Refrigeration certification falls under heating, ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC) certification and those who meet certain standards can achieve the appended title of HVAC-R. It is possible to earn a HVAC certification online. Professional certification for the refrigeration industry is commonly offered by private organizations that aim to acknowledge professional excellence. It is usually voluntary, rather than mandated by the industry at large -- although some employers may require their hires to be or become certified. To earn the HVAC-R title and handle certain types of refrigerants, technicians must pass additional standards from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Certification applications for HVAC professionals may be completed and submitted online. But the actual tests, whether they are knowledge or skills examinations, must be taken either at an approved testing center or in the presence of representatives of the organization that is granting the certification. The process of becoming certified typically requires hands-on performance that is examined by a master technician as well as the completion of a proctored test. To prepare for their exams, prospective HVAC technicians may handle all but their testing via the Internet.
Available Certifications and Certifying Organizations
The major certifying bodies for heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration professionals are HVAC Excellence, North American Technician Excellence (NATE), the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) and the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI). HVAC certifications vary by issuing organization, but they generally include a variety of low-level technical certifications covering specific competencies, as well as a high-level master's certification that covers all aspects of HVAC.
- NATE offers 21 installation, service and senior tests, covering areas such as gas and oil heating, heat pumps, commercial refrigeration and heating and cooling efficiency (www.natex.org).
- The RSES offers official certification from the EPA in refrigerant handling, which is legally required for technicians who will come in contact with certain refrigeration products, as well as two levels of certification in HVAC (www.rses.org).
- HVAC Excellence provides two kinds of credentials; one kind targets specific areas of HVAC, while the other is a hands-on examination that leads to master specialist certification (www.hvacexcellence.org).
- NOCTI partners with industrial standards agencies to provide certification opportunities, including four related to HVAC (www.nocti.org).
Online HVAC Training Options
While completing the certification process is an in-person undertaking, prospective HVAC or HVAC-R professionals can prepare for earning industry credentials through formal training at community colleges, private career schools and a few four-year universities. Although traditional on-campus education programs are most common in this field, there are schools offering online or hybrid options.
Colleges and universities may offer online continuing education training that doesn't lead to college credit but prepares students for certification. For-credit programs may lead to a HVAC technician diploma or certificate and they typically take under six months to complete. Some are totally online, but hybrid options combine virtual and on-campus instruction. Students can expect to learn about the following areas:
- HVAC systems
- Cooling systems
- Refrigerant management
- HVAC-R safety protocols
- Refrigeration cycle physics
- Refrigeration applications and equipment
- Oil and gas heat
- Heat pumps
- Residential and commercial systems
Overall, depending on their educational interests and career goals, prospective students can choose between many online programs that cover refrigeration, which can be offered by postsecondary institutions or third-party organization.