By Andrea Cohen, Tests.com Contributing Writer
Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration, also known as HVAC, requires specialized skills, knowledge and experience. Some states and municipalities require that HVAC specialists be licensed and others do not. Even among the locations that do require a license, requirements vary widely, but licensing requirements always include some type of test and usually minimum educational, training or experience requirements. In addition to licensing exams that may be required to work in various locations, there are also numerous certification exams that can be taken to show proficiency, further careers and advance employment and compensation opportunities.
About HVAC Certification and Licensing
States and localities may have different requirements for certification and licensure. Those locations that require a license have candidates take some type of test. This test can vary greatly and include knowledge of HVAC processes, electrical codes, proper handling of refrigerants, laws and regulations and more.
There are also numerous tests that can be taken during different times in an HVAC technician’s education and career to certify their competency in various aspects of the profession. These tests are not always required but do help to advance an individual’s career and provide greater employment and compensation opportunities. Entry-level certification exams for those with less than one year of experience are usually administered at trade or technical schools. As experience increases, other certification exams deal with specific types of equipment or processes.
For states or municipalities that require licensing by HVAC technicians, there are sometimes varying levels of licensing, depending on whether an individual is a journeyman, master or contractor. Some states even require apprentices or trainees to have a license if they are doing any hands-on work. A journeyman has less practical experience than a master. More stringent requirements are needed in order to earn a contractor license.
For any technicians that work with or purchase refrigerants, a certification exam must be passed – this is a requirement of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There are three certification areas for refrigerant handling, including servicing small appliances, high pressure refrigerants and low pressure refrigerants. These exams are usually administered by trade schools, unions or contractor associations that are approved by the EPA.
Types of HVAC Exams
There are numerous types of certification and licensing exams offered to HVAC specialists that are administered by various organizations, groups, or state agencies. The EPA requires that anyone handling or purchasing refrigerants be certified. There are different tests required dependent on whether you are servicing building air conditioning and refrigeration systems or those used for an automobile.
Some of the larger organizations that offer certification programs and licensing exams are HVAC Excellence, North American Technician Excellence (NATE), the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society, and the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Safety Coalition. Trade and technical schools, unions and other organizations may also offer certification exams. States may offer their own licensing exams or have a third party tester administer the tests.
Tests may differ depending on who is offering the test, where it is offered, what specialty the test is related to and the level of licensing (journeyman, master or contractor). The majority are closed book exams, but there are some that are open book. The length of tests, time limits, scoring parameters and fees can also vary widely.
For examples of the types of HVAC certification exams, here is a list of HVAC Excellence certifications:
An HVAC Excellence exam typically consists of 100 questions and the average time allotted to complete an exam is two hours. The written exams are all multiple-choice and are given in both computer-based and paper/pencil format. The exam are given and proctored around the country at various types of locations, like secondary or post-secondary schools, continuing education locations, government workforce development centers and job corp. locations. If an exam is not offered at a local vo-tech or HVACR program location, individuals can contact HVAC Excellence at 1 (800) 394-5268 to obtain information on the nearest testing center. This is just one example of the types of certification exams offered by one organization, but there are many other variations as well.
Since tests vary widely, so do the pre-requisites needed prior to taking the tests. There are usually minimum requirements related to practical experience, education and training. Some certification exams require that a certification program must first be completed. Certain state licensing exams require that a candidate be pre-approved prior to taking an HVAC licensing test.
Interested in becoming an HVAC Technician, Journeyman , Master or Contractor? Check out our HVAC Test Directory.