The North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is a leading HVAC certification organization that sets the standard for HVAC technician excellence. Although becoming NATE certified is completely voluntary, it would be in your best interest to consider it during the early years of your career. Because of the certification’s meaning, having that designation on your resume will make you stand out from the rest of the HVAC techs who are still sitting on the fence about getting certified.
If you can’t make up your mind regarding NATE certification, read on. Maybe knowing more will help convince you that getting certified with NATE is in your best interest professionally.
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 them on their 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. You don’t need any formal training. 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. Because this exam is proctored, you will have to take it at an exam facility. 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 the core exam plus the 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.)
You must take and pass the core exam before you can take a specialty exam. 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 keep your NATE certification updated, you must fulfill 16 credits of continuing education every 2 years. You may also have to retake the exam every 2 years, as well.
To find a testing center near you, check the NATE website.
How Do I Get NATE Certified?
If you’re thinking about becoming NATE certified, then you’ll need to start preparing. The exam isn’t easy, but if you’re ready for it, you’ll ace it!
First, you already know you have to take the core portion. But you need to pick a specialty as well. Now is the time to figure out which one of the NATE specialty certifications is right for you.
Next, you will need to start actually preparing to take those exams. This means you need to train as an HVAC tech, and get 2 years of work experience under your belt. Allegedly, the NATE certification exam is as rigorous as the Bar exam is for attorneys. So, study and learn as much as you can before your next step.
Now, it’s time to take the exam. You’ll need to register at your local examination location. There are fees involved, which vary depending on where you live and where you’re taking the exam. As mentioned earlier, you’ll take the core portion along with a specialty. 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.
Find HVAC training programs near you.
How Long Is The NATE Certification Good For?
Even though we mentioned it, it is information worthy of its own section: 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, 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 drop around $500 when you’re taking both the core and specialty exams. That’s not including the registration fee, which also varies per location.
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 between $30,610-$77,920 in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With the NATE certification, you’ll earn closer to the higher end of the average, if not above. 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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