How to Become an HVAC Technician in California

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Are you a natural problem-solver who thrives on working with your hands?

Consider becoming an HVAC technician – it could be an ideal career for you.

As an HVAC tech in California, you’ll diagnose and repair a variety of issues daily, like airflow problems, temperature control, and electrical circuits.

With the skills to service residential and commercial equipment, you can look forward to rewarding work and job security for years. Up for the challenge?

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How to Become an HVAC Technician in California, Step by Step

In California, specifically, the demand for HVAC technicians is high due to the state’s growing population and infrastructure needs.

California ranks second in the US with the highest employment level in this occupation.

This growth can be attributed to several factors, including:

  • There is an increasing demand for energy-efficient and environmentally friendly HVAC systems, which require the installation, maintenance, and repair services of HVAC technicians.
  • There is a need to replace older HVAC systems with newer, more efficient models.
  • The construction of new residential and commercial buildings will require the installation of HVAC systems.
  • California, along with the entire United States, is experiencing a noticeable rise in temperatures.
  • This increasing heat is expected to lead to a greater number of individuals relying on air conditioners for their safety and comfort.

While no formal education is required to become an HVAC technician, understanding the licensing process is critical for success.

In the following steps, I will explain how you can become a California state HVAC license technician.

1. Get Educated

Many HVAC technicians receive postsecondary education from technical and trade schools or community colleges.

These heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (sometimes called HVAC-R) programs generally last from six months to two years and lead to a certificate or an associate’s degree.

2. Get Training and Experience

Typically, new HVAC technicians work alongside more seasoned ones.

They can eventually handle more difficult jobs like troubleshooting electrical circuits, replacing important components, and brazing or welding refrigerant piping.

Initially, they only performed the fundamental maintenance and cleaning tasks.

3. Apprenticeships

To pursue a career as an HVAC/R technician, it is necessary to start by gaining practical experience as an apprentice under the guidance of a licensed technician.

This apprenticeship typically entails dedicating up to 2,000 hours to learning the trade.

However, it’s important to note that securing an apprenticeship can be highly competitive.

Enhancing your chances of success can be accomplished by obtaining formal training and earning a “work-ready” certificate, as these credentials demonstrate your preparedness for the field.

4. Get Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In California, HVAC contractors are required to hold a license, but HVAC technicians are not.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State issues the Warm Air Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Class C 20 Specialty Contractor License.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires certification for all technicians who buy, handle, or work with refrigerants.

This is commonly called Section 608 Universal Certification.

Many trade schools, unions, and employer associations offer training programs to prepare students for the exam.

License Board

The duration of becoming a licensed HVAC technician in California can differ based on the chosen training program.

Certificate programs usually require around 6 months to 1 year for completion, providing a faster route to enter the field.

On the other hand, associate degree programs generally span over two years, providing a more comprehensive education.

It’s worth noting that certain programs offer accelerated options or part-time schedules to cater to the individual needs and preferences of students.

These flexible arrangements allow students to customize their learning experience and adjust the pace of their studies accordingly.

Ultimately, the choice between a certificate program and an associate degree program depends on various factors, including career goals, time availability, and personal circumstances.

Regardless of the chosen path, both options provide valuable training and knowledge to embark on a fulfilling career as an HVAC technician in California.

Training Schools

Mount San Antonio Community College:Mount San Antonio Community College:

  • Location: Walnut, California
  • Accreditation: A degree or certificate
  • Expected time to completion: The AS degree program can be completed in 24 months, and the certificate program can be completed in 12 months
  • Cost: In-State $2,760.00, Out-Of-State $20,040.00

Brownson Technical SchoolBrownson Technical School

  • Location: Anaheim, California
  • Accreditation: Certified
  • Expected time to completion: 40 weeks
  • Cost: Tuition and fees vary depending on the program.

