Your Guide to NATE Certification

HVAC is an advancing industry using high-tech and innovative technology.

To keep up with these tech developments, you need to enhance your competencies to survive in the competitive job market.

One of the ways for you to stand out from the competition is earning a NATE Certification.

In this guide, you’ll learn…

  • What NATE Certification is
  • Why you should get a NATE Certification
  • What different certification exams are available
  • How you can prepare for the NATE Certification exam
  • How to maintain your NATE Certification
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What is NATE Certification?

North American Technician Excellence (NATE) Certification is one of the widely accepted HVAC certifications in the industry.

All questions in the certification exam are based on KATEs, or Knowledge Areas of Technician Expertise.

As such, having a NATE Certification ensures HVAC technicians possess real-world knowledge and skills to become industry experts.

The good thing is that anyone can take the certification exam, even those without formal education.

The only requirement is that you must have the necessary training or work experience, especially in your specialty.

So if you specialize in an area, you must have the following minimum years of experience:

  • Installation technician – 1 year of experience
  • Service technician – 2 years of experience
  • Senior level technician – 5 years of experience

Reasons to Become a NATE-Certified HVAC Technician

Building a career in the HVAC industry is both physically and mentally demanding.

That’s why the industry sets high standards and requirements for its HVAC technicians.

One such vital requirement is getting certified.

So what difference does a NATE Certification make in your career?

Let’s list the reasons why:

  • It’s proof that you’ve achieved an advanced level of competency as an HVAC technician
  • It secures a level of trust from the following groups:
    • Contractors
    • Manufacturers and distributors
    • Utilities
    • Educators and trainers
    • Homeowners and commercial clients
  • It helps you jump up the salary bracket, earning more income than before
  • It broadens your job responsibilities and opens chances for career advancement

NATE Certification Exams Being Offered

Currently, NATE has three certifications you can choose to take:

  • NATE Certification for professional HVAC technicians with at least 2 years of experience
  • Entry Level Certificate for aspiring HVAC technicians (recent graduates and apprentices)
  • Professional Certification Exams for HVAC technicians with specialized knowledge

NATE Certification for Professional HVAC Technicians

This certification aims to validate your competency as an installation or as a service technician.

Here, you’re given two pathways:

  • Traditional
  • Certified HVAC Professional (CHP-5)

Traditional Pathway

In this pathway, you’ll take 2 tests:

  • 50-item Core exam
  • 100-item Specialty exam

The Core exam tests your general and specific knowledge of HVAC and of construction.

Meanwhile, the Specialty exam tests your knowledge of specialized HVAC areas.

Here are the Specialties that you can choose from:

  • Installation specialties
    • Air conditioning
    • Air distribution
    • Air-to-air heat pump
    • Gas heating (air)
  • Service specialties
    • Air conditioning (also available in Spanish)
    • Air distribution
    • Light commercial refrigeration
    • Heat pump (air to air) (also available in Spanish)
    • Gas heating (air) (also available in Spanish)
    • Hydronics gas
    • Hydronics oil
    • Light commercial refrigeration
    • Oil heating (air)

The content for each exam follows the KATEs, which are found on NATE’s website.

And so, you’re encouraged to go over the scope of each to increase your chances of passing.

Also, once you complete the Specialty exam, you’ll earn an Installation, Service, or Senior certification specialization.

CHP-5 Pathway

In this pathway, you’ll take 5 exams in progressive order:

  • HVAC fundamentals
  • Electrical and controls
  • Comfort and airflow
  • Installation
  • Service

Each exam will have 30 questions, and you have about 6 months to prepare in between each exam.

This style of certification will allow you to maximize your understanding of HVAC, making it easy to prepare for the exam.

Entry Level Certificate for Aspiring HVAC Technicians

This NATE certificate helps aspiring HVAC technicians…

  • Validate their knowledge of the job
  • Gain momentum toward early career success

There are 2 certificates being offered here that you can choose from:

  • Ready-to-Work Certificate for newbies in the HVAC field with little to no formal education or training
  • HVAC Support Technician Certificate for support technicians with 6 to 12 months of field experience

Like the NATE Certification, the content for both certificate exams is based on the KATEs.

Do note that exam passers only receive a certificate, not a full certification.

Professional Certification Exams for HVAC Technicians with Specialized Knowledge

If you possess specialized HVAC knowledge, you can obtain any of these certifications:

  • Low-GWP Refrigerants Certification
  • Ground Source Heat Pump Loop Installer
  • HVAC Performance Verifier

Per usual, exam content for each is based on KATEs and is available on NATE’s website.

Preparing for the NATE Certification Exam

Exams can be nerve-wracking, so here are some tips to help you prepare for NATE Certification.

  • Review the KATEs so you can only study the important content
  • Look up NATE study guides to serve as supplemental study materials
  • If you can or want to, consolidate your learning by enrolling in either:

Maintaining Your NATE Certification

Your NATE Certification is only valid for 2 years.

NATE can grant you recertification in 2 ways.

  • Option 1
    • Complete 16 hours of continuing education hours
    • Pay the renewal fee
      • $25 per specialty
      • $5 per additional specialty
  • Option 2
    • Retake the specialty exam before the expiration date
    • If the expiration date already passed, within the 120-day grace period

Do note that if you still don’t take the exam within the grace period, you’ll have to go over the process again to get your NATE Certification.

This page is also available in Spanish.

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