The demand for HVAC technicians has never been higher! And so is HVAC worker salary.
This article will discuss what it means to begin a career as a HVAC technician. This will include what the job entails, the overall long term outlook, and data about HVAC worker salary. Also, the various types of training available and what you’ll find when you search for accredited HVAC schools in California. In fact, if you’re ready to get started, see the exclusive Pick HVAC school search tool that shows the best accredited HVAC schools near you.
- Why Demand for HVAC Technicians is So High
- Becoming an HVAC/R Technician in California
- HVAC Certification and Licensing
- HVAC/R Qualifications Beyond School
Why Demand for HVAC Technicians is So High
There is a shortage of HVAC technicians. Every home in the United States has an HVAC system that needs to be installed, maintained and repaired. The same is true with every commercial building, school, factory, etc. some sort of heat installed in order to keep your home nice and cozy. What happens if that heat source, such as a furnace or heat pump, stops working properly or even working completely? Who can fix such a complicated issue? Throughout the entire country HVAC technicians are needed to repair or fix homeowner’s furnaces or heat pumps.
HVAC technicians do more than just work on heat pumps and furnaces. They also work on ventilation systems, like ductwork and air circulation systems. Another piece of important equipment that HVAC technicians install and repair are air conditioners. Whenever a piece of equipment that either heats, cools, or circulates the air in your home needs to be fixed, then a qualified HVAC technician should be called. HVAC technicians are in very high demand throughout the country, but in states such as California, they are even in more demand due to the amount of people leaving there.
Like we said above, if you already know the basics about becoming an HVAC or heating and cooling technician, scroll down to the CA HVAC School Finder, type in your zip code and browse the various accredited HVAC schools in your area.
HVAC is a term that we all hear often, but do we really know what it stands for and what an HVAC technician does for living? Here is what you need to know about what the letters in HVAC stand for:
- H - HEATING
- V - VENTILATION
- AC - AIR CONDITIONING
- R - REFRIGERATION
You might be wondering where the “R” came from since it hasn’t been mentioned so far, but is included in the above acronym. The “R” is often left out when describing HVAC, but it is always included when referring to HVAC systems or technicians. HVAC/R and HVAC mean the same exact thing and are interchangeable within this article.
A qualified HVAC technician can install, maintain, and repair heating, cooling, ventilation, and refrigeration systems with a variety of settings. The most common tasks that HVAC technicians do is working on or installing heating systems or air conditioning systems. They also can work on air ventilation systems, as well as many different types of refrigeration units. They can work in personal residential homes to office buildings or hospitals. The need for qualified HVAC technicians is endless. In order to become a qualified HVAC technician you will need to attend an accredited HVAC school in CA to teach you the needed skills and earn your needed degree/endorsements.
Generalist or Specialist
When considering going into a career as a HVAC technician you may have to decide if you want to be a technician that can work on all types of HVAC situations or would you rather specialize in one. Technicians that work on all types of HVAC issues are called generalists. This type of technician is generally located in rural areas that don’t have as many options when it comes to hiring a HVAC technician. Technicians that focus on one or two of the factors in HVAC are called specialists.
Regardless of what route you want to take, regarding becoming an HVAC technician, there are many accredited HVAC schools in California that will suit your own individual needs and training. The need and the market is strong for a career in HVAC. Both generalists and specialists in the HVAC field will find employment opportunities throughout the state of California.
Either way, the demand for HVAC technicians is high throughout the state of California, from San Francisco to Sacramento to Los Angeles to San Diego.
HVAC/R Careers in California
Here are additional details about HVAC careers in California.
Simply put, the more training and education you have the more money you will earn as an HVAC technician. This is common, regardless of where you are from. More credentials means more pay. In California, HVAC technicians earn an average yearly salary of $57,000.
Beginning or entry level HVAC technician salary will generally be around $33,000 per year. Experienced technicians with a master’s degree or equivalent will make around $93,000 but can reach over $100,000, depending on where you are working.
Learn more here about the average HVAC worker salary in different cities in CA.
Demand for HVAC Technicians
Like almost every trade in the country, there is a major shortage of certified HVAC technicians. Any technician who receives training from an accredited HVAC school will most likely be able to find employment due to the high demand for HVAC technicians.
As our entire country, led by California, attempts to become more energy efficient and use green energy, demand for HVAC technicians will become even higher. This is due to the distribution, installation, and maintenance of the various HVAC systems that are part of the “green” economy.
Becoming an HVAC/R Technician in California
To become an HVAC/R technician in California you will need a high school diploma to begin the process of certification. The more education and training someone has, the greater the demand for their services. Boost your earning potential and become more marketable within the industry by getting an education from one of the accredited HVAC schools in CA!
Then work on HVAC certification and licensing to develop the career in HVAC in California that you want.
Some HVAC training schools offer a quick, one year program to get certified. However, this type of training will only provide you with the bare minimum and a certification. There are steps that can be taken to provide more education and training, as well as, additional certification and licensing. Each path of education is discussed in the following:
High School Level Education: If you want to be an HVAC technician, you will need a high school diploma or a GED. Reading, writing, and math are some of the basic high school skills that HVAC technicians use on a daily basis.
