NICET Certification – An Overview

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!


by John

20 comments… add one

  • Thanks John for sharing this

  • This is awesome! I’m trying to help a buddy of mine get ready for his Texas FAL. He wants to get out of the trade but it’s only out of frustration due to the fact that he works with guys that aren’t willing to teach. I haven’t had time to look over the entire site but will continue to do so. That being said if there is anyway you can email me some basic study info for me to quiz him on and help teach him I would be thankful. Or tell me what direction I need to go with this.

    Im a damn good technician but lord knows I’m not a good teacher

    Thank you and god bless

  • Hi John
    I like your site very helpful. I’ve been in the business for over 20 years and like you I thought I knew everything I needed to know before taking the test for the first time in 2007 which was element based. Needless to say I didn’t pass. Time went by and I never had another chance to retake the test. Then after I lost my job with that company I decided to reapply and retake the test in 2011. This time it was the computer based test and I passed but there was a problem with my submitted work history, problem being they had lost my work history and I failed to make copies of it before mailing it off. But I had other issues pop up and never got to resubmitting my work history until recently. Now I have a level 2 certification and am applying for my level 3. My question is do I have to submit my work history again with the application? Thanks.

    • Hi Jeff,
      Congratulations on your achievement and best of luck on your level 3. As far as the requirements for level 3 is basically level 2 requirements (2 years of experience) plus 3 additional years for a total of 5 years so make sure you submit all the minimum requirement. If it is the same I would submit it again. In addition you have to submit a personal recommendation showing that that you possess independent engineering technician responsibilities. Make sure that you keep all the copies for your records.

      Again, good luck and keep us posted about your progress. Let me know if you need anything else.

  • Hi, John.

    Have any chances an enginner from Ukraine with 6 years experience in fire alarm and sprinkler systems (our standards a similar to EN) to be allowed to passing the level I exam? If it possible to pass examination remotely?

    Thanks a lot!

  • Passed my NICET 1 this week with the help of your website and co-workers. Thanks!

    FYI: They are now using the 2013 edition of NFPA 72 for the test.

    • Congrats Anne on passing your level 1. Glad you found the site helpful. Yes I will definitely update the site to reflect new changes.

  • Hi john

    I recently passed both nicet 1 and 2 and just sent in my paperwork for experience verification and was wondering if you knew how long it takes to get certified.

  • I am studying for my test tomorrow and sweating big time! wished I had found ur website before. u r bookmarked! been in the industry for over 18 years and find myself in the same boat as you on ur 1st test…..want my level 3 by this time next year….I will keep abreast of ur site for info…THANKS!

  • John,

    Approximately how much time should I give myself to study for the test? A month? 40hrs of study time? Any estimate would be appreciated. I’m trying to
    figure when I should schedule my exam.


    • Luke,
      it is really hard to give a time period for study since everyone’s approach and style for studying is different. it also depends on how long you have been in the industry. The more stuff you know the less time you need for study. My recommendation is schedule your test at least 3 to 6 month ahead this will give you some manageable time and also once you have scheduled your exam date it will force you to start studying and take the project seriously.
      good luck with you endeavor, please let me know if you need more info.
      I am assuming you are going for Level I?

  • stefaun metcalfe January 12, 2015 7:33 pm


    By having tabs coded in the NFPA72 2013. Will it give you better chance to pass the exam, just wondering.

    • Hi Stefaun,
      By tabbing the sections of the book you will be able to find the answers faster. Remember you have around 1 minute per question to write the answer.

  • John,
    I spent my last 10 years on the fire department in the fire prevention/inspection division. I had a lot of opportunity to look at and approve fire alarm system plans, do acceptance testing and do annual inspections. I have not had technical hands-on of actually working on the systems.
    I have emailed NICET with the question of would they accept my fire department experiences for NICET I and NICET II but never received a reply.
    Your thoughts?

  • John,

    Our lead Fire Alarm designer and head of the Fire Alarm division recently received his NICET Level 4 certification for Fire Alarms. We’re well aware of the level of accomplishment and amount of hard work on the job, studying on personal time, and years of experience that went into this. Accordingly, I’d like to ensure we take full advantage of this as a business. I don’t want this to be just a neat adornment to his desk!

    Can you recommend or give examples of how he/we can best use this certification to advance our business opportunities?


    • Congratulation on their accomplishment, you can always use the credentials on your company marketing effort. Also depending in your location, more and more AHJ are reacquiring all involved personnel in a specific project to be NICET certified, starting form designer to the installers and testers. I am certain you will see the added benefit of having certified Nicet technicians on your team.

  • What does a nicer level 1 actually qualify you for? Can you complete a residential t&I and comply with code?


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