The North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is a leading HVAC certification organization. It sets the standard for HVAC technician excellence.
Although becoming NATE certified is completely voluntary, it would be in your best interest to pursue it during the early years of your career. Because of the certification’s meaning, having the designation typically brings higher pay and increased job opportunities.
What Is The NATE Certification?
The NATE certification is a test given through the North American Technician Excellence. The knowledge-based exam is given to HVAC professionals, to test competency.
There are three different types of certifications available through NATE:
- Ready-To-Work Certification: If you’re just headed into HVAC, this certification is for you. It costs $50, and that includes a study guide that you can download. Through this guide, you’ll learn valuable information about the job and skills necessary to succeed in HVAC. Passing the exam will give you a certificate, but not the NATE certification. This certificate does not expire, so there’s nothing to renew. If you do not pass on the first try, you can retake this exam for an additional $35 per retake.
- HVAC Support Technician Certification: If you’ve already been working as an HVAC tech for 6-12 months, then this is the certification designed just for you. This particular certification will prove to employers and customers that you have an even stronger foundation in HVAC knowledge. Certification renewal is not necessary.
- NATE Certification: Once you have worked as an HVAC technician for 2 years, you are eligible to take the NATE certification exam. You can become certified in many different areas of specialty. You will have to pass both a core exam plus the chosen area of specialty exam to become NATE certified.
NATE specialties include:
- air conditioning
- air distribution
- hydronics gas
- hydronics oil
- light commercial refrigeration
- commercial refrigeration
- heat pumps
- oil heating
- HVAC efficiency analyst (This specialty will require additional training.)
How Do I Get NATE Certified?
If you’re thinking about becoming NATE certified, then you’ll need to start preparing in an HVAC program. The exam isn’t easy, but your classes can help you get ready to pass it.
Find HVAC training programs near you.
After your training program, you will need to get 2 years of work experience. Study and learn as much as you can in this period.
Once you have the necessary experience, you can take the exams. You must take and pass the core exam before you can take a specialty exam. If you only pass one, you can reschedule the one you didn’t pass. As long as you retake it within 2 years, you won’t have to retake both parts.
Typically, you’ll do both exams in one 4-hour testing period. Each test will consist of 50 questions, and you need to score a minimum of 70 percent on each of the two tests to pass.
To find a testing center near you, check the NATE website.
How Long Is The NATE Certification Good For?
This is information worthy of repeating: Your NATE certification comes with an expiration date. The exact date will be displayed on your certification card. It’s usually 2 years from the date it was issued.
To keep your NATE certification up, you will need to complete 16 hours of continuing education credits every 2 years, and submit proof of credit completion to NATE. There are forms that need to be filled out by the training provider in order for you to get those credits to count.
Or, another popular option: Prior to your NATE certification expiring, you can just retake the NATE exam. This is a good option for busy HVAC professionals who are having a hard time fitting anything else into their lives.
How Much Do NATE Certifications Cost?
The cost of the NATE certification exam varies by testing location. So, to get your exact cost, you’ll need to reach out to the facility where you’ll be taking the test.
On average, each test cost will range between $130-$250. Expect to pay around $500 when you’re taking both the core and specialty exams.
You can purchase study guides, which range in price from free to well over $1,500. These are worth any investment.
Take our FREE NATE practice exam.
How Much Do NATE Technicians Make?
HVAC technicians earned $30,610-$77,920 in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With NATE certification, you can expect to earn more than a non-certified tech in this range, thanks to your extra qualification.
Your salary will be dependent on where you work, how much experience you have, and what industry you’re employed in. These factors may make your paycheck look very different from the average. But, with a NATE certification on your resume, you can feel secure knowing it is one of the biggest positive moves you can make in your HVAC career.
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