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New Jersey HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in New Jersey

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Table of Contents
  1. Contractor Licensing Requirements for HVAC

  2. Types of HVAC Licenses

  3. Steps to Becoming an HVAC Technician

  4. Benefits of Getting Your HVAC License

  5. What Is the Mean Salary for an HVAC Technician?

  6. How to Become an HVAC Professional

  7. How Much Does It Cost to Become an HVAC Technician? 

  8. How Long Does it Take to Become an HVAC Tech? 

  9. New Jersey HVAC Training programs and schools

  10. EPA Certification

  11. Core Exam 

  12. Who Issues HVAC Licenses in New Jersey?

  13. Does My HVAC License Work in Any Other State?

  14. National HVAC Certifications

  15. Continuing Education

  16. Renewal

  17. Other Requirements Unique to New Jersey

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration professionals are in constant demand, and in New Jersey they are paid very well. In fact The Garden State has the ninth-highest annual mean wage for HVAC mechanics and installers in the nation. There are also thousands of job postings for HVAC apprentices and technicians in New Jersey on online job boards.

According to the  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 380,400 Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers in the United States and 10,340 work in New Jersey. That number nationwide is expected to grow 5% from 2020 to 2030 — adding more than 19,000 of these skilled workers to the ranks. In New Jersey, though, that growth rate is expected to be much higher. According to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, the projected growth rate is 11% for HVAC mechanics and installers in New Jersey.

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Air conditioning, refrigeration and heating systems in our homes and businesses wear out and break down so there’s always a need for trained HVAC experts. Also, as more emphasis is placed on energy efficiency and reducing pollution, mechanical systems need to be retrofitted, upgraded or replaced entirely to remain compliant.

HVAC contractor license requirements vary from state to state and, in some cases, from locality to locality. In New Jersey, licensing is uniform statewide.

Contractor Licensing Requirements for HVAC in New Jersey

Is a license required for HVAC Professionals in New Jersey? Yes. You must possess a New Jersey master HVAC contractor license or be training under direct supervision of someone who does hold a license to legally perform any HVAC services in the state.

The state of New Jersey licenses HVAC professionals at the state level as they do electricians and plumbers through the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Specifically, the State Board of Examiners of Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors licenses and regulates the industry. On the website, it is stated that the purpose of the Board is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of New Jersey, regulate the practice of heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration and ensure that it is performed in compliance with state law. In 2014 the New Jersey State Legislature enacted the law that made licensing uniform statewide and forbade local jurisdictions from requiring additional examination and fees for local level licensing.

Types of HVAC Licenses in New Jersey

What are the different types of HVAC related licenses in New Jersey?

The Master HVACR Contractor License is the only type of HVACR license issued in the state. There are specific requirements to qualify to test for this license:

  • Must be at least 21 years of age and a citizen or legal resident of the United States. 

  • Must submit evidence of meeting the educational requirements through one of the following options:

    • Option 1: Completion of a four-year U.S. Department of Labor approved apprenticeship in HVACR followed by one year of journeyperson experience under a licensed Master HVACR Contractor.

    • Option 2: Four-year bachelor's degree in HVACR from an accredited college or university followed by one year of journeyperson experience under a licensed Master HVACR Contractor.

    • Option 3: Four-year bachelor's degree in a related field to HVACR from an accredited college or university followed by three years of journeyperson experience under a licensed Master HVACR Contractor.

    • Option 4: Two-year degree from a trade, technology, community, or county school/college after completion of at least two years of a U.S. Department of Labor approved apprenticeship in HVACR, followed by one year of journeyperson experience under a licensed Master HVACR Contractor.

Steps to Becoming an HVAC Technician in New Jersey

  1. Must be at least 18 years old and have earned a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

  2. Must enroll in an approved formal apprenticeship program or employer-sponsored program or attend college.

  3. You will need to get EPA Section 608 Certification by passing the exam before you are permitted to handle refrigerants. This is typically accomplished during your apprenticeship or degree program.

  4. Must meet educational requirements stated above and be at least 21 years old to apply for examination for Master HVACR License.

