What Does It Take to Become an HVAC Technician?
Home and business owners want to work with a qualified, certified, and licensed technician when they need an HVAC repair, maintenance, or installation. There are many different paths to certification, some that are requirements and some that are nice-to-haves, each depending on what an aspiring technician hopes to achieve in his or her HVAC career.
Below is a quick guide to which certifications are most important for technicians and why. It’s also a good guide for home and business owners, explaining their technicians’ qualifications and ensuring they work with only the best and most educated HVAC partners.
Available HVAC Certifications
Several governing agencies have requirements for their technicians, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while others offer additional options for furthered learning. The North American Technical Excellence (NATE), HVAC Excellence, and Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) fall under the latter category.
Here are some of the HVAC licenses on offer and what they involve:
- EPA 608 — This certification is for professionals working with commercial and residential stationary equipment, and includes four levels: I, II, III, and Universal. Level I involves small appliances, II deals with higher pressure devices, III includes low-pressure appliances, and Universal includes levels I through III.
- EPA 609 — This version is specific to professionals working with automotive AC systems or who need to purchase small refrigerant containers under 20 pounds.
- NATE Ready-to-Work — For professionals at the beginnings of their careers, this online exam is not required, but recommended. It can be customized to specific needs, focuses on fundamental skills, requires no prior training, and covers basic knowledge areas. It also has several levels.
- HVAC Excellence — This organization does not test or license, but supplies test materials to measure student performance in student outcome, employment-ready, specialty and professional technician and master specialist certifications.
- RSES — This organization was founded in 1933 and only offers certifications to members. Licenses include active Specialized Member (SM), Certificate Member (CM), and Certificate Member Specialist (CMS). Exam levels vary in difficulty, and each builds upon its precursor.
How to Achieve Certification
The average entry-level HVAC certification course can be completed in a couple of weeks up to a couple of months. On-the-job training can take longer, as can some of the more advanced certifications, but the licensing itself is relatively affordable ($25 to $120). You’ll likely also be responsible for the costs involved in purchasing study materials and training courses.
Some certifications can be completed through an online, open-book test format, but more advanced tests occur in closed-book classroom settings. The lowest level does not require prerequisites, but higher levels have both experience and pre-licensing requirements.
Be sure to do your due diligence and ensure you’ve completed all prior levels before attempting to take a more advanced certification test.
Where to Turn for Additional Licensing Information
If you’re interested in learning more about the process behind HVAC technician licensing or certification, or if you’re in need of HVAC repair, maintenance, or installation services, call your trusted partner. Our expert team would be happy to answer your questions.