During the twelve-year span of 2012-2024, following the trend of the construction industry as a whole, the HVAC job market in Tennessee is expected to rise by 14%.Jobs4TN.govHVAC technicians and installers in Tennessee must be aware of both state and local licensing requirements. The state licenses HVAC contractors bidding jobs worth $25,000 or more, but doesn’t license the technicians and installers they employ.
However, local jurisdictions often have their own licensing programs in place for HVAC mechanics and installers at various levels of experience.
Local jurisdictions also often have separate contractor licenses, but contractors who already earned CMC (Certified Mechanical Contractor) licensure through the State are not required to test with local government.
In most Tennessee cities and counties, HVAC technicians and installers are licensed at the journeyman and contractor levels. This means that as soon as you have the technical training and credentials local employers are looking for, you can begin earning valuable, on-the-job experience as an HVAC apprentice/helper without worrying about meeting or maintaining any apprentice-level license requirements.
Strengthening Your Job Prospects with Technical Training in HVAC
HVAC programs through technical and trade schools and community colleges prepare students with a solid foundation in the HVAC trade, providing them with classroom instruction and practical, hands-on experience in the operation and maintenance of basic and advanced heating, air conditioning and refrigeration systems.
Today’s HVAC programs cover a wide range of systems, including everything from conventional gas, electric, forced air and hydronic systems that are commonly found in Tennessee, as well as the new technology and high-efficiency systems that have been hitting the market in recent years.
These programs prepare graduates to seamlessly transition into the commercial or residential side of Tennessee’s HVAC/R industry doing installs, in-house maintenance, or on-call service work.
Many HVAC programs featuring diploma, certificate, or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees offer students several benefits, including flexible scheduling (including weekend and evening courses), online courses, and career placement upon graduation.
City/County-Specific HVAC Requirements in Tennessee
Some—not all—cities or counties in Tennessee have separate licensing requirements for HVAC technicians and installers. For example:
In Chattanooga, professionals in the mechanical business trade are licensed through the Board of Mechanical Examiners as journeymen mechanics or master mechanical contractors.Before you have the qualifications to apply for a journeyman mechanic or master mechanical contractor license, you must be registered as a registered helper with the Board so that your experience hours can be tracked and applied toward meeting journeyman requirements. There are no requirements for this registration; you only need to be employed in an entry-level position
To become licensed as a journeyman mechanic, you must have at least 3 years of experience as a registered helper, with at least 1 year (2,000 hours) in HVAC/sheet metal installations, and you must take and pass a journeyman mechanic examination.
To transition from a journeyman mechanic to a master mechanical contractor, you must pass a master mechanical contractor exam and have at least 3 years of experience as a journeyman mechanic. You may also qualify if you have a professional license to practice engineering in the state or have completed education and experience in HVAC installations and design deemed acceptable to the Board.
You can learn more about becoming licensed in Chattanooga as an HVAC professional by calling clerks to the Board, Carla Lewis and Luann Eller, at 423-643-5800.
The City of Knoxville, Mechanical/Gas Board of Adjustment and Appeals licenses only HVAC contractors, based on the type of work they perform:
- Class A Commercial Contractor
- Class B Residential Contractor
- Class C Refrigeration Contractor
- Class D – HVAC Sheet Metal Contractor
You must have at least 4 years of HVAC experience in one of these areas to qualify for contractor licensure in Knoxville. You must complete an Application for Mechanical License, pay the $150 licensing fee and $30 application fee, and hold a Contractor’s Bond of at least $10,000.
Shelby County (Memphis)
The Shelby County Department of Construction Code Enforcement registers First-Class and Third-Class Mechanical Contractors. First-class licenses are unlimited, while third-class licenses permit limited work in the applicable HVAC area.
To qualify for a First-Class Unlimited or Third-Class Limited Mechanical Contractor license, you must be at least 21 years old (for a first-class license) or 19 years old (for a third-class license). You must also hold a Third-Class license for at least 2 years before you can apply for a First-Class license. The Third-Class license may be waived if you have at least 5 years of experience.
You must also file a surety bond of at least $25,000.
