1-800-425-7570 1-800-425-7570    Se Habla Español Request Brochure My Account
Manifold gauge tool used by refrigeration contractors.

How to Get Your Refrigeration C38 Contractors License in CA

Thinking of getting the C38 Refrigeration Contractors License in California? Learn all about the C38 license and how to get it!

What is the C38 Contractor License?

The C-38 Contractor License refers to a California license classification that allows individuals or companies to legally work on refrigeration systems. This license encompasses a wide range of responsibilities and capabilities. A holder of a C38 Contractor License is authorized to:

  1. Construct, Fabricate, and Erect: This includes building and assembling refrigeration systems, refrigerated rooms, and insulated spaces designed for refrigeration. The contractor can work from the ground up to create these structures and systems.
  2. Install: Installation involves setting up refrigeration equipment and systems, including refrigerators, refrigerated rooms, air-conditioning units, and related components such as ducts and blowers.
  3. Maintain and Service: Maintenance and servicing are crucial for the ongoing functionality and efficiency of refrigeration and air-conditioning systems. This involves regular checks, cleaning, repairs, adjustments, and part replacements.
  4. Repair: The license covers the repair of all components of refrigeration systems, ensuring they operate correctly and meet safety and efficiency standards.
  5. Temperature and Humidity Controls: It includes the installation, maintenance, and repair of controls that manage temperature and humidity, essential for environments requiring precise climate control.
  6. Work with Systems Controlling Temperatures Below 50°F: The license specifically allows contractors to handle systems designed to control air, liquid, and gas temperatures below standard refrigeration and freezing points, which is critical for industries like food preservation, medical facilities, and chemical processing.

Is it true that if I have a C-20 HVAC license, then I don’t need the C38 license?

No, it is not true. While there is some overlap in knowledge and skills between the two licenses, the C20 license is broader and includes HVAC systems for both heating and cooling. In contrast, the C38 license is more specialized and focuses solely on refrigeration systems and equipment. Depending on the scope of work required, contractors may need one or both licenses to perform certain jobs legally in California.

Determining Eligibility to Get Your C38 Contractor License

Like all contractor licenses in California, you must meet the requirements established by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). These requirements include:

  • Be at least 18 years or older.
  • 4 years of journey level experience. When considering this requirement, you must demonstrate four years of journey-level experience within the past 10 years. This experience is typically acquired by working for a licensed C38 Refrigeration contractor, but it can also be a combination of completed apprenticeship programs, education, and fieldwork.
  • SSN or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).

The C38 Refrigeration Licensing Process

Obtaining the C38 Refrigeration contractor license requires applying for the license and successfully passing two state exams: the Law & Business exam, as well as the C38 Trade exam. The entire licensing process can be summarized in the following steps:

Step 1: Consider the state’s requirements to determine if you qualify to sit for the exams.

Step 2: Enroll into a course with Contractors Intelligence School.

Step 3: Establish a business entity and complete the state application.

Step 4: Prepare for the state examinations by reviewing the state’s study guide and/or using study materials provided by Contractors Intelligence School.

Step 5: Schedule and pass all the required state examinations.

Step 6: Fulfill any final steps outlined by the CSLB.

Studying for the C-38 Refrigeration Contractors License Exam

Consider enrolling in exam preparation courses offered by Contractors Intelligence School. These courses provide structured learning, cover essential topics, and include practice exams. Regularly take practice exams to familiarize yourself with the format, types of questions, and time constraints. This will help you identify areas where you need more study.

Student studying for C38 contractor exam.

Focus on Key Topics for the C38 Trade Exam

  • Planning & Estimating
  • Refrigeration System Installation
  • Refrigeration System Repair
  • Refrigeration System Maintenance
  • Safety

Focus on Key Topics for the Law & Business Exam

  • Business organization and licensing
  • Business finances
  • Employment requirements
  • Insurance and liens
  • Contract requirements and execution
  • Public works
  • Safety training and reporting requirements.

What are the costs associated with obtaining a C38 Contractor License in CA?

The costs associated with obtaining a contractor's license typically include:

  • Business entity registration (if applicable). The fee for this registration can vary depending on the county or city. It's advisable to inquire about the specific dollar amount from the agency where you are registering your business.
  • CSLB fees. $450 for the Application for Original Contractor's License, and $200 for the Initial License Fee for sole ownership companies ($350 for non-sole-ownership companies).
  • School fees. Contractors Intelligence charges between $295 and $495 for their most popular courses. Prices may differ with other schools.
  • Bonding All contractors seeking to become license must post a contractors bond in the amount of $25,000. On average, this bond costs $250 per year. Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are also required to carry additional bonding, known as the LLC/worker bond, which is estimated to cost $2,000 per year.
  • Insurance. Your business may require two types of insurance: general liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance. General liability insurance is mandatory for LLCs applying for a contractor's license, while it's not required for the CSLB to issue a contractor's license number otherwise. Conversely, a 38 contractor's license cannot be granted until the company secures workers' compensation insurance or applies for an examination waiver if applicable. To understand the costs associated with these insurances, consulting with a licensed insurance agent is advisable.
  • Livescan fingerprinting. When completing your livescan fingerprints, you will pay an estimated $75. This fee typically includes the Department of Justice (DOJ) fee, FBI fee, and the livescan location rolling fee.

Get Started Today!

Ready to take the next step in your career and become a licensed C-38 Refrigeration Contractor in California? Start your journey today by enrolling in a comprehensive exam preparation course with Contractors Intelligence School. Equip yourself with the knowledge and skills needed to pass the state exams and meet all CSLB requirements. Don’t miss this opportunity to expand your expertise and grow your business in the refrigeration industry. Begin your application process now and unlock new professional opportunities! Call Contractors Intelligence School at 800-425-7570 to get started.

#1 California Contractors License Prep Program. Try our free interactive course demo.


Full online course

Full Online Course

Law & Trade Course

Regular Price: $595.00

Live streaming course

Full Online Course





Home Study


Teaching on live online course


Our live classes are available
throughout California.

Includes Study Material


Limited Time Offer | Save $500

Get The Complete California
Contractors License Prep Program

For Just $1,200 $695

This special offer includes:

  • Full Online Course
  • Live Streaming Classes
  • We Pay Your 1st Year Contractors License Bond
See Details

Expires 7/31/2024

Limited offer