  5. Must apply online, pay an application fee and receive board approval to test.

  6. Must pay a testing fee and pass both NJ HVACR Trade and NJ Business and Law exam.

  7. Once you pass the exam, you must pay the licensing fee and secure a $3,000 surety bond, $500,000 in general liability insurance, and a Federal Tax Identification number to be awarded your NJ Master HVACR Contractor License. This all also allows you to be your own boss as an independent contractor.

Benefits of Getting Your HVAC License in New Jersey

There are many benefits to getting licensed in the HVAC field in New Jersey:

  • Most importantly, it is required by law in New Jersey to be licensed through the state to perform heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and refrigeration work.

  • You will earn as you learn with a guarantee of pay increases as you develop new skills.

  • A trade license is proof of your experience and skill.

  • By meeting the high standards set in New Jersey you will receive industry-recognized credentials that can go with you anywhere.

  • Having a license protects your company and customers.

  • A license gives you a competitive advantage in the job market and increases your earning potential. 

  • You can own your own business and be your own boss. 

What Is the Mean Salary for an HVAC Technician in New Jersey?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean salary for HVAC mechanics and installers nationally as $53,410, and in New Jersey it’s about $10,000 higher at $63,460. The salary for an HVAC Technician increases, as you might expect, as you acquire more experience, according to Indeed.com.

  • HVAC Installer: The average wage for an HVAC installer is $26.11 per hour in New Jersey and $6,094 overtime per year.

  • HVAC Technician: The average wage for an HVAC Technician is $34.45 per hour in New Jersey and $6,250 overtime per year.

  • HVAC Mechanic: The average wage for an HVAC Mechanic is $35.26 per hour in New Jersey and $8,750 overtime per year.

  • HVAC Supervisor: The average base wage for an HVAC Supervisor is $66,065 per year in New Jersey and $11,250 overtime per year. 

Pay can vary widely, depending on the city and many other important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you have spent in your profession.

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How to Become an HVAC Professional in New Jersey

To enter the HVAC field in New Jersey you need to learn and gain work experience. New Jersey offers multiple options for how you can do this but has rigid requirements before permitting applicants to test for licensure. You’ll need to acquire some combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training.

If you decide young that this is your path, you can get a jump on that instruction. Through New Jersey’s Career and Technical Education, some high schools offer vocational programs combining the trade education with high school curriculum. The Cape May County Technical Schools offer a three-year HVAC-R & Sustainable Energies program that is just one example. Students completing the program will have the opportunity to earn EPA 608 certification as well as two other certifications. Monmouth County Vocational School District also offers a high school program as well as adult education in HVAC. If you don’t get started in high school, most employers seem to expect job candidates to be at least 18 years old, have earned either a high school diploma or GED, and some post-secondary training in the field. Apprenticeships through union and trade organizations require you to be 18 with a high school diploma or GED and a valid driver’s license.

EDUCATION/APPRENTICESHIP: State law requires that you meet educational requirements before being permitted to test for the Master HVACR Contractor License. There are options to do this.

Option 1: You can complete a US Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship.To get that recognition from the Department of Labor, apprentices normally receive about 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and a minimum of 144 hours of related classroom instruction each year for one to five years. HVACR apprenticeships in New Jersey follow that guideline for four to five years, and then you will work as an HVACR journeyman for one additional year before taking the state-mandated exam.

Option 2: You can earn a four-year bachelor's degree in HVACR from an accredited college or university, followed by one year of journeyperson experience under a licensed Master HVACR Contractor.

Option 3: You can earn a four-year bachelor's degree related to HVACR from an accredited college or university, followed by three years of journeyperson experience under a licensed Master HVACR Contractor.

Option 4: You can successfully complete an HVACR program from an accredited technical school, trade school, or community college, which will satisfy up to two years of the minimum four years that must be spent in an approved apprenticeship or training program. Then complete the remaining two years as an apprentice for a sponsoring employer and then work as an HVACR journeyman for one additional year before taking the state-mandated exam.

Apprenticeships are sometimes referred to as “The Other Four-Year Degree,” because it’s like college for the trades. If you get one of the coveted apprentice openings through your local United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, & Service Techs it’s like getting a scholarship to college. New Jersey has seven UA local chapters that offer plumbing, pipefitting, HVAC and welding apprenticeships. UA of New Jersey Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Division is made up of four of those chapters. Students who apply through UA Local 9 will work primarily in Central New Jersey, through UA Local 274 in Northern New Jersey, through UA Local 322 in Atlantic City and South Jersey, and through UA Local 475 in Newark and North/Central New Jersey. UA apprenticeships are five years long, but the final year you are considered a journeyman and so are satisfying that requirement to test.