EPA Certification Requirements
Most programs also prepare students to take the EPA 608 certification exam, a federal requirement (part of the Clean Air Act) for professionals whose work involves handling or working with environmentally hazardous Freon and ammonia-based refrigerants. Even as these chemicals are being phased out the systems that use them are still in homes and buildings across the state. This means that just about every HVAC tradesperson either comes into contact with systems that still use these chemicals at least on occasion or otherwise work on them everyday. This has Section 608 certification a standard requirement for everybody in the industry and something employers expect to see.
Most technical or community college and trade school programs include test prep and examination for Section 608 certification as a standard part of the curriculum.
The EPA examination consists of a core section and a section that aligns with one of the following certification types:
You can more about EPA 608 Certification requirements here.
State of Tennessee HVAC Contractor Requirements
The State of Tennessee, Board for Licensing Contractors licenses mechanical contractors (CMC) in HVAC, refrigeration, and gas piping if they bid jobs valued at $25,000 or more. Before taking the required mechanical examination to become state licensed, you must qualify for pre-approval though the Board by completing the Pre-Approval Request form and showing proof of at least 3 years of work experience.
The Board will notify you and the exam provider when you’re approved, at which point you can apply with PSI to take the mechanical contractor’s exam and the Tennessee Business and Law exam.
After passing the required examinations, you must complete the Contractor’s License Application package and provide the Board with the following:
You can obtain a Tennessee mechanical contractor’s license as a sole proprietor, corporation, partnership, or LLC. If you are operating a corporation, general partnership, or LLC, you must register with the Tennessee Secretary of State.
Tennessee CMC licenses are valid for a period of 2 years.
Note: Tennessee has a Trade Exam Waiver Agreement (reciprocity) with several states for HVAC licenses. If you have an HVAC contractor’s license in one of these states, you can apply for an exam waiver.
Nashville’s Construction Industry Continues its Steady Climb
A strong construction market provides the solid foundation for HVAC job growth in Tennessee, and it shows. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development projects HVAC/R mechanics and installer jobs to experience an annual growth rate of 4.1 percent, rising from 8,080 jobs in 2015 to 8,760 jobs by the end of 2017. Even while construction continues to be the second fastest-growing occupational group in the state, overall it’s only increasing at an annual rate of 2.6 percent – only about half as fast as growth in the HVAC job market specifically.
The construction industry “continues to show signs of steady improvement and demand for new graduates.”The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development
Zillow called Nashville the “hottest housing market” of 2017, citing solid economic activity for a strong property market and steady increases in construction.
A 2016 Tennessean article referred to Nashville’s market as “white hot,” while a similar Nashville Post article said that the construction industry in Nashville is experiencing a “construction boom.”
For example, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation reported no less than 12 hotel projects in the final planning phase, 15 projects in the planning phase, and 21 projects in the unconfirmed phase in 2016.
Just some of the trends in the Nashville market include:
- Construction managers are using prefabrication and modular construction to deal with the labor shortages that have resulted from an active construction market.
- Sustainability remains a focus, with urban infill projects and LEED certification becoming popular options. Some of the areas of interest on urban infill projects include natural ventilation, solar hot water heating, and geothermal heating and cooling systems.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Tennessee
In Tennessee, the top 10% of HVAC technicians make $62,790, or $30.19 an hour. The median salary for HVAC technicians in the state is $39,710 or $19.09 an hour (US Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2015).
Tennesse HVAC Technician Salary (median)
Tennesse HVAC Technician Salary (top 10%)
During the twelve-year span of 2012-2024, following the trend of the construction industry as a whole, the HVAC job market in Tennessee is expected to rise by 14%. This growth will open up 800 jobs across the state, or an average annual number of 230 openings per year (Jobs4TN.gov).
Tennessee also provides ample opportunities for HVAC technicians working as independent contractors or starting their own heating and cooling service. Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis all ranked on WalletHub’s 2016 list of the “Best Large Cities to Start a Business.” These cities ranked highly because they each have a low cost of starting a business compared to other large cities as well as a high success rate of new businesses.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Tennessee’s Largest Cities
The salary figures recorded below were sourced from the US Department of Labor’s 2015 report and show the median to top 10% of earnings for HVAC technicians in both average annual wages and hourly figures. We’ve included data from fourteen of Tennessee’s most populous cities.