Nicet vs State License

    Nicet vs State License. Referring to people who decide to get their state license only.

    This is a list of things to weigh if you are trying to decide whether or not you get your Nicet certification. And for those looking to hire, you may want to read this too.
    I asked a group of people on Facebook for answers as to why people get state licenses and why people get their Nicet certs. It kind of turned into a brawl. Many people coming in to say that one person’s method is better than the next. Some methods are a waste of time while others say the same is better in the end.
    I guess the big questions to ask yourself would be: How serious are you about the job? How serious are you about learning as much as you can? How soon do you need to work? And, do you really see yourself doing this job in a few years?

    Let’s clarify the difference.
    Certification is something to show you have learned the adequate material to understand a duty.
    A license is the legal document that says you are allowed to do a duty.
    In some states you must have a Nicet certificate to even begin working in the fire alarm industry. Other states do not recognize the Nicet certificates at all. Other states, such as Texas, will allow you to take the state test and bypass Nicet certification, or take and pass Nicet tests for different levels of licenses in the industry. To be an installer in Texas, you are required to achieve an FAL, which is basically a fire alarm license. This license is granted to people who can pass two state tests. One is (TFM12) all about device locations while the other is the (TFM11) insurance test that verifies you understand who is in charge and has the highest authority. If you achieve a Nicet II, you can skip the first test and take the shorter test, the second test about local insurance and authority. The state will then grant you your license. To acquire the fire alarm planner license to sign and stamp and design drawings, you need the Nicet level III, and to take the same insurance test (TFM11).

    Let’s look at some of the most commonly noted pros and cons weighing the differences in getting a Nicet certificate and a local state license.
    State License Only:

    • Some state licenses allow people to avoid taking level I and level II Nicet (some states level III). You can either go straight to taking the state license and begin working as a licensed technician, or you can pass level II and an insurance test. Most people select to go the quick route and get the state fire alarm license or stay an unlicensed helper for a long time.
    • You sometimes can work sooner.
    • You get to drive a van sooner.
    • State licensed (from what the Facebook arguments said) people believe you will not get any higher or faster raises if you get your Nicet certification. So I guess that means state licensed people either get raises, or they don’t have to waste time to not get their raises.


    • The people who took the state test and only the state test seem to be a different breed from the people that decided to get their Nicet certifications. Their hands-on is much stronger in the beginning, their raises and occasional promotions come fast, but their knowledge of the code is less. Their problem solving ends with troubleshooting.
    • Technical aspect is very minimal.
    • Their knowledge in the industry is word of mouth. Word of mouth is deluded with rumor.

    Nicet Certification:

    • The certificate is something that helps you in the long term because you actually know why you are installing this or that way in certain areas.
    • In some states your licensing abilities increase with each¬†level of certification.
    • If you do a job search on-line for fire alarm jobs in your area and then search again for specific Nicet level jobs, you will see a greater pay difference and one job has many more opportunities. If you have the state license and Nicet certification, you will find all jobs in your area.
    • The hands-on for the Nicet certified gets much higher than the state licensed people, in the long run. Their continued education keeps them unmatchable by the people who decide to not get any formal certifications.
    • Once you get to show what you know and can do, you have greater opportunities than people with just a state license.
    • You can find any code the fire marshal is referring to, and understand what he/she is saying.


    • It takes longer to prove your abilities.
    • When you get your certificates, people expect you to have hands on in where you have tested, and want to put you up against someone who has hands on in that area without acknowledging that once you get hands on, you will be leaps and bounds ahead because you know the technical aspects plus what you’ve now gained with hands on experience. So, it is rough starting when you are in the company of people without understanding of Nicet.
    • Nicet is not a license, you will (in many states) still have to take the local tests to become an installer.

    The biggest drawback in getting a Nicet is that not everyone has one. If your boss does not have one, then your boss has no clue what you know. He just thinks you can flip through books fast. When really, the books are a small part of of Nicet.
    Nicet I tells you how to find the AHJ and hear what you are being requested. Nicet I is the journeyman. The beginner’s level of the fire alarm industry. What most companies call, a helper. Having a Nicet level II is an understanding of project management and requirements. Nicet III is a superintendent level of certification. It is not a license but it is proof that you have trained and studied the material related to handling all aspects from bid documents to employee management and project management. Once you get the hands on, you will be showing your boss how to do things the proper way. If he doesn’t take you as a know it all and just ignore anything you feel he needs to know.
    The fact that this is a life safety issue, it is surprising that so many companies exist¬†on minimal understanding of the industry and it’s function.

    If you achieved your Nicet through training, then you are ahead of the curve on most people who have achieved a Nicet; and, those people are far ahead of the people who settled for hands on state licensing.

    Having a Nicet says that you know what it takes to install a fire alarm system in most conditions and have less resubmittals. Resubmittals burn up man hours and waste company money on re-permitting.

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