How to Become a Certified HVAC Technician
In order to become a certified HVAC technician, please note that requirements will vary by state and specialization. Here is one common path to becoming a certified HVAC technician:
Receive a high school diploma. Successful HVAC technicians and contractors typically excel in courses such as mathematics, physics, and shop. Some choose to volunteer or seek out employment in mechanics, electronics, or related fields which can teach them some of the empirical fundamentals of the profession.
Complete an accredited HVAC program (6 months to 2 years). While this step can be waived in some states for candidates with extensive experience or an apprenticeship*, it may be advisable to complete a more formal HVAC training program at a community college or trade school, especially for those seeking certification. These programs—offering training in entry-level service, design, and repair of HVAC-R systems—can be accredited by organizations such as HVAC Excellence and may include the certification process as part of the training. Also, as part of the curriculum, aspiring HVAC technicians may receive on-the-job instruction working under licensed contractors. This is typically necessary as many certification exams and licenses require at least one to two years of practical experience.
Apply for additional industry competence certifications and pass examinations (timeline varies). As mentioned above, some job-ready HVAC programs include the certification process as part of their training program such as the one at North American Training Center. That said, there is a wide array of agencies offering HVAC certifications for those looking to enhance their credentials. The North American Technician Excellence (NATE) hosts the “industry competency exam” and provides a number of HVAC-R specialty certifications such as air distribution (AD), HVAC efficiency analyst (senior level), and HVAC performance verifier. HVAC Excellence not only provides program accreditation, but has employment-ready certification exams for air conditioning, light commercial air conditioning, and basic refrigeration and charging procedures. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) has a partnership with NATE and provides additional certification exams including EPA section 608, commercial air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, heating, and HVAC-R electrical.
Pursue national and state certifications or licensure (timeline varies). As mentioned above, the rules governing HVAC contractors and technicians vary between states. Please reference the table below to check the regional requirements and governing body for HVAC professionals.
*According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014), HVAC apprenticeship programs typically last from three to five years. These candidates receive at least 2,000 hours of empirical training and 144 hours of technical education. Many of these programs are run by joint committees of local organizations such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) or the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).