Associated Builders and Contractors of New Jersey also offers a Registered Apprenticeship Program for HVACR.

If you don’t get one of those sought-after union or trade apprentice openings, and you want to get started working right away rather than going to trade school, you can try to find an apprenticeship through the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development Office of Apprenticeship or you can apply for entry-level work. There are thousands of HVAC jobs listed on Indeed and Zip Recruiter and other job boards. You’ll need to request that your employer act as your apprentice sponsor. Your employer must agree to register you with the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Apprenticeship. The HVACR Board only accepts approved U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeships. Employers who agree to sponsor an apprenticeship, should email the United States Department of Labor - Office of Apprenticeship representative servicing the county in which the company is located. The list of U.S. Department of Labor - Office of Apprenticeship staff can be found here.

Apprenticeships through the Department of Labor are recognized nationwide, so your credentials will move with you. You will be required to attend classes at night or on weekends to get the requisite theoretical training, but you’ll be getting your academic instruction in tandem with your practical experience, and you probably won’t be paying for all of it. Employers often pay for your required classroom instruction if you achieve a certain grade point average, or sometimes reimburse you after a certain amount of time on the job.

APPLY FOR EXAMINATION/LICENSE: Once you meet the age requirement of 21 years old and education/experience requirements outlined above, you may apply online to take the two-part examination. The board offers an Application Process Overview. They also have a checklist online for what you need to submit with your application. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Copy of a birth certificate or passport proving the applicant is at least 21 years of age.

  • A passport-size photograph of the applicant taken within the last six months;

  • Official transcript(s) for each degree diploma or certificate from recognized colleges, universities, vocational schools, trade schools or community colleges, accredited by a regional accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, which includes education in the proper management of chlorofluorocarbons and other refrigerants, including high global warming potential gases;

  • A copy of a certificate proving completion of an HVACR apprenticeship or other training program approved by the United States Department of Labor, which includes education in the proper management of chlorofluorocarbons and other refrigerants, including high global warming potential gases;

  • W-2s for your journeyman year(s) in the HVACR trade and all W-2s while enrolled in HVACR apprenticeship training;

  • Work certification(s) signed by an HVACR contractor;

  • Any other documentation that demonstrates to the board that the applicant has met the education requirements in heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration contracting.

The application for examination will cost $100. More on the exam itself is below. If you pass the exam, you will need to pay a $160 license application fee and provide proof of a $3,000 surety bond.

CONSIDER BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR: If you wish to own your own business in the HVAC field in New Jersey, then you will also need $500,000 in general liability insurance and a Federal Tax Identification Number.

How Much Does It Cost to Become an HVAC Technician in New Jersey? 

How you get started will determine your upfront costs. If you figure out this is your intended path while you’re still in high school, you can begin free of charge as a student through the Career Technical Education System. It costs $24.95 to take the EPA Section 608 Certification Examination and $5.95 for each additional attempt. The cost associated with the schooling to train to be an HVAC technician varies widely—from a few thousand dollars at some trade schools to upwards of $50,000 per year for longer, more comprehensive bachelor’s programs in mechanical engineering. The cost of union and trade apprenticeships vary. You may have to pay dues to the union, but many times the training costs are completely covered and you earn while you learn. That’s also true of employer-sponsored apprenticeships. Remember that if you take an entry-level position with an HVAC company, your employer must register you as an apprentice with the U.S. Department of Labor - Office of Apprenticeship for it to count toward New Jersey’s licensing requirements. Employers will often pay for your required classroom instruction if you maintain a certain grade point average, or will reimburse you after a certain amount of time on the job.

How Long Does it Take to Become an HVAC Tech in New Jersey? 

It will take you a minimum of five years to qualify to take the New Jersey Master HVACR Contractor Licensing exam. As you are gaining the required education and experience, you will be working under the supervision of a licensed master. As an apprentice, you will gain new skills each year and your pay will likely increase with your expertise. You will not be allowed to handle refrigerant until you have earned EPA Section 608 certification, which typically takes at least a couple of years to accomplish.

