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Online HVAC Technician Certification

Find out what online education programs are designed to prepare you for a career in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). Learn how to become certified in the HVAC field.

What Will I Learn in an Online HVAC Technician Certificate Program?

You can take the first step toward becoming a certified Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) technician by completing an online certificate program. These programs often consist of one course with multiple teaching and learning modules. These modules cover various areas of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration design, installation, maintenance and repair. In others cases, certificate programs are divided into several courses. Topics commonly covered in HVAC certificate programs may include:

  • Residential and commercial installation
  • Electrical currents in HVAC units
  • HVAC system controls
  • Fundamentals of gas heating
  • Air distribution balance
  • Cooling systems compressors
  • Safety principles
  • Heating pumps and ducts
  • HVAC energy conservation

Common Course TopicsSafety principles, air distribution balance, maintenance, refrigeration design, ventilation
CertificationNATE offers 22 different certifications in the HVAC field; HVAC Excellence also offers certifications
Certification RequirementsTo obtain certification, one must past an in-depth exam in a specific test area; depending on the certification type, work experience may be required
Online StructureAll course materials are online, can work at your own pace or opt for a more deadline-oriented program
Median Salary (2020)$50,590* (for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers)
Job Outlook (2019-2029)4% growth* (for all heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Types of Certification Is Available?

HVAC technician certification options vary by level, area of expertise and certifying organization. Obtaining any of the certifications described below officially authorizes you to perform heating, air conditioning, refrigerator installation, maintenance and repair. Because refrigeration is generally considered a part of the HVAC industry, certifications are often issued in HVAC-R format.

North American Technician Excellence, Inc. (NATE) offers installation or service certifications for 22 different skill areas, including air conditioning, air-to-air heat pump, refrigeration, gas heating and hydronics oil (www.natex.org). HVAC Excellence, another certifying organization, grants professional certifications in light or electric heat, commercial air conditioning, carbon monoxide screening, combustion analysis and green awareness (www.hvacexcellence.org). Both organizations offer senior-level HVAC certifications, but these are only available to those who already hold one or several credentials from each certifying organization.

What Do I Have to Do to Get Certified?

Earning your HVAC certification requires passing at least one in-depth examination testing your skills and knowledge of the heat, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration concepts covered in certificate programs. Regardless of the certifying organization, you'll have to pass a core exam on the foundations of HVAC-R installation, maintenance and repair. HVAC Excellence issues the core examination as a screener of sorts; you're required to pass it before being eligible for official certification. If you're seeking NATE certification, the core exam is offered concurrently with the certification exam for your area of specialization.

In addition to a passing score on the core exam, HVAC Excellence also requires two years of work experience in an HVAC-related position. NATE certification carries no work or education requirements, but recommends 1-5 years of experience, depending on the level of certification you're seeking, before taking the exam. Once you meet any applicable prerequisites and pass the necessary exams, you're officially certified as an HVAC-R technician specializing in your focus area of choice. Certifications are good for up to five years. When they expire, you can generally renew them by earning continuing education credits from courses in your area of expertise.

How Do Online Programs Work?

Distance learning programs allow you to complete all course requirements and earn your HVAC certificate using nothing more than an Internet-connected computer; no visits to your school's campus are required. All course materials - such as readings, assignments and exams - are transmitted through an online learning platform. Any required textbooks can generally be ordered online as well.

The structure of online HVAC certificate programs can vary. In programs consisting of one longer course with numerous modules, you can typically progress through course requirements at your own pace. In programs consisting of several courses, you may generally sign in and access course materials at your convenience. However, all work for each course must be completed within the allotted time, and you'll face more frequent homework and exam deadlines than in a self-paced program.