HVAC Design Certification Program Overviews

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) programs are most commonly available as certificate programs. Graduates have a variety of certification options.

Essential Information

HVAC design involves working with contractors and architects to design effective HVAC systems in places such as private homes and commercial properties. HVAC design certificate programs provide technical training in the fundamentals of installing, operating, and maintaining heating and cooling systems. Programs last six months to one year. Several different organizations offer certification for trained HVAC workers.

Certificate Programs of Achievement in HVAC Design

HVAC design programs include comprehensive courses in HVAC systems so that students are prepared for basic installation and repair, as well as design courses from an engineering perspective. These programs also include training in safety practices, environmental hazards, and the handling of refrigerants. Some programs include traditional and computer-aided drafting courses to provide students with more in-depth system design training. Common courses include the following:

  • Designing cooling and heating systems
  • Electricity and electronics
  • Fundamentals of HVAC engineering
  • HVAC design calculations
  • Ductwork and piping systems design
  • Environmental issues in HVAC design

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Though HVAC design certificate programs are relevant to fields such as engineering and construction management, they are most often pursued by those interested in advancement in HVAC positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 292,000 people were employed in the general field of HVAC mechanics and installers in 2014. From 2014 to 2024, jobs in HVAC fields were expected to increase by 14%. Those trained in HVAC design are anticipated to be in demand as homeowners and commercial property owners remodel current HVAC systems with more environmentally friendly, energy efficient designs. As of May 2015, the median hourly wage of HVAC mechanics and installers was $21.69.


The HVAC industry offers a variety of certification options. Depending on the exam an individual is interested in, practical experience in HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair is required.

Industry Competency Examinations (ICE) Certification

The ICE exams are among the most common HVAC certification exams. They measure entry-level skills based upon standards set by multiple organizations, including the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, the Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International and the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association. The three ICE exams that HVAC technicians can take cover the following:

  • Residential air conditioning and heating
  • Light commercial air conditioning and heating
  • Commercial refrigeration

North American Technician Excellence (NATE) Certification

NATE is a non-profit organization offering HVAC NATE certification. To receive NATE certification, individuals must pass a core test and a specialty test. Though formal education is not required to take the NATE exams, they test students at a more advanced level than the ICE exams and significant prior work experience is strongly recommended. Certification, which is good for five years, is available in:

  • Air distribution
  • Hydronics oil
  • Gas furnaces
  • HVAC efficiency analysis

HVAC Excellence Advanced Certification

HVAC Excellence offers advanced certification for experienced HVAC technicians. For individuals with at least two years of HVAC experience, HVAC Excellence offers Professional Level certification through a series of written examinations in areas including residential air conditioning and heat pump service. For HVAC technicians with at least three years of experience, HVAC Excellence offers the Master Specialist certification; exams at this level cover topics including light commercial air conditioning and combustion analysis.

Those wanting to study HVAC design can enroll in a certificate program. Certification is available to HVAC professionals through numerous professional organizations in the field and typically requires passing an exam.

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