|Required Education||Associate's degree or trade school HVAC program|
|Required Experience||Apprenticeship (3-5 years)|
|Licensure/Certification||Voluntary certification available; EPA certification required if working with refrigerants|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||14% (all heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers)|
|Average Annual Salary (2015)*||$45,110 (all heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Heating and air conditioning certification is available through many organizations. HVAC (heating, ventilation & air conditioning) professionals can obtain certifications that demonstrate their expertise in specific systems or appliances, such as gas systems or heat pumps. Other options include HVAC specialty certifications, EPA certifications for working with refrigerants, and installation or service certifications for specific systems or appliances.
Certification is typically voluntary and independent from licensing, which may be required, depending on the state. The requirements for certification vary greatly based on the type of certification you choose to pursue. Required education in this field includes an associate's degree or a trade school HVAC program. 3-5 years at an apprenticeship will cover the required experience.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected job growth from 2014-2024 is expected to be 14% for all heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers. The average salary for these positions is $45,110.
Certification and Licensing Standards
There is no uniform licensing standard for heating and air conditioning employees in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, states that have regulated licensure may require students to graduate from a technical school or apprenticeship program. These programs offer prospective heating and air conditioning professionals an opportunity to learn about state regulations and codes. In some states, only the electrical and plumbing work in heating and air conditioning are regulated, and counties and cities are left to determine their own standards and licensing requirements in these areas.
Because of the lack of uniform licensing, several certification organizations have developed a specific standard of quality for professionals in the heating and air conditioning field. There are optional certifications available to companies and individuals that demonstrate their commitment to excellence in heating, ventilation, air conditioning or refrigeration.
Types of Certifications
HVAC Excellence offers two types of certifications. The first one offers certification in various core areas, such as residential air conditioning, commercial air conditioning, heat pumps, combustion analysis and oil and gas heat, while the other is a master specialist hands-on certification that covers many areas within the HVAC field. HVAC technicians don't have to be licensed in every state and locality. Licensing may be done by states, counties or cities and is not necessarily valid from one area to another.
- The National Occupational Competency Testing Institute offers four competency certifications through the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association Educational Foundation.
- The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society offers Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification, which is required to handle various types of refrigerants. There are several trade schools, employer associations and unions that offer programs geared towards the EPA exam.
- North American Technician Excellence offers 21 installation, service and senior examinations. The specialty fields covered by these exams include areas such as air conditioning, heat pumps, gas and oil furnaces, commercial refrigeration and senior HVAC efficiency.
Becoming a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning professional requires at minimum an associate's degree or certificate, and the laws regarding certification requirements vary by county and state.