New Jersey HVAC Training programs and schools 

There are many programs to get the training you need to become an HVAC professional in New Jersey, and they are located all over the state. There are also many more options for online training. The US Department of Labor’s careeronestop.org website lists 1,697 training programs for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Engineering Technology Technicians in New Jersey. 

Most HVAC technicians hold some kind of post-secondary degree or certificate. There are two main organizations that approve HVAC programs and schools nationwide: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

Each has accredited one school in New Jersey. PAHRA has accredited Monmouth County Vocational School in Freehold, and HVAC Excellence has accredited Lincoln Technical Institute in Union. There’s also a campus in Mahaw with an HVAC Certificate program that’s about 48 weeks long for the day and afternoon classes or 72 weeks long for the evening class schedule. Students there learn proper refrigerant recovery and recycling techniques, and are encouraged to complete Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification testing. Graduates of the program can expect to meet entry-level skills and knowledge required of an HVAC technician.

HVACClasses.org breaks down the credit-hour requirements for programs at the two accredited  schools above and others.

Here are also three great lists to the best HVAC schools in New Jersey:

You’ll see that many of the same colleges or programs appear on all these lists. 

If you’re looking for an online option, New Jersey’s Association of Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors offers an e-learning Apprenticeship Academy. The tuition for the HVACR program is $1,895 for members and $2,455 for nonmembers. This could be an option for you if you are working for an employer who is sponsoring you in a U.S. Department of Labor approved apprenticeship, but it doesn’t offer classroom instruction.

Tuition: Tuition varies from school to school. At Mercer County Community College the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Associate of Applied Science degree will take two years (four semesters) of full-time study. For Mercer County residents that means the degree program will cost about $12,000. For students who live in New Jersey but not in Mercer County, the same degree will cost nearly $15,000. For out-of-state or international students the AAS degree will cost about $20,000. Mercer also offers a Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Certificate of Proficiency, which is about half the credit hours and price as the two-year associate degree.

Program Prerequisites: You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED. 

On-the-Job Experience: While on the job you will need good customer service skills, be detail-oriented, have some mechanical capability, and be physically fit because the job can include some heavy lifting and hours of walking, standing and working in tight spaces.

New Jersey HVACR License Exam Details

The New Jersey State Board of Examiners of Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration has contracted with PSI exams to administer the examination. Upon approval from the board, you will be sent an Examination Eligibility Notice, along with instructions for paying for and scheduling the examination. The trade exam is $43, and the Business and Law exam is $83; each is offered at least four times per year. 

If you are taking the examination for the first time, you will be required to take both portions on the same day. You must pass both the HVACR Trade and Business and Law exams to qualify to be licensed as a New Jersey HVACR Contractor. If you fail either part, you may retest on an unlimited basis. However you must wait six months between each attempt.

To prepare, PSI suggests:

  • Start with a current copy of the Candidate Information Bulletin and use the examination content outline as the basis of your study.

  • Read/study materials that cover all the topics in the content outline, including the International Mechanical Code and take practice tests.

  • Take notes on what you study. Putting information in writing helps you commit it to memory, and it is also an excellent business practice. Discuss new terms or concepts as frequently as you can with colleagues. This will test your understanding and reinforce ideas.

  • Your studies will be most effective if you study frequently, for periods of about 45 to 60 minutes. Concentration tends to wander when you study for longer periods of time.

Each exam is described in detail, including the number of questions and the time limit to complete it.

Both the NJ Trade and Business and Law exams are open book and are made up of 50 questions each; each has a time limit of 130 minutes. The trade exam covers:

  • Electrical Knowledge, Motors, and Controls  

  • Piping - Refrigeration, Hydronic, Steam,

Process  

  • Heating and Cooling Principles, Theory, and

Equipment

  • Refrigerants and Refrigeration

  • Fuel and LP Gas

  • Combustion Air, Chimneys, Flues and Vents

  • Ducts, Ventilation and Exhaust

  • Load Calculations

The Business and Law exam covers:

  • Business Organization

  • Licensing

  • Estimating and Bidding

  • Contract Management

  • Project Management

  • Risk Management

  • Safety

  • Labor Law

  • Financial Management

  • Tax Law

  • Lien Law

The Bulletin will also specify which reference materials you may use and what items are not allowed in the testing center. There are 10 PSI testing centers in New Jersey and they are in Brick, Cherry Hill, Hamilton Square Area, New Brunswick – Georges Road, New Providence, North Brunswick, Northfield Area (Linwood), Rochelle Park, Parsippany, and Secaucus.