Chico State Professional and Continuing EducationChico State Professional and Continuing Education

  • Location: Online
  • Accreditation: Enrolling in the HVAC/R Technician Certification program will give you the knowledge and abilities you need to become certified as an entry-level worker.
  • These include the HVAC Excellence “Employment Ready” Certificate and the NATE “Ready to Work” Certificate.
  • Successful completion of the course will equip you with the qualifications needed to demonstrate your readiness for employment in the HVAC/R industry.
  • Expected time to completion: 12 months
  • Cost: Not specified

California State University San Marcos (CSUSM)

California State University San Marcos (CSUSM)

  • Location: Online
  • Accreditation: A certificate from CSUSM Extended Learning
  • Expected time to completion: Under 12 months
  • Cost: $2995.00

Institute of Technology (IOT)Institute of Technology (IOT)

  • Location: Various locations in California, including Modesto, Clovis, Redding, and Salem
  • Accreditation: The Institute of Technology is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
  • Expected time to completion: varies depending on the program and course load.
  • Cost: $21,311.50
School Name Address
Mount San Antonio Community College 1100 N Grand Ave, Walnut, CA 91789, United States
Brownson Technical School 1110 S Technology Cir d, Anaheim, CA 92805, United States
Chico State Professional and Continuing Education 400 W 1st St, Chico, CA 95929, United States
California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) 333 S Twin Oaks Valley Rd, San Marcos, CA 92096, United States
Institute of Technology (IOT) 564 West Herndon Avenue, Clovis, CA 93612, United States


An HVAC/R technician typically earns just over $51,000 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But in California, the average annual wage for HVAC/R technicians is just over $59,000.

California has the second-highest employment rate in the US for this occupation, according to the BLS.

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
Los Angeles $49,030
San Diego $52,912
San Jose $61,533
San Francisco $61,288
Fresno $49,129
Sacramento $53,095
Long Beach $54,669
Oakland $59,817
Bakersfield $52,512
Anaheim $54,792

Regional Salary in California

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA910$60,840$29.25$90,350$37,430
Chico, CA180$55,120$26.5$78,820$38,200
El Centro, CA140$64,860$31.18$101,120$36,940
Fresno, CA1,040$61,380$29.51$95,220$38,130
Hanford-Corcoran, CA80$66,200$31.83$95,710$46,590
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA10,780$68,680$33.02$106,030$40,080
Madera, CA110$59,290$28.5$79,790$37,620
Merced, CA150$58,150$27.96$77,620$38,440
Modesto, CA450$62,560$30.08$96,960$39,400
Napa, CA120$63,190$30.38$84,960$45,970
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA780$60,370$29.03$81,540$37,710
Redding, CA160$57,060$27.44$77,180$37,580
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA5,510$56,730$27.28$80,210$36,870
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA3,110$66,380$31.91$101,750$38,650
Salinas, CA310$61,680$29.65$83,070$38,690
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA3,950$64,420$30.97$95,860$38,120
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA4,540$80,300$38.61$128,960$47,560
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA2,310$88,990$42.79$148,370$48,830
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA260$61,170$29.41$93,150$37,710
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA160$72,060$34.65$105,510$45,620
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA410$65,260$31.37$99,000$38,090
Santa Rosa, CA550$68,780$33.07$100,320$46,030
Stockton-Lodi, CA480$62,960$30.27$92,350$37,580
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA500$61,030$29.34$85,230$39,100
Visalia-Porterville, CA390$55,620$26.74$81,710$35,780
Yuba City, CA80$59,080$28.4$78,220$37,240
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers, OCC Code 49-9021, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

An HVAC/R technician performs what duties?

HVAC/R technicians work on the systems that regulate the temperature, humidity, and air quality in our homes, places of employment, and all other types of buildings.

They are also known as installers or mechanics.

What skills are necessary to become an HVAC technician in California?

HVAC technicians must have strong mechanical and technical skills, as well as the ability to read and interpret blueprints and schematics.

They must also have excellent problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, as well as the ability to work independently and as part of a team

What are the employment prospects for HVAC technicians in California?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of HVAC technicians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

HVAC Technician Info by State

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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