Understanding Certifications for HVAC Technicians

hvac technician students in classroom

HVAC technicians install, maintain and repair heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. These systems are becoming increasingly complex, so job opportunities tend to be better for those with formal HVAC training from a post-secondary institution.

Certifications can also improve job prospects for HVAC technicians and may be required by government agencies. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification is mandatory for all HVAC techs working with the refrigerants found in many types of HVAC/R units. Industry certifications like North American Technical Excellence (NATE) are often preferred by employers. What are these certifications? And, what is the general process of getting them?

HVAC Training to Prepare for Certifications and a Career

Preparation for an HVAC career can start as early as high school and is typically followed with study at an HVAC school or community college. Many employers prefer to hire techs with formal training. It can also help with preparing for certain HVAC certification tests. Technicians also typically train on the job after entering the field. Here’s a closer look at the process.

Type of Preparation Details Duration Learning Focus
High School or GED   A High School Diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED) is Usually a Requirement for Admission into an HVAC School. Community College Requirements Vary 3 Months to 4 Years Math, Physics & Vocational Education Classes
HVAC School Career-Focused, Practical Training 10 Weeks to 2 Years Air Conditioning, Gas Heating, Basic Electricity, Indoor Air Quality, Heat Pumps & Electric Heat & Employment & Certification Readiness
Community College Technical & General Education Courses 2 Years or More Similar Technical Courses to HVAC School Plus English & Other General Ed Classes
On-the-Job Training Entry-Level HVAC Techs Start Out Working Under Experienced Techs 2 Years Start with Basic Jobs (Cleaning Furnaces & Insulating Refrigerant Lines) and Move Up to Complex Tasks (Checking Electrical Circuits & Cutting & Soldering Pipes)

Some HVAC schools also prepare students for careers in major appliance repair. This is the case at Delta Technical College, which offers an HVAC/R-MAR Technician Program. This HVAC training program is available at the school’s campuses in Horn Lake, Mississippi and Ridgeland, Mississippi, and can be completed in 9 months.

Types of Certifications for HVAC Techs

Two primary types of certification are available for HVAC technicians: EPA Section 608 Technician Certification and industry organization certifications.

EPA Certifications

EPA Certification Equipment Test Questions Test Duration
Type I Small Appliances: Air Conditioners, Domestic Refrigerators & Vending Machines 25 Multiple Choice Questions 30 Minutes
Type II High to Very High- Pressure Appliances: Residential Air Conditioners, Refrigeration Units & Heat Pumps 25 Multiple Choice Questions 30 Minutes
Type III Low-Pressure Appliances: Chillers 25 Multiple Choice Questions 30 Minutes
Universal All of the Above Equipment 25 Multiple Choice Questions 30 Minutes

Students of Delta Technical College’s HVAC/R-Mar Technician program are required to take and pass EPA Section 608 Core Type I and Type II certification exams. The school prepares students for these certification exams but does not certify them.

Industry Certifications

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HVAC Licensing Requirements

Entering the HVAC Industry