EPA Certification

Everywhere throughout the country, including New Jersey, federal-level EPA regulations under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act require certification for technicians who maintain, service, repair, or dispose of equipment that could release refrigerants into the atmosphere. EPA Section 608 HVAC Certification is required for any professional who conducts refrigerant line-pressure tests or handles or adds refrigerant to existing air conditioning systems.

Most training programs can direct you to how and where to get that certification, and many even make it part of the curriculum, or your employer will require you to get it before handling refrigerant. You can also go to EPA.gov and key in 608 Certification in the search bar to find out which institutions in your state offer certification programs.

Certification Exam: You must acquire your EPA Certification from an approved organization. A list of these organizations can be found on the EPA’s website. There are four types of EPA Certifications for Refrigerant. They allow for different levels of certification for different scopes of work.

  • Type I – for servicing small appliances containing five pounds of refrigerant or less.

  • Type II – for servicing high-pressure units that contain five pounds or more of refrigerant (including most small commercial and residential systems).

  • Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances.

  • Universal – for servicing all systems and appliances covered under Types I, II, and III. Generally more useful than targeting any one specific certification. 

Core Exam 

For all certifications, you must pass the “Core Section” of the EPA certification exam. It covers the following topics:

  • Ozone depletion

  • Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol

  • Section 608 regulations

  • Substitute refrigerants and oils

  • Refrigeration

  • The Three R’s (Recover, Recycle, Reclaim)

  • Recovery techniques

  • Dehydration evacuation

  • Safety

  • Shipping

Who Issues HVAC Licenses in New Jersey?

The State Board of Examiners of Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors issues Master HVACR Contractors licenses in New Jersey and renewals of those licenses. The board falls under the purview of the Division of Consumer Affairs and makes sure that heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration contractors meet all educational requirements for licensure and investigates and prosecutes HVACR contractors who have broken the state's consumer protection laws.

Does My New Jersey HVAC License Work in Any Other State?

New Jersey does not have reciprocal agreements with any other states but does offer reciprocity under certain conditions. An individual who is licensed to practice HVACR contracting in another state may obtain a license in New Jersey without taking the master HVACR licensing examination as long the applicant submits proof that:

  • The applicant is licensed as an HVACR Contractor in another state.

  • The state has licensure standards comparable to licensure requirements in New Jersey.

  • The state in which he or she is licensed allows New Jersey licensed master HVACR contractors to obtain a license in that state based upon New Jersey licensure.

The State Board of Examiners of HVACR Contractors created a document listing states that the board has determined do not have standards equal or comparable to New Jersey. If you are practicing in a state that does not qualify, you will have to meet all the requirements of New Jersey licensure, including taking the state examination.

National HVAC Certifications

Other certifications can help you demonstrate your proficiency to potential employers and clients. North American Technical Excellence (NATE) certification, ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) certification and other professional certifications are not required but can add to your marketability as a service provider and therefore increase your opportunity to make more money.

Continuing Education

All licensed Master Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR) Contractors must fulfill the five-hour Continuing Education (CE) requirement for every two-year licensing cycle. Continuing Education Sponsors have been approved by the state Board of Examiners to provide the instruction. Be sure to get your CEs from an approved provider.

Renewal

Master HVACR Contractors Licenses must be renewed every two years — by June 30 of even-numbered years. The board will send you a renewal notice 60 days prior to the deadline. You will renew your license online. You will need to show proof of completing your continuing education requirement, pay the $160 licensing renewal fee and secure a surety bond for the same period.

Other Requirements Unique to New Jersey

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs created a document of Top Tips for License Applicants. You will probably want to review it to avoid the most common mistakes. There’s also a Frequently Asked Questions page on the website that can help too.

Resources

You can stay up to date on all HVAC industry news several ways:

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