301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org
NICET has Certification programs for fire protection including: Fire Alarm Systems; Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems; Inspection and Testing of Water-Based Systems; Special Hazards Systems; and Water-Based Systems Layout.

3.13.23 – SSI – Shane Clary

It could foreseeably take several years to obtain just a Level I Certification, with a Level III or IV becoming almost impossible to obtain.

Is NICET still relevant in today’s world of a contracting firm performing multiple aspects of fire protection, detection and suppression? The same question also holds for the individual technician.

NICET (National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies) is a division of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). The NICET certification program for fire alarms has been around for 20+ years, and is well recognized as a means to verify that a designer and/or technician is qualified.

A number of states or local AHJs require NICET Certification for those that design and/or work on fire alarm systems. The same is true for fire sprinkler systems. The organization has Certification programs for fire protection including:

  • Fire Alarm Systems
  • Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems
  • Inspection and Testing of Water-Based Systems
  • Special Hazards Systems
  • Water-Based Systems Layout

Added to this list this past year is In-Building Public Safety Communications. NICET also has a Certification program for Video Security Systems Designer/Video Security Systems Technician.

Multitasking Muddles Up Potential Certification Schedule

In the not-too-distant past, a fire alarm contractor would work within that venue. The same was true for fire sprinkler contractors and special hazards systems. This is no longer the case for many firms that are licensed to provide myriad fire detection and suppression solutions. A system designer or technician may now be working between venues. That’s the crux of the present problem.

In the past, a designer or tech who only worked on fire alarm systems or fire sprinkler systems could count their total hours on their work history report. For a Level I Certification, six months experience is required. For the Level II Certification, two years is required. The requirements increase to five years for a Level III and 10 for a Level IV.

While some firms may still operate within a single discipline, most do not. You now have a designer who may spend half their time working on a fire sprinkler systems, and half on fire alarm systems. The way that NICET looks at the work history is through the percentage of time spent within each system type. In this case, the individual that may be working toward a Level I Certification for Fire Alarm Systems would require one year of work history as only 50% was spent on fire alarm systems. The same person would require four years to be able to obtain their Level II Certification.

The same is true for a tech who may perform fire alarm inspections for 50% of their time, and sprinkler inspections for the other 50%. Depending on the designer or technician, the breakdown may be even further between fire alarm, special hazards, other low-voltage systems, and sprinkler systems. It could foreseeably take several years to obtain just a Level I Certification, with a Level III or IV becoming almost impossible to obtain. With the new Certification for In-Building Public Safety Communications being added into the mix, it becomes even more complicated.

On the other hand, for one to obtain their registration as a professional engineer, such as a fire protection engineer (FPE), the person after they obtain their four-year degree only needs to pass their Engineer in Training (EIT) exam, and then work for several years (typically two) before they can sit for their P.E. exam. For the FPE, while they need to stay within their area of competence, upon passing the exam, may practice within the full rage of fire protection and not be limited to a single part of fire protection engineering based upon a percentage of time.

The means of calculating work history for a NICET Certification(s) needs to be reexamined so as to take into consideration that both a fire protection firm and the technicians that work for them work within a variety of interconnected disciplines and that the body of their work should be looked at in total as opposed to percentages. If this does not occur, the requirements for a specific NICET Certification may be vacated for other means of certification that do take into account the body of work.

About the Author

SHANE CLARY, SSI Contributor


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.