HVAC/R Education, Training, Certification, and Licensing
A career in the heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) trades requires special education and training. Formal education and training in the HVAC/R trades is available in many local public colleges and proprietary schools. Certification requires passing a standardized test indicating a thorough knowledge of the subject matter. The states also require HVAC/R technicians and contractors to take and pass licensing examinations.
HVAC/R education and training programs are offered by four-year colleges, community colleges, proprietary schools, professional and trade associations, and manufacturers of HVAC/R appliances and system components.
One way to find a local school offering courses in HVAC/R education and training is to go online to the Cool Careers Web site at Www. coolcareers. org. On their “Schools with HVACR Programs” page, you will find a list of all fifty states. Each state has the names of all the schools in that state offering programs in HVAC/R training. According to Cool Careers, their database contains the names of over 1300 training schools. You will have to contact the schools to enquire about entrance requirements, course content, class schedules, and financial aid.
If you don’t have a computer, or know how to use one, go to the reference section in your local public library and ask the reference librarian to download the information from the internet and provide a printout. They will be willing to do this for you. It’s part of the many services offered by the local public library.
Some of these schools offer only courses; others offer both courses and degrees. The least expensive courses are found at community colleges. The level of instruction will vary, depending on the school and the instructors. Your best source of information in this regard is local word of mouth. If you are already working as an entrance level trainee with a local HVAC firm, they should be able to help you find the best school and courses. After all, they often hire the graduates.
Cool Careers-Hot Jobs
The Cool Careers-Hot Jobs web site was created in 2000 by a coalition of organizations representing the heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, and plumbing industry. Its purpose is to provide information about education, training, jobs, and careers in the HVAC/R trades.
Certification means that the individual has taken and passed a standardized examination that certifies the individual’s knowledge level. After the basic certification has been obtained, the technician can then study for and take certification exams at more advanced levels.
The following four organizations provide guidance and/or testing for the certification of HVAC/R technicians. Their addresses, telephone numbers, and web site addresses are listed in Appendix A (Professional and Trade Associations).
1. Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI). ARI is a
National trade association whose members represent most of the manufacturers of central air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. ARI administers the Industry Competencies Exam (ICE), which is given primarily to students from vocational school HVAC/R programs. The ARI also provides textbooks and training materials for preparing for both the ICE and EPA certification exams.
2. North American Technician Excellence, Inc. (NATE). NATE is a nonprofit organization established in 1997 by members of the HVAC/RE industry to test and certify technicians working in the heating ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration trades. The tests are intended for experienced technicians.
3. Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES). The RSES Educational Foundation was established in 1983 as a separate nonprofit organization to develop a comprehensive voluntary technician certification program (NTC). The program guides, tests, and certifies members through each of five levels of HVAC/R technician competency ranging from Level I (Technician) to Level V (Mastertech specialist).
4. Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). ACCA works in conjunction with RSES and NATE to provide a national certification program for HVAC/R technicians.
HVAC/R work is regulated at the state level by law. The law requires that a licensing exam must be taken and passed before working in an HVAC/R trade. It is the responsibility of the individual to contact the appropriate state office and obtain the necessary information about the state licensing examination. An easy way to locate the state office charged with licensing HVAC/R technicians and contractors is to ask the reference librarian at your local public library. You could also phone the state government and ask the operator to connect you to the office.