Accredited HVAC Degree: In order to become a qualified, certified HVAC technician one of the best choices would be to attend an accredited HVAC in California. You can earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and then begin your successful career as an HVAC technician in CA. The options will be explained in more detail as you read on and help you find the right school for you..
If you want to do a quick search of accredited HVAC schools in your area, scroll down to the Search Tool and type in your zip code.
Why HVAC Education in CA is Important
One of the first questions that you might ask yourself is “do I really need an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree to become a certified HVAC technician?”
Simply put, YES, you should obtain a degree! Getting a degree from an accredited HVAC school is the fastest and easiest way to complete your training and start your career as an HVAC technician.
As technology advances, the HVAC industry is becoming more high-tech and automated. The work and equipment you will need to use on a daily basis is going to continue to become more precise and efficient. Having a degree, whether it is an associate degree or a bachelor's degree, will help you stay ahead of those without degrees. This will enable you to keep up with the changes in technology and provide efficient, effective service to your customers.
A Foot in the Door: One of the best ways to start your career in the HVAC field is to seek actual work in the field as an apprentice for a certified HVAC technician.
Future employers will look for possible employees that have a degree, certifications, and an apprenticeship. When all things are considered, a degree will make you more marketable and more employable. Having a degree will show that you are committed and are willing to go the extra mile in order to become successful. It also tells your future employers that you are certified and have the needed skills and knowledge to be an efficient HVAC technician.
Ready to Work: Once you have a degree from an accredited HVAC/R school you will be ready to get to work in the field and begin earning a salary. The training you will get at one of the state’s accredited HVAC schools will prepare you to go into any situation and be successful as an HVAC technician. Those who choose not to attend an accredited HVAC school will not necessarily have the skills and knowledge to be able to do the job. Without the proper training there is more of a learning curve and you will have to learn as you go.
Is Education Worth It?
Do you want to make more money as an HVAC technician? On average, having a degree from an accredited HVAC school will increase your salary by 25% to 30%. Many states also count any HVAC hours towards specific certifications and towards a journeyman’s license.
Associate’s Degree- A two-year associate degree is a great way to begin your training and education to become a certified HVAC technician. This degree will give you the basic knowledge required and enable you to begin your career as an HVAC technician
A possible added bonus is that oftentimes your employer will pay for you to further your education and training. If you choose the right job you could earn a bachelor's degree while you work and your employer will pay for it!!
Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree is a four-year degree, compared to the two- year associate's degree. Earning a bachelor’s degree is much more of an investment in both time and money, but the overall and long term benefits are worth the time and effort. If you wish to become a manager or possibly own your own HVAC company, then obtaining a bachelor’s degree will be your best option.
A HVAC bachelor’s degree program will teach you everything that you would learn while earning an associates degree plus many extra HVAC components that will help you be as successful as possible. Some possible courses that you can take while earning your HVAC bachelor's degree are basic business, energy analysis, and system configurations. Each of these courses will help you become more knowledgeable and marketable with the HVAC world.
Fun Facts: In 1940 a window air conditioning unit cost $350 dollars. Unbelievably, with inflation, that same unit would cost around $3500 in today’s dollars.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
Once you earn either your associates or bachelors degree you will need to apply for a license in order to work in the field and actually do the job you went to school for.
As you progress in your career you will have the chance to earn various certifications that can increase your pay scale. As you demonstrate specific skills and knowledge the certifications and additional qualifications can be obtained through testing to prove your competency. What those certifications actually are will be discussed later in this writing.
Accredited HVAC Schools in California
Choosing a school to train and educate yourself in the field of HVAC is not an easy task. There are over 30 HVAC schools in California, and choosing the one that fits your needs is very important and difficult.
There is a search tool created by PICK HVAC that can help you with your search to find the school that best fits your HVAC training needs in California. All you have is put in your zip code and a list of schools that specialize in HVAC will be created. You can request more information from any of the schools that you see on the list.
Cost of HVAC Training School
If you choose to attend a school to earn an associates degree it will cost you around $5,000 to $7,500. Schools such as community colleges are generally within this type of schooling. At a specialized HVAC training school the price will be around $15,000. It is more of an investment in both time and tuition, but it might produce a higher HVAC worker salary and make you more marketable.
Why Choose an Accredited HVAC School?
Attending an HVAC/R school that is accredited is very important in order to ensure that you receive the proper education and training to be successful in a career as an HVAC technician. To be an accredited school, the school is reviewed by a third party and they make sure that the curriculum and training covers what is required. I
How Do I Choose a School?
When trying to determine what HVAC school you want to attend there are many factors to consider. Below is a list of things to think about during your evaluation of what HVAC school you will attend:
Cost and Student Aid - The full cost and the ability to get any financial aid is often an important factor when deciding whether or not to attend a school. You can get more information about the cost and the availability of financial aid using the HVAC School Search Tool above.
Online or In-Person - With technology and the internet, online schooling is an option to consider. See our Guide to the Best Online HVAC Schools for details.
