What is a NATE Certified Technician?

January 5, 2021

The U.S. heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) market is worth upwards of $16 billion. According to private industry and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics research, the domestic HVAC industry is slated to grow substantially over the next several years. With great job prospects, HVAC technicians are more incentivized than ever to make the most of their careers in this field. One way to maximize career value as an HVAC professional is to seek out industry-leading certifications.

What Does Being NATE-Certified Mean?

As you know, professionals from every field undergo hands-on training, academic coursework, rigorous testing, and continuing education to attain certifications. Typically awarded by trade associations, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies, certifications bring legitimacy to industries, boost those industries’ collective revenues and reputations, and give workers a reason to work diligently.

North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is the country’s largest certifier of professionals in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) industry. NATE currently offers four distinct levels of certification.

In simple terms, you can count on NATE-certified technicians to perform high-quality work. Although every rule has exceptions, technicians certified by NATE are generally more skilled and more reliable than their uncertified counterparts. North American Technician Excellence’s certification program is quite rigorous.

Now that you’ve been enlightened on the basics of NATE-certified technicians, it’s time to break down this explanation into more detail.

NATE’s Latest HVAC Certification Pathway — CHP-5

HVAC professionals can obtain NATE certification in two ways. Today, most technicians choose to follow the certified HVAC Professional pathway, also known as CHP-5. The other way is through NATE’s Core and Specialty exams. Both of these certification pathways require the same amount of work.

NATE launched its CHP-5 pathway in July 2019. The certified HVAC Professional route requires candidates to pass five different 30-question exams in the following areas: Service, Comfort and Airflow, Installation, Electrical and Controls, and HVAC Fundamentals. The traditional pathway requires a 100-question Specialty exam and a 50-question Core exam.

Candidates can follow NATE’s recommended exam progression schedule or take their exams in any order. They must take at least one exam every six months. NATE allows candidates to work through these exams as quickly as they’d like.

As always, hopeful HVAC technicians can take their exams in person. Recently, NATE began offering exams online through its real-time remote proctoring service.

All NATE-certified technicians need to satisfy the organization’s recertification requirements every two years. They must take 16 credit hours’ worth of continuing education courses and pay a biannual renewal fee.

Different Levels of NATE Certification

There’s a difference between NATE certificates and NATE certification. The latter, NATE certification, lasts for two years and must be renewed. NATE certificates last forever and have no renewal requirements.

NATE offers two certificates: the Ready-to-Work Certificate and the HVAC Support Technician Certificate. The Ready-to-Work Certificate is ideal for entry-level technicians who have little to no formal training. It costs $50 and requires no in-person training or tests. Prospective candidates can download the Ready-to-Work Certificate study guide for free and take the online exam without a proctor.

Unlike the Ready-to-Work Certificate, the HVAC Support Technician Certificate requires in-person testing. This certificate is recommended for beginner technicians who have six months to one year of hands-on HVAC experience.

Technicians can manage their NATE certification through the organization’s convenient online portal.

Service and Installation Specialties

NATE certification isn’t the end of the road for HVAC professionals. Although it’s the gold standard for industry members, some choose to take senior-level efficiency exams to prove their expertise to potential employers.

In total, NATE offers four Installation Specialties and 10 Service Specialties. Currently, three of NATE’s Service Specialties are available in Spanish.

Organizations Can Also Get Involved in NATE Certification

Like all employers, HVAC contractors want dedicated employees who care about their careers. HVAC contractors also understand that NATE certification carries substantial value to potential customers. Since this is the case, they’re incentivized to encourage their technicians to seek out NATE certificates or full NATE certification.

Employers help their technicians get certified by making study guides and other pertinent materials available to them. They can also incentivize their employees to attend classes or hands-on training courses by awarding financial bonuses for completion.

Many HVAC contractors partner with Recognized Training Providers to send technicians through these courses. There are thousands of Recognized Training Providers across the United States.

Another way employers can expose HVAC technicians to NATE is by emphasizing the importance of NATE’s Knowledge Areas of Technician Expertise. By making an effort to educate technicians on these principles when working in the field, employers can give their workers a more well-rounded skill set.

The History of NATE

North American Technician Excellence is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization that’s headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. It was founded in 1997 as a collaborative effort between the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association and the Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute.

NATE began offering certification tests on a national level on Nov. 8, 1997. Other industry-leading authorities, including the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, decided to follow NATE’s lead by organizing their own certification exams under the NATE family of tests.

As of Jan. 2020, more than 5,000 organizations had proctored NATE examinations. Approximately 35,000 technicians and more than 5,000 contractors across North America have been certified by the organization.

Understanding NATE’s Status as a Tax-Exempt Organization

NATE is legally incorporated as a 501(c)(6) organization. You’ve probably heard of 501(c)(3) organizations, also known as charitable organizations. In simple terms, 501(c)(3) organizations serve a public good. Although these organizations can pay employees wages and salaries, their profits can’t line the pockets of any individual or private shareholder. Entities registered under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code don’t pay federal income taxes.

Like their 501(c)(3) counterparts, 501(c)(6) entities don’t pay federal income taxes. The central difference between the two is their purpose for existing. Unlike charitable organizations, organizations registered under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code must promote the joint economic interests of a group of individuals. According to the IRS definition, NATE is considered a business league, which is an entity that promotes a group’s joint economic interests without taking any profits for itself. Put simply, NATE’s legal status prevents it from profiting off of honest, career-oriented HVAC technicians.

Don’t Trust Uncertified HVAC Technicians? We Don’t Either

Having served all of Southeast Michigan since we were founded in 1948, we’ve established our company, C & C Heating & Air Conditioning, as the area’s leading heating, ventilation, and air conditioning contractor. We consider our NATE-certified employees to be our most important asset. Our technicians can take care of any HVAC job, including air conditioning and heating installation, maintenance and repair. We also perform duct cleaning and take care of indoor air quality concerns. Whether you need an annual tune-up or a 24/7 emergency repair, we’re at your service. If you’re located in Roseville, MI, or anywhere in the surrounding region, call us today to schedule an appointment with our NATE-certified technicians!

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