Fire Alarm 411: NICET – A Certification that Travels

June 14, 2024
Fire alarm technicians can lean on NICET training to get work in almost any U.S. state

This article originally appeared in the June 2024 issue of Security Business magazine. Don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter if you share it.

Working on fire alarm systems requires a thorough understanding of numerous complex rules. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as fire alarm systems save lives and shoddy installation or maintenance can cost lives.

Over the past several months in this column, I have introduced different categories of rules that apply to the fire alarm industry. The first category covered devices like smoke detectors and fire alarm control units. The second category covered what rules: building codes like the IBC, NFPA 101 and the UFC. In my May column, I introduced how rules, which are applied by designers and field technicians and are governed by NFPA 70 and NFPA 72 in the U.S.

Now for the fourth category of rules, which are focused on the individuals performing fire alarm work, such as designers, installers, inspectors, and service techs.

Typically, these rules take the form of a licensing requirement. Just like the U.S. does not have a federal fire code that applies to commercial buildings, there is no uniform approach to licensing fire alarm technicians. Instead, it varies from state to state.

Given the challenges of attracting and hiring workers in the skilled trades, NICET certification makes it easier for techs to move to a state that recognizes NICET because they can start working right away while also alleviating the administrative burden for the hiring company.

Inside NICET Certification

For the states that don’t have a licensing program, check to see if they have adopted NFPA 72, which, in rule 10.5.2, requires certification by an approved third-party organization and/or by a manufacturer, as appropriate. NICET certification is most common in this regard.

NICET (National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies) is an independent non-profit organization focused on assessing the knowledge and experience of individuals in several engineering trades. Fire alarm and fire suppression are obvious ones for our purposes, but NICET is broader than fire protection, covering other specialties like soil testing.

NICET fire alarm system (FAS) certification progresses through four levels:

Level I is a basic level targeted at fire alarm helpers and apprentices who are new to the industry. The focus is on jobsite safety and basic installation. Certification requires six months’ experience, but you can start testing before meeting the time requirement.

Level II requires two years of industry experience. Aimed at relatively new technicians, it covers a more extensive selection of installation topics. The test also incorporates questions about inspection, testing, and basic system design.

Level III is a tough level to achieve. Requiring five years of experience, this level goes much deeper into design skills. It also broadens the focus beyond technical aspects, delving into subjects like supervising people and managing jobs.

Level IV is the crowning achievement of the NICET certification journey. Certification requires 10 years of experience. The test is five hours long. Applicants must also submit a description of a major project for which they were responsible.

Kansas is an example of a state without a licensing program for individuals. The Kansas Fire Prevention Code requires companies to file a notification of doing business. Since the Fire Prevention code adopts NFPA 72 and the company registration form only lists NICET as an acceptable certifying organization, we can infer that Kansas accepts NICET certification for compliance with NFPA 72 10.5.2. While the Kansas Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed this for me, I should note that neither NFPA 72 nor the Kansas fire code indicate which NICET certification level is required for which activities.

In contrast, the Texas Fire Marshal’s Office has its own licensing program. Obtaining a technician license requires passing a test about the Texas fire alarm statutes and rules and passing a technical test focused primarily on NFPA 70 and NFPA 72. A few years ago, Texas started accepting successful completion of the NICET Level II FAS test in lieu of the technical test.

Kansas and Texas are just two examples. Regulations vary across the U.S. and around the world. However, I have noticed a trend toward standardizing fire alarm licensing requirements around a nationally recognized testing and certification organization. That typically means NICET, but there are alternatives like the International Public Safety Institute (IPSI).

Why it Matters for Employers and Technicians

Given the challenges of attracting and hiring workers in the skilled trades, NICET certification makes it easier for techs to move to a state that recognizes NICET because they can start working right away while also alleviating the administrative burden for the hiring company.

Rules for individuals extend beyond field technicians. It is common to have rules for fire alarm system designers. Returning to the Texas example, the state requires designers to pass the statute and rules exam, but there is no separate test for the technical side of designing. Instead, Texas requires designers to pass the NICET Level III exam or be licensed as a professional engineer.

Licensing may seem complicated – especially if you are new to fire alarm work – but it is not as hard as it appears. Look up the requirements for your state. And wherever you work, I suggest getting started on NICET testing. Learn more at

About the Author

Ben Adams

With a career spanning nearly every role in the life safety industry and a NICET Level IV certification, Ben Adams is a sought-after author and speaker. In 2021, he launched FireAlarm.Training (https://FireAlarm.Training) to accelerate training for companies, shrinking time-to-value for new techs from months to just days. Most of his columns are excerpted from Fire Alarm 101 training content, which can be found at the link above.