However, many prefer the in-person instructions. Choose what type of instruction best fits your needs.
Location - There are a number of HVAC schools located throughout California. Since there are so many choices, choose an accredited school that is relatively close to where you live or where you want to work. you’re likely to find one at a reasonable distance.
Accreditation - Attending one of the accredited HVAC schools in California is a very important factor. As stated above, this will ensure that you receive the necessary training and education to be a successful HVAC/R technician.
Expertise - Experienced instructors can provide insight and real-life examples of work in the HVAC field. The top HVAC training schools in PA have instructors who have been working for many years and are experts in their field.
Narrowing Down your Search:
Once you use the search tool to request more information about a specific school, look at the following topics to help you decide what school to attend:
- Reputation - Check the reviews carefully. See what HVAC employers and clients have to say regarding the school.
- Job Placement - Look for the statistics for job placement. Choose a school with a high percentage of putting students into the right positions.
- Course Work - Find out what type of classes are available. Are there any areas of specialization available?
- The Campus - See if the campus is a fit for you and your lifestyle, if you decide to live on campus. Find out the size of the classrooms, library, and any other centers that would be of use. Talk to other students to see how they like the school.
The Benefits of an HVAC Degree
Graduating from an accredited HVAC school in California will make you very marketable and in demand. With an associate degree in hand you can begin your career and also have the beginnings of earning your bachelor's degree, if you choose that path.
Accredited programs will educate you to be able to earn the necessary certifications in the field that you choose to specialize in. The more certifications you learn, the more sought after you will be and you will also have a higher earning potential.
As HVAC/R systems continue to evolve and become more and more complex, employers prefer to hire HVAC technicians who have at least an associates degree, and actually prefer a bachelor’s degree. With a degree you are able to earn higher salaries than those who have completed an apprenticeship. Check on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for more information by clicking the link.
What’s Covered in HVAC/R School?
Here are the major areas of education in accredited HVAC schools in CA.
HVAC Training Coursework
Hands-on learning/training and classroom instruction are both elements of a good HVAC training program. Both are necessary to provide the proper education to receive a degree in HVAC.
Below are some of the subject that will be covered in an accredited school’s coursework:
- Heating, Air Conditioning, Ventilation, Refrigeration and Humidity control.
- Installing and setting up systems
- Repairing systems
- Basics of green systems
- Refrigerants as a specialty at some specific schools.
- Electric wiring, circuitry and motors and controls
- HVAC Work codes, regulations, ethics and safety
- EPA and OSHA regulations
- Refrigeration and air conditioning
- Tools required for HVAC work
- Heat sources including natural gas, propane and petroleum systems
- Heat zoning, pumps and zone sizing
- Ductwork calculations, sizing and installation
The classroom instruction will resemble your typical college setting. There will be reading requirements, as well as lectures and exams.
Probably the most important practice you will get at an HVAC school will be the hands-on experience you will receive when you attend the labs the school provides. This will give you real-life situations and allow you to troubleshoot and fix the issues. You have the opportunity to install, repair and work on actual HVAC/R equipment.
HVAC/R Qualifications Beyond School
Earning a degree from an accredited HVAC school will provide you with training and education that you need. It does not, however, give you a license to legally do HVAC/R work.
License: The government issues HVAC licenses to those who qualify. This is a legal document that protects you and your company. It also ensures that you are qualified to do HVAC/R work.
Certifications: In addition to obtaining a degree in HVAC and earning a license for the government, certifications are able to be obtained to show qualifications. Certifications are earned by taking a test and demonstrating skill is a specific domain of HVAC. The more certifications you have, the more marketable you become. Also, having a number of certifications boosts your earning potential.
As stated above, having a number of certifications makes you more marketable and makes it easier for you to find employment in California.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifications are on the most common certifications.
The EPA has four types of certifications. A 608 certification covers working with refrigerants.
- The Type I certification covers working with small appliances with 5lbs of refrigerant or less.
- Type II certification deals with medium, high, and very high pressure appliances.
- Type III certification covers low pressure appliances.
- The fourth certification is a Universal Certification, which covers all three types of certification mentioned above.
North American Technical Excellence, or NATE, is the largest organization for HVAC technicians. This organization offers the following NATE certifications:
- Ready to Work Certification
- HVAC Support Technician
- NATE Certification: Core and Specialty Tests
- Senior Level Efficiency Analyst Certification
- Certified HVAC Professional (CHP-5)
Find more information at the NATE website.
HVAC/R Professional Organizations
Joining a professional organization is a great way to network as you begin your career as an HVAC/R technician. HVAC Professional Organizations will help with resources, guidance, and education. Below is a list of professional organizations dedicated to HVAC/R professionals:
- Air Movement and Control Association (AMCA).
- Air Conditioning Contractors of America.
- American Society of Heating, refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
- Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE1).
- HVAC Excellence.
- International Institute of Refrigeration.
- Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC).
- Radiant Professional Alliance.
- Refrigeration Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA).
- Refrigeration Engineers Society (RSES).
- Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).
- United Association (UA).
- Women in HVACR.