Getting HVAC certified can help you increase your chances of getting a job in the industry, and it can also help you get a better starting salary. Companies always want experienced individuals, showing a possible employer an HVAC certification can make for a strong impression when it comes to credibility and knowledge in the HVAC career field.
What types of HVAC certifications are available?
General HVAC Certification
There are a variety of certifications available. The first, and most important, will be the general HVAC certification that you receive from your community college or trade school. Think of this as your high school diploma, it shows that you have the necessary skills to enter into the HVAC industry but you will need further hands-on experience. Your HVAC certification will vary by school but keep in mind that employers value your school’s HVAC certification highly. There are no state specific certifications at the technician level, however HVAC contractors licenses will vary from state to state.
North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
The NATE certification shows that you have superior skills in the field, however it is only recommended after at least 2 years in the industry. It’s is a comprehensive series of exams, but once you pass the test and earn this certification you can command higher wages. You can learn more about the NATE certification here.
The EPA Certification
The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has a series 608 examination which encompasses several areas of HVAC certification: Types I, II, III and Universal certification. Most schools will have you take this examination before you complete your HVAC training and are awarded your HVAC certification. This exam involves safely transferring chemicals such as freeon and other coolants into air conditioners and other appliances without leaking them into the atmosphere. You can learn more about the EPA Section 608 here.
How long does it take to get certified?
It depends on what method you choose in order to become certified. If you select to go to a technical school full time you can complete your HVAC training in 15 months. For part time, expect to be complete in 24 months (2 years). By going to a community college the HVAC training course will take 2 years and will culminate in either a certificate or an Associates degree in Applied Science for HVAC Systems.
In truth, anyone can sit an take the EPA Section 608 exam to get certified. There are numerous study guides online. Some schools, such as Penn Foster, give online module based courses. The courses are usually taken at the student’s pace, but some other schools require you to complete the modules in a set period of time.
How much do certifications cost?
Most vocational schools cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 for the course. Colleges will vary and you should check their ‘Tuitions and Fees’ section of their website to find out how much the program would cost. Traditionally, going to a community college will be far cheaper than going to a trade school. The level of training you receive will be almost identical, but you can expect more hands on training in a trade school.
Online training schools have various prices, but they will give you the exam vouchers, so that you don’t have to pay for them. This happens once you complete their training and is to ensure that you do not lose money on the test fees before you are ready to take the exam.
You can self-study for the EPA Section 608 exam. When ready you will only need to pay $25 per exam, or $47 for the Type IV/Universal Exam.
Will a certification help get me a job?
Yes. The majority of HVAC employers will not even schedule an interview with you unless you can prove that you are a graduate of an HVAC training program. Your wages will depend because experience is really paramount. But, by having an HVAC certification you can demonstrate that you have the knowledge, are capable of learning, and that you have the ability to complete what you start. All are very attractive for employers. To increase your chances of getting an HVAC position, it is best to get certified and complete some formal training such as an apprenticeship, community college courses or vocational school.
Will a certification make me more money?
In the long run, yes. HVAC apprentices make less money than their certified counterparts upon entering the career field. Yet, as you gain experience and future certifications (NATE) you will be eligible to earn higher wages. The more skilled and experienced you are the greater your chances are for increasing your pay. HVAC certifications are a great way of demonstrating that you have the experience and skills needed to successfully perform in any company.