Several certification options exist for students or currently employed technicians who are interested in boosting their career prospects in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) field. Most of these pathways to HVAC technician certifications involve various combinations of education, on-the-job experience, and one or more qualifying examinations.
The requirements for HVAC licensure vary among jurisdictions. In the US, only a few states have imposed mandatory HVAC certification requirements for practicing technicians. Still, some private and public sector employers prefer to hire certified technicians. In addition, whether you are employed by a company or own your own repair service, HVAC technician certification is a good way to instill confidence in your technical skill set and enhance your professional credentials.
There are two main bodies that offer HVAC technician certification in the US. The first is North American Technician Excellence (NATE), a nonprofit certification organization. NATE oversees the testing component of the HVAC technician certification process.
The second body that offers HVAC certification is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a government agency that oversees issues pertaining to pollution, environmental remediation, and “green” initiatives. The HVAC certification offered by the EPA focuses specifically on issues pertaining to the use and disposal of the chemicals used in heating and cooling, including chlorofluorocarbons.
Although it may be possible for individuals to become certified without having completed a course of formal training in the HVAC field, most experts recommend that you take a class before taking the certification exam. Standard HVAC training programs are available at community colleges and vocational training centers. These programs generally offer the kind of comprehensive knowledge of the field that many find is necessary to pass the exam.
Most of the qualifying tests used in the certification process involve both theoretical and practical questions, so somebody who has taken classes and has amassed field experience is more likely to pass the first time around. Even with this on-the-job experience and classroom training, many test takers find the qualifying exams to be technically complex. As a result, a significant number of those who seek certification have to take the exam more than once before passing. Sometimes experience taking the test itself is very helpful in having a successful outcome.
There are several options available for individuals who want to prepare for the HVAC certification process offered by either NATE or the EPA. A number of exam preparation books are available for order either through online retailers or at local bookstores. In addition, some vocational training centers offer exam preparation programs that are specifically designed to help candidates for HVAC technician certification improve their chances of passing the tests.