How Much Does the NATE Certification Cost?

Written by: Staff
Last Updated:  August 15, 2018

The North American Technician Excellence, known as NATE, is the leading non-profit certification program for technicians working in the heating, ventilation, and refrigeration industry. The NATE Certification is the only test recognized by the whole industry and provides the technician proof that he or she has the knowledge to work in the residential HVAC industry.  Those who are able to get a certificate from NATE are considered certified technicians and have a higher chance of getting a stable career in the industry.

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How much does the NATE certification cost?

On average, the Core exam and the Speciality exam will cost about $130 to $250 per exam, plus registration fees.  NATE distribute its tests through authorized centers and each one will determine its own pricing structure.  If you’re first starting out and need to take your Core exam and at least one Specialty exam, plan on budgeting at least $500 for the exams.  To find a testing center near you, refer to the official test center search at says exam fees will be $250 per exam, and for example, if you were sitting for the Core exam and Specialty exam, it would cost $500 total.

AUER Steel, for instance, charges $130 per exam and recommends you bring a calculator.

NATE certification overview

The six types of NATE specialty exams, aside from the core exam, include the following:  air conditioning, air distribution, gas heating, heat pump, oil heating, hydronic gas, hydronic oil, light commercial refrigeration, commercial refrigeration and HVAC efficiency.

The core exam will have 50 questions that cover the fundamentals electricity; heat transfer and total comfort; and safety and customer service.  It will test your general knowledge of tools, basic construction, using basic science and taking measurements.

The specialty exams, depending on the specialty, can cover the fundamentals of installation, service, system components, applied knowledge, regulations, codes and the design factors.  The specialty exam will have 100 questions.

If it’s your first time taking the exam, you will need to pass both the core and the specialty exam.  If it’s the first time taking the  Air Conditioning Excellence HVAC exam, you will need to register for the core exam and at least one Speciality exam.

Each test session will take about four hours to complete.

What are the extra costs?

Some test organizers will include study manuals together with the exam, this option may command a higher price.

Recertification will be required every two years by completing 16 hours of continuing education credits.  Each specialty will cost about $25 per application for those recertifying using Continuing Education Hours.  For every additional certification, it will be $5.

Both exams will be closed book, and no books and/or study guides of any kind will be allowed; however, non-graphic calculators can be used.  A formula sheet and PT chart will be provided before you start the exam.

There are no prerequisites to take the exam; however, NATE highly recommends you take some sort of formal training before considering the exam.  Two to five years of experience is also highly recommended.  This can either be done by attending a local education institution, such as a technical school, or reading study materials at home.  Study guides can retail for about $35 to $65, depending on the company, whereas a technical school could cost $1,000 to $2,500.

Tips to know

As of 2014, the certification will be valid for two years; after these two years are up, the technician will have to renew by getting 60 Continuing Education Hours.

Once you take the Core exam and successfully pass, you won’t have to take it again.

When choosing a Speciality exam, choose a specialty that matches the equipment you work on and want to be certified in.

NATE only recommends you take one specialty exam the first time to see how long the test and what’s going to be included.  Since each exam can take close to four hours, taking more than two tests may not be possible due to these time restrictions.  If you were to take more and couldn’t complete in time, the company won’t offer a refund.

How can I save money?

Many testing centers offer early bird discounts for those who book early.

Veterans may be eligible to receive up to $2,000 for taking the NATE exam.

If you’re already working in the HVAC industry, see if your landlord will cover the exam costs for you.

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