How to Become an HVAC Technician in Tennessee
Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R) is a rapidly growing industry. Professionals who work in this industry are called HVAC technicians, HVAC techs or HVAC workers and are currently high in demand. HVAC techs repair, install and maintain heating and cooling systems. Additionally, HVAC techs read blueprints and diagrams, calculate the heat loads and losses in systems, recover and handle refrigerants and even make recommendations to customers to safely and efficiently heat and cool their homes or businesses. [Leer en español]
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Tennessee
HVAC technicians are not required to be licensed nationally to seek employment. However, many states do require licensure. In Tennessee, licensure is handled a little differently than in most other states. For HVAC workers who will perform more than $25,000 in services on heating and cooling systems are required to have a mechanical contractor’s license (CMC-C). Those performing services under $25,000 are not required to have a license. However, HVAC technicians who will be installing HVAC systems are required to have a Tennessee electrician’s license (LLE).
The only certification that is mandatory nationally is the EPA Section 608 certification, which is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. All HVAC technicians must have this certification to purchase and handle refrigerants. Formal schooling is not required, but if you don’t enroll in a formal training program an apprenticeship is required to work as a service technician.
HVAC Apprenticeship and Educational Programs in Tennessee
For those looking for an apprenticeship program, consider checking with licensed HVAC contractors in your area to see if they are willing to take on an apprentice. You can also check online job postings—they will usually include apprenticeship openings as well. Apprenticeships generally last from three to five years, and some include classroom instruction in addition to hands-on training under a licensed HVAC contractor.
If you plan on completing educational training rather than an apprenticeship, you should consider a program that has been accredited by either HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). At this time, there are no PAHRA-accredited programs offered in the state of Tennessee, but there are over a dozen colleges that offer HVAC Excellence-accredited programs. Here are a few of those programs:
- Tennessee College of Applied Technology. The Tennessee College of Applied Technology has campuses in Chattanooga, Clarksville, Crossville, Elizabethton, Hartsville, Jackson, Knoxville, McKenzie, Memphis, Morristown, Murfreesboro, Nashville, Newbern, Pulaski, Shelbyville and Whiteville that offer various HVAC certificate and diploma programs. Programs offered vary by location. For example, the Memphis campus has certificate programs for an HVAC Mechanic Helper and Domestic Unit Repair. They also offer diploma programs for a Refrigeration Technician, Heating/Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC), Heating/Ventilation, Air Cond./Refrigeration (HVACR) and Commercial Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Technician. The diploma programs can be completed in 20 months or less.
- Chattanooga State Community College. Chattanooga State Community College has a one-year diploma program. This program is five days a week, full time. Graduates of this program will be prepared to take the EPA Section 608 exam. This is a limited space program.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Tennessee
EPA Section 608 certification is required for all HVAC workers. There are four categories to this certification: Type I (small appliances), Type II (high pressure appliances), Type III (low pressure appliances) and Type IV (universal). Preparation for this exam is included in most HVAC training programs that are accredited.
Statewide HVAC licenses are handled by the TN Department of Commerce & Insurance. To work as an HVAC contractor and obtain a CMC-C license, you will need to pay a $250.00 application fee and pass the trade exam and the TN Business & Law Management Exam. This license must be renewed biannually, and continued education credits are not required.
For those who will be performing HVAC installation only, you will need to apply for an LLE license. Experience is not required to sit for this exam. The application fee for this exam is $50.00, and it must be renewed biannually. No continued education credits are required for renewal.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
The Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) stated that, in 2016, 8,490 HVAC workers were employed in the state of Tennessee. By 2026, that number is expected to increase by 22 percent to 10,370.
In 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that HVAC workers in Tennessee were making an hourly average of $21.24 and an annual average of $44,170. Salary can depend on many things, such as work experience and location. HVAC contractors make more than those with just an electrical license. And those with an electrical license will make more than entry-level workers. In 2016, the Nashville Metropolitan area had the highest employment rate for HVAC workers in the state. Memphis was the highest paying city.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Tennessee
While HVAC technicians are trained in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration, some HVAC techs choose to focus on just one of these systems. And some techs prefer to specialize in installation, maintenance or repair individually, while some do all three. Additionally, some HVAC technicians may specialize in certain types of equipment such as solar technology systems or commercial refrigeration. HVAC technicians may work for commercial or residential companies or work for an HVAC contractor. Others may choose to obtain their HVAC contractor license and start their own business.
In Tennessee, Memphis and the Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin region are the areas that employ the most HVAC workers. Those areas, along with the city of Chattanooga, are all high paying areas for HVAC workers in the state.
If you are interested in a job that has stability with a high growth rate, is well-paying and requires only a year or two of postsecondary training, consider becoming an HVAC technician in Tennessee.