Many HVAC certification options exist. The certifications (or cards) that you choose to pursue will depend partly on where you want to live and work, but will also depend on what you want to do with your HVAC career.
You must hold your EPA Section 608 card. This is a national-level certification that all HVAC techs must hold and maintain, no matter where they are in their careers or what they want to do moving forward. If you want to work in this business, you must hold this certification.
You will also need to hold any state, county, city, or other local certifications necessary to work in your location. The requirements for getting these and maintaining them are different in different locations, but it’s usually straightforward to find out what you need to do. A simple online search can often tell you everything you need to know.
There are a massive number of voluntary certifications you can hold. These will enhance your career in some markets. Some employers will pay you more if you hold certain cards, but this varies between employers and you will want to ask each one what their policy is. Possible certifications include:
- OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) Construction Industry Training. This isn’t HVAC specific but is an industry standard in some markets.
- NATE (North American Technician Excellence) offers several levels of training, based on how long you’ve been working in HVAC. These include:
- Ready-to-Work certification, for those new to HVAC
- HVAC Support Technician, for those with 6-12 months in the HVAC industry
- Professional Level Certificate with various emphases, for those with at least 2 years in the industry
- Senior Level Technician, for those with at least 2 professional level certifications and who can pass an exam
- All NATE certifications are good for 2 years and you can recertify by taking 16 hours of classes or passing the exam again.
- ESCO Group Certifications. These are similar to the certifications offered by NATE but are prioritized in some markets. They mark you as ready to work, experienced, or a specialist in one or more areas.
- Environmental Certifications. These focus on providing customers with the best in energy-efficiency. They often focus more on calculations than on actual installation or other techniques, so they may be more appropriate for someone looking to go into planning or designing. However, some locations now require them from all techs, especially in areas where energy conservation is a priority.
- Manufacturer Certifications. Many brands or manufacturers now offer certifications specific to their equipment. Some may even require you to get these before you install their HVAC equipment, though this is less common. These tend to cover items that are specific to that brand or to the way their equipment works that is different from the standard.
As you progress through your career, the certifications you need to progress will become clear. When you need another card, you can get it and take one more step forward.