NICET Certification for fire alarm systems is offered by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies. Founded in 1961 they offer certification in various technical areas such as fire protection, security systems, low voltage communication systems, and various fields like civil, electrical and mechanical engineering.
Fire alarm certification is becoming a very important credential in the industry; it is now a requirement by specific jobs, AHJ, and employers. I think the certification will play a big role in the advancement of one’s career in this industry.
When I took my first exam in 2001, it had a different structure than it has now. Back then the test was based on elements or sections of the codes, and you had to pass certain elements to be certified in that level. However, starting in 2010 NICET changed their structure, as the new test is administered on a computer based testing format (CBT) with multiple choice questions. It is conducted at the Pearson VUE Testing Center and is a pass/fail exam approximately 2 to 4 hours long. Immediately at the end of the exam you find out if you passed or failed. The general consensus among those who have taken both tests is that the new test is harder than the old one. If you fail the exam today, you must wait 4 months before being able to retake it. I believe this encourages people to really know their material before attempting the test. However on the bright side, once you pass it you’ll never have to take it again in your life, as long as you maintain your certificate in good standing. I will expand on the actual exam in upcoming posts. Testing tutorial and practice exam is available at Pearson Vue website
The Fire Alarm certification on any level is actually a 2 part process, one part being the exam itself with the other part being the experience requirement. When you apply for the exam you have to fill in two applications. The first part is the test application where you fill in information like your name, address, which test you are taking and when you are taking it. The second part is the experience application. Both applications are on the Certification Application Package.
Each level of certification requires certain experience to be documented and submitted to NICET. In the experience application you must list all your work history with fire alarm systems, including a detailed description of various positions you held, the dates and times you held those positions, and your employer. All of this work history should be verified by your employer or current supervisor who has knowledge about your work history and can attest to your performance as a fire alarm technician. NICET examines this verification very thoroughly; they want to make sure that you are who you claim you are and to ensure that you are qualified for the certification.
Currently the requirement for each level in testing and experience are:
* Level I – Pass the Level I exam, document 3 month of experience and hold a position as a technician helper or equivalent.
* Level II – Pass Level I & Level 2 exams, document 2 years of experience and hold a position as a supervised technician.
* Level III – Pass Level I, II & III exams, document 5 years experience and hold a position as a supervisor.
* Level IV – Pass Levels I,II,III and IV exams, document 10 years of experience and be hold a position of a senior manager or designer.
I will elaborate on the exams and the application process in future posts.
On a final note, I’d like to mention that the test is open book. Now that may sound appealing, but make no mistake about it, passing the NICET test is not an easy task. By all means, it is very challenging exam. When I took my first exam 11 years ago, I was already in the industry for 5 years and I thought I knew every thing there was to know about it. I would pass the exam with flying colors, especially since it was open book. Boy was I wrong! My attitude was wrong. My method of preparation was wrong. And, perhaps most importantly, my answers were wrong. Just being involved in the industry on a daily basis is not enough, you really need to know the material and how to navigate through the references to find the necessary information in the time allocated for the exam. I will share my knowledge and experience as well as my techniques to help you pass this exam. I wish such information was readily available online 11 years ago. Having such resources would have been a huge benefit. The only resources I knew of back then were seminar courses offered by AFAA (Automatic Fire Alarm Association). They helped me on my second exam however, the cost and commute to attend their seminars was not practical. Thanks to the internet, tons of information is now at our fingertips at affordable prices, sometimes even free. And the nature of the internet makes such information so easily accessible from anywhere.
Thanks and happy studying. Cheers!