How to Become an HVAC Tech in California

Did you know that California is the 2nd highest state in the nation for HVAC employment?  And average annual salary in the state is over $70K.

Education and Training

If you want to get started in this field, consider one of the online training course below.

Search HVACR Certified Technician Programs

Get information on HVACR Certified Technician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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How Will This Course Benefit Me?

The course prepares students for these certification exams:

HVAC Excellence Professional Exam

HVAC excellence logo

NATE Core and Specialty Test

NATE logo

EPA 608 certification exam

EPA logo

What Will You Study?

  • Fundamentals of HVACR:
    • Introduction to the principles of heat, temperature, pressure, matter, and energy.
    • Overview of refrigeration, refrigerants, and the chemistry and management of refrigeration oils.
    • Basic electricity and magnetism, including an introduction to automatic controls and their components and applications.

    Safety and Tools:

    • General safety practices and simulation safety quizzes.
    • Overview of tools, equipment, and shop practices, including fasteners, tubing, and piping.
    • Leak detection, system evacuation, and cleanup processes.

    System Management:

    • Techniques for recovery, recycling, reclaiming, retrofitting, and system charging.
    • Calibration of instruments and troubleshooting basic and advanced control systems, including Direct Digital Controls (DDCs) and pneumatics.

    Motor and Electrical Controls:

    • Types and applications of electric motors.
    • Motor controls and troubleshooting electric motors.

    Commercial Refrigeration:

    • Components of commercial refrigeration systems including evaporators, condensers, compressors, and expansion devices.
    • Special systems like commercial ice machines and troubleshooting commercial refrigeration.

    Heating and Air Quality:

    • Different heating systems: electric, gas, oil, and hydronic.
    • Indoor air quality management and air-conditioning specifics including cooling, comfort, and psychometrics.

    System Installation and Maintenance:

    • Air distribution and balance, installation, and residential energy auditing.
    • Operation and troubleshooting of chilled-water air-conditioning systems, including high-pressure, low-pressure, and absorption systems.

    Advanced HVACR Applications:

    • All-weather systems, heat pumps (air source and geothermal), and domestic appliances (refrigerators, freezers, room air conditioners).
    • Commercial air-conditioning systems including rooftop, variable refrigerant flow, and variable air volume systems.

    Professional Skills and Simulation:

    • Soft skills development for HVACR technicians, covering communication, decision-making, time management, problem-solving, and accepting responsibility.
    • Simulation challenge modes for HVAC and electricity.

student review

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.

How Much Does It Cost?

Online programs such as the one above cost about $3100.  This cost includes instructional materials and textbooks.

According to the International Association of Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration or  IHACI, other programs can vary from a few thousand dollars to as much as $15,000.

Other Local Trade School Programs

    Carrington College
    Affordable 10 month HVAC-R certificate program accredited by ACCJC.

    • Citrus Heights, Pleasant Hill, Sacramento, San Jose, San Leandro, Stockton


    Charter College
    10 month HVAC/R blended learning program for entry level positions.

    • Canyon Country, Lancaster, Oxnard


    Institute of Technology
    Accelerated HVAC training in hybrid format.

    • Clovis, Modesto, Redding


    InterCoast Colleges
    In-class and online program. ICC will help you get a GED if you dont have one.

    • Anaheim, Fairfield, Rancho Cordova, Riverside, West Covina


    San Joaquin Valley College
    SJVC’s Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVAC-R) program prepares students for careers in the heating and cooling industry, offering a Certificate of Completion in as few as 10 months. The program covers essential skills such as heating and cooling principles, electrical theories, diagnosing mechanical and electrical problems, and proper installation and servicing techniques. Students receive hands-on training and courses in refrigeration theory, electrical applications, and air distribution systems, with flexible learning options available at eight locations and affordable tuition.

    • Atascadero, Bakersfield, Delano, Fresno, Hanford, Hesperia, Lancaster, Madera, Salida, Ontario, Porterville, Rancho Cordova, Temecula, Visalia


    Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology

    • Inglewood, Riverside


    Summit College

    • Colton, San Diego, Anaheim


    UEI College

    • Anaheim, Bakersfield, Chula Vista, Encino, Fresno, Gardena, Huntington Park, Ontario, Riverside, Sacramento, San Marcos, Stockton, West Covina


    Universal Technical Institute
    7 month program that for entry-level careers in HVACR including certifications like NATE, R410a and OSHA.

    • Long Beach, Rancho Cucamonga, Sacramento


Salary Range

Average Salary Survey for CA

Below are some local numbers from the BLS.

Area Hourly Annual
Bakersfield $30.85 $64,180.00
Chico $25.61 $53,260.00
Eastern Sierra-Mother Lode $28.98 $60,280.00
El Centro $29.14 $60,610.00
Fresno $29.80 $61,980.00
Hanford-Corcoran $32.20 $66,970.00
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim $34.69 $72,160.00
Madera $27.34 $56,870.00
Merced $28.45 $59,180.00
Modesto $30.79 $64,030.00
Napa $32.58 $67,760.00
North Coast $30.35 $63,130.00
North Valley-Northern Mountains $27.23 $56,630.00
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura $30.17 $62,750.00
Redding $28.14 $58,530.00
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario $31.17 $64,830.00
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade $32.73 $68,080.00
Salinas $30.43 $63,300.00
San Diego-Carlsbad $31.80 $66,140.00
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward $38.40 $79,870.00
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara $43.99 $91,500.00
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande $30.50 $63,440.00
Santa Cruz-Watsonville $34.48 $71,720.00
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara $34.72 $72,220.00
Santa Rosa $33.17 $68,980.00
Stockton-Lodi $29.77 $61,910.00
Vallejo-Fairfield $29.93 $62,250.00
Visalia-Porterville $26.88 $55,910.00
Yuba City $29.12 $60,560.00

Occupation: Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers (SOC Code499021)
source: data.bls.gov

California Requirements

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.

Contractors State License Board logo

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 is geared towards prepping you for these certifications.

Apprenticeships

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:

Association of Air Conditioning Professionals logo

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.

State Licensure

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 (included in the course above)
  • 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.

Exams

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

California HVAC Certification logo

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 Law & Business exam

The business and law exam 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.

Asbestos Open Book Examination

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.

Career Outlook

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.

Search HVACR Certified Technician Programs

Get information on HVACR Certified Technician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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