As an HVAC service trainer, I get asked about NATE a lot. All of the classes I teach are certified for NATE continuing education credits and I find that in general, about 10% to 25% of the technicians that attend my classes have been NATE certified. Some of the others are asking “What the heck is this NATE stuff and why should I care?”
Before I weigh in on this topic, let’s ask NATE. Here is how the NATE website (www.natex.org) explains it: “Founded in 1997, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is the nation’s largest non-profit certification organization for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians. Headquartered in Arlington, VA, NATE is the certification organization governed, owned, operated, developed and supported by the entire HVACR industry.”
“NATE certification tests represent real world working knowledge of HVACR systems. Developed by a committee of industry experts nationwide, our NATE exams represent HVACR topics pertinent to contractors, educators, manufacturers and utilities alike. All of the NATE tests are rigorous, multiple-choice, knowledge-based tests and validate a technician’s knowledge. NATE candidates may earn Installation and/or Service certification in one or more Specialty areas, including:”
• Air Conditioning
• Air Distribution
• Heat Pumps
• Gas Heating
• Oil Heating
• Hydronics Gas (service only)
• Hydronics Oil (service only)
• Light Commercial Refrigeration (service only)
• Commercial Refrigeration (service only)
• Ground Source Heat Pump Loop Installer
• Senior HVAC Efficiency Analyst
In short, a technician who possesses a NATE certification has documented proof that they know their stuff. This will come in real handy when searching for a job or in your annual review meeting.
Contractors who employ NATE certified technicians can qualify for special benefits from their equipment manufacturer such as access to exclusive product, special discounts, advertising specials and may even be listed first on the manufacturer’s “Find a contractor” section of the website.
There is no legal or regulatory requirement for NATE certification in Colorado, but that is part of the point. Since certification is voluntary, it is an opportunity to demonstrate that you are not only a competent technician, you care enough to go the extra mile, and you will hold yourself up to scrutiny and prevail.
Passing the NATE exam is not easy. A technician who can walk in to the NATE exam with no preparation and pass with flying colors is very highly skilled and very special indeed. Most technicians with a number of years of field experience under their belts will benefit from some study and advanced preparation.
I first achieved my service certifications in 2000. I attended a two day prep session and then took the exams right after. I took my CORE exam and two service specialty exams (Gas Heating and Heat Pumps) all in the same day. It was one of the most difficult tests I ever faced, but I passed all of them the first try. Even though the prep was only two days, it really helped solidify a lot of concepts I already knew and helped me frame the knowledge and experience I already had in a way that applied to the NATE exams.
In the years since I first sat for the NATE exams, doors have opened and my career was advanced in ways that simple hard work and dedication just can’t do by themselves. Initially, the company I worked for at the time, which was a brand new startup, used my certification to qualify for a top tier exclusive dealership territory with a major equipment manufacturer. This helped the company differentiate itself from the competition and generate sales through the tough first year which kept the doors open and my own paychecks coming on time.
A few years later, when I moved to Colorado, the mere mention that I was a NATE certified service tech looking for work got me interviews at several companies. Some of them weren’t even actively hiring. One of them even told me they would “make room” for me if I would agree to come on board. I literally had my pick of where I wanted to work and how much I wanted money I wanted to earn.
Today, it is my pleasure to give back to my industry by offering a NATE prep course similar to the one that leap frogged my career all those years ago. This is a two day intensive training prep seminar which will focus on the content likely to be contained in the exams. The first day will focus on content that is part of the CORE exam which must be passed by all technicians seeking a NATE certification. The second day focuses on the specialty exam content which in this session will be the Gas Forced Air Heating Service Specialty. A testing session will be held the following day while the information is still fresh in your mind.
Achieving NATE certification is a great way to build your reputation for both residential and commercial technicians. It will help you separate from the pack and move you down the road of a long and fulfilling career. My NATE prep and test session beginning on August 25 will help give you the extra help you need to get there. Click here for more details.
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