State Certification Guides A-F

California HVAC Certification Guide

Working as a licensed and certified HVAC professional in California entails a very lucrative career opportunity. In fact, a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistic in 2015 listed California as the second highest paying state for HVAC professionals with an average annual salary of just over $53,000 – second only to New York’s $55,000 annual average salary. This salary is a great incentive to get your California HVAC certification.

If this doesn’t sound appealing enough to you to get California HVAC certification, I don’t know what will. Regardless, if you want to enter the HVAC industry, you will need the right information and training. To help you with that, this article will aim to guide you through the process, providing you with information on how you can become a licensed and certified technician, what classes of certification are available, and some tips on how you can successfully pass the examination.

Licensing Requirements for California HVAC Certification

California’s construction industry is regulated by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). It’s the one responsible for regulating and licensing the entire HVAC industry in the state. After all, maintenance, installation, and repair of the heating and ventilation systems all fall under the construction industry.

The scope of the License Board covers 44 different license classifications, with HVAC being one of them.

The board handles different classifications for the varying types of construction trades. Each license is given its own respective code with a letter “C” which is then followed by a number. For the HVAC trades, they bear the “C-20 – Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor” code.

You don’t need any educational qualifications if you want to take the licensing examination.But, you will need at least four years of relevant work experience before the board will accept your license application. This is referred to as your “qualifying experience”. These are what you need:

  • At least four years of experience in the HVAC industry
  • Additional experience as either a contractor, foreman, or supervisor is also accepted
  • Working experience gained while working in at least journeyman level

Keep in mind that working experience you gained as an apprentice is not enough. However, if you have undergone apprenticeship and is now working as a journeyman, you can also qualify for the examination. While attending courses in school is not mandatory, it can prove to be quite valuable when it comes to obtaining your certification as well as for your career in the field.

If you are an owner builder, you can also apply for a license if you can prove competent enough to become an HVAC professional and have the required skills to back your claims. Likewise, you need to complete a Construction Project Experience form then submit it as a proof of your experience and knowledge.

Requirements for Experience Verification

Before you submit an application, you should first verify any experience claimed. You can use references such as your previous or current employer, contractor, architect, or building inspector to verify your claim. This forms part of the California HVAC certification.

However, they have to know how you work as well as the knowledge and experience you have. Moreover, they should have seen your works. To verify your experience, the person who can verify your knowledge and expertise should complete the Experience Certification section located in your application form.

NOTE: In some cases, the Board may require you to present any documented evidence of your experience. If you fail to do so, your application may be rejected. Moreover, if you already have your license, there might be a possibility of license termination.

Education Qualification

A technical or vocational qualification can also be regarded as part of your four-year experience requirement. Moreover, an educational qualification can count as a three-year experience. Of course, you still need at least one year of practical experience and provide the necessary documents and proofs to back your claim.

Things to Know about the Exam

Once your application is accepted by the Board, you will receive a fingerprinting pack which you should complete and send back to them. You’ll also be scheduled for an exam with at least a three-week prior notice.

You can take the examination in various test centers around California depending on where you’re from. During the examination, you need to bring any form of identification. The testing centers are as follows:

  • Fresno
  • Norwalk
  • Oakland
  • Oxnard
  • Sacramento
  • San Jose
  • San Diego
  • San Bernadino

You will be given a scheduled date and location once your application is accepted. If you are unable to do so, you will have to pay $60 for a reschedule. However, if you can provide a medical certification or any proof that renders you unable to take the test, you can reschedule for free.

You are given 3 ½ hours to complete the California Contractor Licensing exam using a computer-assisted system. There are two sections: the Law and Business Exam and HVAC trade specific Exam.

You have to pass the sections if you want to get your license. During the examination, you will be given reference materials. You can also bring any additional study material to help you prepare. The questions are multiple choice and will often talk about the diagrams and blueprints which are found in the booklet provided to you.

You should pass the exam within a year and a half after sending your application and getting a Notification of Exam. In the event you fail, you can retake and pay a $60 scheduling fee.

How to Pass the Exam and Receive Your License

Upon taking the examination, you will know the results on the same day. If you manage to obtain a passing score, you will then be provided with the necessary information on what to do next. You’ll receive information about the bond and fee, along with other requirements such as:

  • A $15,000 contractor bond
  • A $180 licensing fee – this runs for 24 months
  • A passing grade in the open book asbestos exam
  • A $12,500 bond of Qualifying Individual
  • Fingerprinting requirements
  • An LLC liability insurance and LLC Employee/Worker Bond
  • A compensation or exemption certificate
  • A Certificate of Self-Insurance of Worker’s Compensation, Certificate of Worker’s Compensation Insurance, or an exemption certificate

You will receive your Contractor’s License from the Board upon completing all relevant requirements based on your situation. You will also receive the following:

  • A plastic pocket card with your business name, license number, expiration date, and classification(s)
  • A wall certificate which includes information on your license classification and license number. You will need to display it on your company’s main office

Final Thoughts on California HVAC Certification

Hopefully, you were able to obtain all necessary information you need about getting your California HVAC certification and license. By now, you should have also known what steps you need to follow, what to do before taking the exam, and how to pass it successfully.

Aside from being a really high paying state when it comes to HVAC services, California also offers less stringent eligibility criteria compared to that of other states. As long as you have the relevant working experience and necessary knowledge, you won’t have a hard time obtaining your license.

Before you even take the exam, it’s of utmost importance to prepare and study. You can either attend a class or do a self-study. Regardless, make sure you get yourself fully prepared to heighten your chances of passing the exam and getting a license.

If you have other insights you want to share, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below. We gladly appreciate any relevant information or advice which other aspiring technicians will find greatly valuable.

Check out Nevada HVAC certification, and Arizona since the states are right next door.


California HVAC certification