If you have been in the HVAC industry for around six months to a year, pursuing your NATE HVAC Support Technician certification can help advance your career.
The certificate shows that you have a fundamental understanding of the most important HVAC topics and helps prepare you for your full NATE certification.
What is NATE?
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE®) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) combine to create a coalition called NATE.
Working with a nationwide committee made up of experts in the HVAC industry, NATE uses a collection of real-world working knowledge to create and offer various NATE certification exams that are seen as the industry standard.
Who is the NATE HVAC Support Technician certification for?
If you have been working in the HVAC industry for six months or more, you should consider taking the HVAC Support Technician exam to get your certification.
This certification is typically the second certification that HVAC professionals get after the NATE Ready to Work certification—though the latter isn't required to get the former.
Having your HVAC Support Technician certificate shows that you are serious about your career and demonstrates your understanding of basic professional level topics that are essential to being a successful HVAC technician and that will be covered in the full NATE certification exam.
Having your NATE Support Technician certification can help you get hired or earn a higher salary, instills trust in customers that you are knowledgeable and up to date on HVAC systems, and can help you learn.
What’s on the NATE HVAC Support Technician exam?
The NATE HVAC Support Technician exam covers many of the same HVAC topics as the full NATE certification—which can be done through the Traditional pathway or CHP-5 pathway—but at a more fundamental level.
Here are some of the topics you can expect:
- How tools work
- Basic terminology
- System parts
- Basic science and math
- Basic electrical
How much the NATE HVAC Support Technician exam costs
If you take the NATE HVAC Support Technician exam online, it costs $50 for your first attempt and $35 for each retake.
When it comes to taking the exam in person, each NATE-authorized testing organization sets its own prices. Therefore, you can expect a range of costs depending on where you take the test—likely somewhere between $50 and $100.
How to take the NATE HVAC Support Technician exam
Follow these steps to taking the NATE HVAC Support Technician exam:
Step 1 – Gain HVAC experience
The recommended length of time you should work in the HVAC industry before taking the Support Technician exam is six months. Many people wait until they’ve had a year on the job.
Most often, this work experience is acquired through apprenticeships or another form of on-the-job training.
Step 2 – Study Up
To prepare for the exam, you should consider purchasing NATE’s HVAC Support Technician Study Guide that will help get you ready for it. It’s only $9.99 and goes over everything that the exam covers.
What’s nice is that you can set your own pace while studying for the exam and take it when works best for you. If it takes longer than expected to get through the study guide and understand it all, no worries! Keep studying and take the exam when it makes the most sense for you.
You can also ask close friends, family, or colleagues for their assistance in helping you study—simply create your own flash cards or provide them with the questions and correct answers and ask them to quiz you on the subject matter that will be covered in your test.
Step 3 – Sign Up & Take the Test
Though NATE doesn’t specify for the HVAC Support Technician exam online, most of the exams require a grade of 70% or higher for you to earn your certificate.
If you don’t pass on your first try, remember that you can take it again for $35.
So you’ve taken the exam, now what?
If you take the exam in-person at a testing center, NATE will email you once they begin processing your results. During this time, you should activate your NATE account if you haven’t already. After 2-3 weeks, you can expect a second email with your results.
If you take the exam online, results are available immediately after the test is completed.
If you pass
If you earn a passing grade, you will earn your NATE HVAC Support Technician certificate. Note that this is different from a full NATE certification which you can earn only after two years of experience.
Now that you have progressed to this next level of HVAC certificate, your old resume is outdated. Be sure to update it so that it presents an accurate representation of your new certificate. This is especially important if you are seeking employment opportunities at new companies because it can help you stand out from the competition.
Since the NATE HVAC Support Technician certificate isn’t a full NATE certification, it doesn’t expire. Unlike the full NATE certification, there is no need to renew it after a certain amount of time.
If you don’t pass
What if you did not pass the HVAC Support Technician exam?
The important thing here is not to get discouraged. Look back on your test results and identify the areas you struggled with.
Now that you know what you need to work on, repeat the steps you worked through the first time and pay special attention to the subjects you lacked expertise in, and remember to refresh your knowledge on the other areas of the test as well.
It’s possible you need to approach your preparation from a different angle for future attempts. For example, if you went the DIY route, maybe you should try a more structured process this time and consider using NATE’s study guide.
Even if you don’t pass the first time, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking again. Earning certifications can further your education and show your expertise to help advancing your career as an HVAC technician.