How to Get Your HVAC CertificationBy My Service Depot on Thursday, July 18, 2019
HVAC certifications. Do you need one? How do you get one? Let's answer those questions!
HVAC certifications! Do you need one? How do you get one? In this article, we take a look at the answers to those questions.
We’ll start here. You don’t need an HVAC certification to start working in the industry as an apprentice, which gives you a clear path to getting the necessary on-the-job training required for licenses and certifications in the first place. But once you’re ready to take the next step and become a technician, what kind of documentation do you need?
The answer largely depends on the state in which you’ll work, since some states require HVAC licenses and others do not. It also depends on whether you’ll work with refrigerants, since you’ll need an EPA certification in order to do so. Beyond those licenses and certifications, nothing is strictly required, but additional certifications can certainly help you stand out among customers and colleagues.
Do I need an HVAC certification to do HVAC work?
First, let’s get some terminology out of the way, because there is a difference between licenses and certifications.
Licenses keep your business legal in terms of insurance and taxes, and also help keep the industry honest; only workers with a certain level of experience and/or education can get a license. Many states require HVAC technician licenses, whereas other states only require HVAC contractors to have licenses.
An HVAC certification, on the other hand, demonstrates your education level for employers. Certifications aren’t necessarily required to land a job, but they can prove a huge help in making you stand out, especially for non-entry-level jobs.
The EPA Section 608 certification exists in a class of its own, as it is required in all states for anyone working with refrigerant.
Which states require HVAC licenses?
Currently, these states require licenses for those working in the HVAC industry. Some pertain to contractors only, so pay attention to the terminology on each state’s website, and don’t hesitate to ask the licensing department if you have any doubts.
There may be city ordinances governing licenses for HVAC technicians as well. Always consult your local and state business council for full licensing details before assuming you can legally start earning money as an HVAC technician. You may need to show documents regarding your experience and education in the field.
These states require HVAC licenses:
- Distract of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Which states do NOT require HVAC licenses?
These states do not require any kind of HVAC license in order for you to operate as a technician or contractor (however, regulations may still exist, such as insurance requirements):
- New Hampshire
- New York
- South Dakota
Types of HVAC Certifications
HVAC certifications can help propel your career forward. They test your knowledge and education, which then helps you prove to both your employer and your customers that you’re worth promoting or hiring in the first place.
Some trade schools offer their own certification programs, but it’s also common for HVAC technicians to get certifications from national organizations. The most popular ones include:
- North American Technician Excellence
- The National Inspection Testing and Certification Corporation
- The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
- HVAC Excellence
You’ll need to show documented experience and/or education before taking the certification exams, as well as pay a fee.
EPA Section 608 Certification
The previous certifications represent things that are “nice to have,” but the EPA Section 608 certification is a hard and fast requirement for all technicians working with refrigerants. The EPA administers this certification due to the ozone-depleting nature of refrigerants, which must be properly handled and disposed of.
Even if you don’t work with refrigerants currently, consider getting certified. After all, there’s no reason to limit yourself in terms of the work you can take on.
How do I get an HVAC certification?
First, find an HVAC certification that you qualify for and can afford. Compare the different offerings and decide what makes sense for you. For example, some entry-level certifications can be earned online, but others require you to sit down in a classroom with a proctor, so keep in mind the convenience of the testing method involved.
All HVAC certification programs have study materials that you can (and absolutely should!) purchase to help you prep before the exam. Factor in the cost of these materials if you’re on a budget.
If you live near a trade school, that may be a fantastic option. Self-study represents a challenge for some people, and a more formal educational environment can help you prepare for a certification. Trade schools may even offer their own certification upon course completion.