California HVAC License Certification, Licensing and Training

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If you are looking to work as an HVAC technician in California then it should be something for you to get excited about. It’s predicted to have a whopping average mean salary of $53,050 for HVAC technicians as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015. That’s second to the highest paying state, New York.

What tops it off is that as far as states go with HVAC certification requirements, California is relatively simple and easy to get your foot in the door. There’s only one regulatory body for you to be concerned with; the CSLB and this article is here to guide you through the process of becoming HVAC certified in California as well as providing tips to help you on the way.

California HVAC License Requirements

The state body we mentioned; the CSLB or the Contractors State License Board is responsible for protecting consumer’s rights in the state of California within the construction industry.

It does this by ensuring there are standards that are met by operators and contractors within the industry through one of the 44 licensing classifications it offers. Every license is signified with a code that begins with the character “C”, for example, the HVAC trade is designated “C20”. This includes the repair, maintenance, and installation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

In order to get the license from the CSLB, you will need to pass their exam. There are no prerequisite educational requirements needed to be eligible for this exam, however, you will need ample work experience as a journeyman for your application to be accepted by the board.

4 years of experience within the last 10 years as a journeyman in the industry is the minimum that’s needed for your application to be considered which unfortunately does not include any experience that you amassed during training or through an apprenticeship as it is not considered adequate by the board. However, it does include additional experience as a foreman, supervisor, contractor or owner-builder.

Requirements for Experience Verification

When you make the application for the CSLB exam they will ask for you to submit the experience that you have gained within the industry which does need to be validated by someone. This can be done with the testament of previous employers, foremen, supervisors, contractors, colleagues, building inspectors or architects.

It’s basically got to be somebody who you have worked with before, knows how you work, what expertise you show and what experience you have. There will be a section in the form called the experience certification section for them to complete in order to verify your claims of experience.

The board could also request for documented evidence of any of the claims you made which you will need to provide.  Failure to do so will result in your application being rejected and if you have a license already, the board can make it void.

Educational and Vocational Credit

Even though experience as a trainee or apprentice does not count, if you have achieved any sort of diploma or vocational qualification it can count quite considerably towards your application. Up to three years of experience required by the application can be attributed to the qualification.

This means that on top of the educational or vocational HVAC qualification you have, only  1 year’s verifiable experience in the field will be needed to apply. Evidence via documentation of this may still be needed to verify your experience claims.

If you are an owner-builder, you can make the application on the basis that you can prove you have HVAC related skills and knowledge. A construction project experience form is available for you to submit in addition to the application form.

What’s Next?

So you have all the experience and requirements, you’ve submitted your application and have been accepted for the exam, “what’s next?” you ask. You will be given an exam date that will give you at least 3 weeks’ notice. You’ll also be sent a fingerprinting set which you’ll need to return.

The exam will be booked at a test center that they designate to you. There are test centers throughout California including in Fresno, Oakland, San Bernardino, San Diego, Oxnard, Sacramento, and San Jose.

They will usually assign you to the one closest to your zip code and they will ask you to bring along your identification such as valid US passport or driving license. If for any reason you can’t make it to the exam and can’t provide proof of a medical reason or circumstances that you can’t help, it will cost $60 to rebook the exam.

The California HVAC License Exam

Once you get to the exam, it’s going to be 3 and 1.2 hours long using a computer system which assists with the examination process. There are two sections to the exam, the Law and business is section 1 and HVAC industry is in section 2.

Most questions in the exam are multiple choice style and will reference diagrams that are in a supplementary booklet that is provided. You’ll get all the reference materials you need are supplied in PDF format without cost to you, but it would be advised you purchase your own study material in addition to this.

Both sections must be passed in order for you to pass the exam as a whole and to be able to obtain your HVAC license and it must be passed within 18 months of your application. If you do happen to fail, it’ll be $60 to rebook it again.

After the Exam

Once you have completed the exam they will tell you right there whether or not you have passed and if you have, you’ll be shown where to go from there.

There are still further requirements before you can get your HVAC license and these can vary from person to person and could include the following:

  Passing another exam which is open book and regarding asbestos

  Meeting Fingerprinting requirements

  $180 License Fee

  $15,000 contractor bond or cash deposit

  $12,500 bond of Qualifying Individual

  Appropriate insurance or workers bonds.

After you have satisfied all of the requirements that are relevant to you, you will receive your certificates! One will be a wall certificate with your HVAC license number on to display in your business premises. The other is a plastic card to keep on your person with your license number, classification, business name and expiration date of the license displayed.

In Summary

In summary, this all may seem to be a rigorous process but it’s really not, the most inconvenient thing for most will be having previous employers or co-workers available to complete their section of the form.

Once that is out of the way, the test should be no problem for an expert and from there, your opportunities for business in California will increase considerably.

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