If you're looking for a rewarding and lucrative career, you may be considering becoming an HVAC technician. Working in the HVAC industry allows you to work with your hands, learn tons of new skills, make a solid living, and work in a variety of environments and settings.
The great thing about becoming an HVAC technician is that you don't have to go to school for four years to get a special degree. Getting started on the career path is fairly easy, and once you learn the basics, you can take the NATE Ready to Work exam so employers know you’re actually “ready to work.”
What is the NATE Ready to Work certificate?
The NATE Ready to Work certificate should be step one of every aspiring HVAC technician's journey once they have basic training. It's meant for individuals trying to break into the HVAC industry and get started on the right foot. Getting your Ready to Work certificate is a good option during or after your HVAC apprenticeship.
To receive your NATE Ready to Work certificate, you'll have to pass the NATE Ready to Work exam. While having this particular NATE certification doesn't guarantee you a job, it does make you more appealing to employers and makes getting a job much easier.
Here’s how the NATE Ready to Work certification can help you get hired:
- Shows you have a solid foundation of basic HVAC knowledge
- Shows prospective employers that you're serious and committed to the trade
- Teaches you about professionalism and etiquette in the HVAC world
- Some form of certification is required in some states, and the Ready to Work certification is one of the preferred options by employers
What's on the NATE Ready to Work exam?
The NATE Ready to Work exam is designed to test and prepare you for a career as an HVAC technician. It consists of 50 questions, and you'll need to answer 35 correctly to receive a passing grade of 70%.
Here’s a breakdown of the six sections it includes:
- Tools (32%). The tools section is the largest part, 32%, of the test. It focuses on questions about identifying specific tools and their applications.
- Components (22%). This section comprises roughly 22% of the exam and requires you to be able to name the different components and parts of HVAC systems.
- Electrical Safety (12%). Electrical safety is one of two safety sections on the exam and is 12% of the test. As an HVAC technician, you're also somewhat of an electrician, which makes electrical safety extremely important.
- Measurement & Units (8%). This section takes up roughly 8% of the exam and focuses on the different measurements and units in HVAC, such as area, volume, and square footage.
- Basic Heat Transfer (12%). This section consists of 12% of the test and is one of the most important aspects of being an HVAC technician. You'll have to understand how a heating and cooling system heats or cools a space based on the size of the space and the type of system being used.
- General Safety (14%). General safety is the second safety section and takes up 14% of the exam. This section focuses on ladder, refrigerant, driving, and worksite safety. You should also know what type of protective clothing to wear.
Overall, the NATE Ready to Work Exam consists of 50 questions, and you'll need to answer 35 correctly to receive a passing grade of 70%.
How much does the NATE Ready to Work exam cost?
The nice thing about taking the NATE Ready to Work exam is that it won't break the bank.
The first test costs $50 and every retake afterward costs only $35. It's a very small investment to make towards your future, especially considering it can help you get a better salary as an HVAC technician.
How to take the NATE Ready to Work exam
Another awesome thing about the NATE Ready to Work exam is that it's very easy to take. The exam is completely online, and you don't need a proctor or supervisor to take it.
Here's how to register for the NATE Ready to Work exam and get started:
- Go to mynate.org and create an account if you haven't already.
- You'll receive a confirmation email that you need to open to register your account.
- Once registered, go to the RTW section in the top menu.
- Click the Create option in the middle of the screen next to Ready to Work.
- Enroll in the exam and pay for it.
Once you pay for the exam, you'll get sent a study guide and access to the exam. You can then take the test at any time.
- The next step is to study for the exam. The study guide that NATE provides is a good start, but you'll also benefit from other study resources that we discuss below.
- When you’re ready, take the exam online. You don't need a proctor or supervisor to take it.
Because you aren't proctored, you can technically take the exam open book style with your study guide next to you.
However, the whole point of the exam is to test your base knowledge about the HVAC industry. While the goal is to have a passing grade, the ultimate goal is to learn and retain important information.
How to find help preparing for the NATE exam
Here are some of the best ways to prepare you for the NATE Ready to Work exam:
- Study Guides. The complementary study guide you get from NATE when registering for your test is a great way to learn the material.
- HVAC Bootcamps. An HVAC Bootcamp, such as Faraday Career HVAC Bootcamp, is one of the best ways to prepare for the NATE Ready to Work exam and a career in the HVAC industry. Faraday is a free, six-week program that teaches you all the basics of being an HVAC technician and helps you find a job once you complete the program.
- Prep Courses. There are several prep courses online that provide a fun and interactive training experience that can help you prepare for the Ready to Work exam.
- Practice Exams. You can also find NATE Ready to Work practice exams online that you can use to test your knowledge before you take the real thing. You can see one practice exam here and some others here.
So, you've taken the exam, now what?
Since you take the NATE Ready to Work exam online, you'll know right when you finish the test if you passed or not.
If you received a passing grade of at least 70%, congratulations! You now have something concrete to put on your resume for future employers, showing them that you're competent and serious about a career in HVAC.
If you don't pass, there's no need to worry or get down on yourself. You can retake the exam as many times as you want and retakes only cost $35.
No matter how long it takes, getting your NATE Ready to Work certification is definitely worth it if you’re set on becoming an HVAC technician.
Study hard, take some practice tests, and you’ll be Ready to Work certified in no time!