety of workers and others in the area.
Salary in the top 5 cities in the state
- Los Angeles: $58,267 per year
- San Diego: $64,459 annually
- San Jose:$70,128 per year
- San Francisco: $79,237 per year
- Sacramento: $61,321 for 12 months
The career outlook for HVACR technicians is very positive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a solid 5% growth rate in employment for HVACR technicians from 2021 to 2031. This means that there are expected to be plenty of opportunities for those thinking about entering or advancing in this career field.
All in all, a career as an HVACR technician could be a smart choice if you’re considering a career in a field with stable job prospects and potential for growth.