How to get your HVAC certification

If you’re entering the HVAC field and plan to handle refrigerants, you will likely be required to get your EPA 608 certification. There are some optional certifications you can obtain, like NATE or HVAC Excellence. Some states and cities may require you to hold additional licenses.

Certifications are a great way to show employers that you are both committed to the trade and possess the competency to get the job done. While most certifications are optional, some certifications are required by federal law. Some states and cities may also require you to possess licenses to perform HVAC work.

This page will help you understand the different types of certifications available, which are required, and how to get some common HVAC certifications.

What certifications are required for HVAC?

If you’re exploring a career in HVAC or actively trying to become an HVAC technician, you will find a few different HVAC certifications, like the EPA 608 Certification and North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certifications. While NATE certifications are completely optional, the EPA 608 certification is required by federal law.

EPA 608 Certification

The EPA 608 certification was introduced as part of the Clear Air Act in response to the Montreal Protocol. The certification requires that technicians handling refrigerants pass a one-time exam administered by an EPA-approved certifying organization. You may be exempt from the EPA 608 certification if you are enrolled in an apprenticeship program and are directly supervised by a certified technician. There are four types of certifications offered under the EPA 608.

To obtain any of the certification types listed below, you must first pass the Core Section of the EPA 608 certification exam. The Core Section is a 25 question exam that covers high-level principles and why refrigerants are regulated.

HVAC certifications vs licenses

The terms certification and license are often used interchangeably in HVAC, however, it is important to understand the difference between the two.

HVAC certifications include both voluntary programs, like NATE, that demonstrate your competency in the field and required certifications, like the EPA 608.

HVAC licenses, on the other hand, are administered by the state or city you plan to work in. Common licenses include those for HVAC contractors.

Types of HVAC certifications

Some HVAC certifications are completely optional, but demonstrate your level of knowledge to employers, while some certifications, like the EPA 608, are required by law. You can learn more about some common HVAC certifications below.

EPA 608 Certification

The EPA 608 certification is required by any technicians who maintain, service, repair, or dispose of equipment that could release refrigerants into the atmosphere. There are four different types of certifications offered as part of the EPA 608. You must pass the Core exam before you can obtain any certifications listed below.

  • Type I: For servicing small appliances
  • Type II: For servicing or disposing of high- or very high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and MVACs
  • Type III: For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances
  • Universal: For servicing all types of equipment

North American Technician Excellence (NATE) Certifications

NATE offers optional certifications to HVAC workers that demonstrate your knowledge of a given skill, both to clients and employers. NATE is a nonprofit organization that was developed with the support of the HVAC industry. NATE offers various certifications and certificates based on your skill level.

NATE Ready-to-Work Certificate

This certificate is intended for HVAC technicians who are entering the industry with no prior education or training. The exam will test your knowledge of HVACR fundamentals and skills required to work in the field.

NATE HVAC Support Technician Certificate

This certificate is designed for technicians with 6-12 months of experience. The exam will test your general knowledge, as well as HVAC specific knowledge in the areas of safety, tools, heat transfer, comfort, basic science, basic electrical, installation, planned maintenance, system components, and design considerations.

NATE Certification

The NATE Certification is recommended for technicians with two or more years of experience. There are two certification pathways you can choose from to obtain Nate Certification:


Technicians can earn their NATE Certification through the CHP-5 pathway by passing a series of five exams, each covering different material:

  • HVAC Fundamentals
  • Electrical and Controls
  • Comfort and Airflow
  • Installation
  • Service

Technicians can also choose the traditional NATE certification pathway. This pathway requires technicians to pass a Core exam and a Specialty exam. See a list of available specialty certifications:

Installation Specialties
  • Air Conditioning
  • Air Distribution
  • Air to Heat Pump
  • Gas Heating (Air)
Service Specialties
  • Air Conditioning
  • Air Distribution
  • Commercial Refrigeration
  • Heat Pump (Air to Air)
  • Gas Heating (Air)
  • Hydronics Gas
  • Hydronics Oil
  • Light Commercial Refrigeration
  • Oil Hearing (Air)

NATE Senior Level Efficiency Analyst Certification

Technicians looking to demonstrate their expertise in the field can choose to obtain the Senior Level Efficiency Analyst Certification, the highest certification offered by NATE. Before obtaining this certification, a technician must hold two or more Service Specialty Certifications.

HVAC Excellence

Established in 1994 by the ESCO Group, HVAC excellence offers a wide variety of certifications and assessments intended for HVAC professionals. These certifications are optional, but demonstrate a commitment and mastery of the trade.


The Heating Electrical Air Conditioning Technical (H.E.A.T.) assessment is designed for high school students who want to test their knowledge of various HVAC subjects. This assessment is not commonly used by employers to evaluate skill proficiency.

Employment Ready

Employment Ready certifications help instructors and employers evaluate the level of knowledge an aspiring technician possesses. The assessment evaluates knowledge over a standard set of topics, including electrical, electric heat, gas heat, oil heat, air conditioning, light commercial air conditioning, and more.

Professional Technician

Professional Technician certifications are designed for technicians with two or more years of experience who want to demonstrate their expertise. A technician can earn a multitude of certifications, including electric heat, combustion analysis, residential air conditioning, light commercial refrigeration, and more.

Master Specialist Hands-On

Master Specialist certifications are the highest credential available to technicians through HVAC Excellence. The certifications are designed for technicians with three more years of experience. You must also have a professional technician certification in a given domain before obtaining a master specialist certification.

Should you get an HVAC certification?

If you are planning to work as an HVAC technician, you will more than likely need to get your EPA 608 certification. If you are enrolled in an HVAC apprenticeship program and you are managed by a certified technician, you may be exempt from the EPA 608 certification requirement.

Other certifications like NATE or HVAC Excellence are optional, but can help you along your HVAC career path by demonstrating to employers your competency and your commitment to learning the trade.

How to get certified

To obtain your EPA 608 certification, you will need to pass an exam administered by an EPA-approved certifying organization. This certification certification never expires and there is no requirement for renewal.

You can obtain other certifications through their respective organizations. For more information regarding NATE Certifications, visit their website. For more information about HVAC Excellence programs, visit their website.

You should also check with your state/county/city to see if it has any specific licensing or certification requirements. For example, while there are no Illinois HVAC license or certification requirements, Chicago and other cities in the state have requirements.