California HVAC Salary Information

A technician in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) field can expect to work on refrigeration, ventilation, heating, and cooling systems in buildings. These systems are important for controlling not only temperature, but also for regulating air quality. An HVAC technician who has obtained his HVAC license and certification in California or another state may choose to work in commercial buildings as well as homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, industrial centers, and just about any type of building that requires heating, air conditioning or ventilation.

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There are a number of HVAC schools in California, all over the state, that offer HVAC training programs which can prepare and train a student for such a career within one to two years. The HVAC education and training requirements in California offer a range of options for folks interested in an HVAC career in–or out of–the state.

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Some types of jobs that HVAC techs can expect to work on, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, are repairing defective pieces in HVAC systems, installation of electrical wiring, installation of heating, ventilation, or air conditioning systems, maintenance of existing systems, and determining what types of repairs are needed through testing.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has estimated that employment in the HVAC field will make a leap from 2010 to 2020, growing about 34% during those ten years. The DOL has also given a good prognosis for job opportunities to HVAC technicians who have completed a successful training course at an accredited school. And when last I checked (in October 2014,) a little note mentioned that the average HVAC salary listings for job posts in the state of California are 7% higher than nationwide postings.

Region and location play a big part in pay scale for HVAC techs, and California is a state that boasts a wide variety of climates. In areas where weather conditions demand heat, air conditioning, or both, HVAC techs are needed. Proximity to the ocean or to the desert influences temperature and weather, both of which California has in surplus. In San Bernardino and Sacramento, it’s common to see summers with handfuls of days well over 100 degrees while in Lake Tahoe, winters fall below freezing sometimes starting as early as October and can last until April.

Hourly, HVAC technicians can expect to make anywhere from $12.79 to $29.10, not including overtime. The median hourly wage is $19.00 for an HVAC tech. In some cases, profit sharing, commission, and bonuses might kick up the hourly rate of pay. Each year, there is roughly a 4.4% job growth rate, and an estimated 13,000 or more jobs that open up annually.

As of October 2014, the average salary of an HVAC tech in California is $44,000 although salaries can range from as low as $27,000 to $69,000 on the higher end. HVAC technicians in California are currently earning 10% higher salaries than average HVAC salaries around the rest of the country. As of February 2013, the average California HVAC tech is looking at a yearly salary of around $47,000, making California the fourth best-paying state for HVAC techs (after Massachusetts, Mississippi, and New York).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that as of May 2012, the median yearly salary for HVAC technicians in America was $43,640. The technicians that earned the lowest amount of income were reportedly pocketing less than $27,330, and those making the best wages were earning over $68,990. The BLS also notes that HVAC apprentices will typically get paid approximately half the amount that experienced workers make.

In terms of the typical hours that HVAC workers keep, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that most work full-time, and generally during daytime hours. The DOL notes that occasionally there can be the need for shifts in the evening or on the weekend, especially during the peak seasons for heating and cooling. Some technicians may work odd hours, or pull overtime, during the height of the season. And according to the DOL, roughly 9% of HVAC technicians are self-employed while the majority of other technicians are employed through construction contractors or other companies.

Some HVAC technicians get trained in both installation and maintenance, to increase the number of different types of jobs they can do. Installation gigs can be dependent on the amount of construction occurring in a town or city whereas maintenance on current systems is generally needed throughout the year regardless of the building rate of new homes, businesses, or offices.

A Look at California’s HVAC Job Market

In 2012 the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that it estimated as many as 55,900 new HVAC positions could open up between 2012-2022. The “faster-than-average growth rate” that the BLS gave to the HVAC industry doesn’t mean that there’s not competition however. The BLS also stated that it can be hard for employers to find HVAC technicians who are dually skilled with computers, electronics, and other technological know-how. Some technicians choose to brush up on their technological skills and knowledge, so that they can be considered for jobs that may require more complex electronics work.

According to the BLS, there are a number of other factors that can affect the amount of HVAC work available and, thus, employment in a given region. The BLS states that growth within the HVAC field can be driven by construction of new commercial as well as residential buildings. Also, the age of current climate-control systems can play a part, and the BLS estimates these systems need replacing after about 10 or 15 years.

Another factor in the growth of the industry is the retirement of current HVAC workers. With the Baby Boomer generation starting to settle into retirement (each month, over 250,000 Americans celebrate their 65th birthdays according to an economic article by Ben Casselman), the trickle down effect leaves openings and holes in the work force that need filling. I advise applying directly to employers as the most effective way to be considered for a job opening. Keep a lookout for resources to assist with finding interview opportunities. For example, Brownson Technical School in Anaheim has a career assistance department for students to utilize. Employment is by no means guaranteed, however the department can serve as a helpful resource to students and graduates and help them with things like developing a resume and learning interview techniques. Likewise, Institute of Technology in Clovis, Modesto, Redding, and Salem offers a Student Services department that can assist students and grads with finding employment.