HVAC Training Schools & Certification in Tennessee (TN)

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In Tennessee (TN) with its sticky hot summers and cool winters, there is a thriving demand for skilled heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC-R) professionals, especially in cities with high rates of construction such as Nashville. Not only is climate control a high-growth, lucrative industry—two facts discussed in the subsequent section of this guide—but these workers also have a wealth of resources at their fingertips through the strong network of contracting and trade associations in the state.

As proof of point, the Tennessee Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (TAPHCC) is a not-for-profit association with regional chapters in three areas: Knoxville, Middle Tennessee, and Northeast Tennessee. The organization has several goals, including the promotion of the most efficient and groundbreaking technologies in the industry; progress in sanitation and standardization of methods; compliance with all legislation; and to provide training and other resources. Additionally, the Nashville Area Plumbing and Mechanical Association provides legal advocacy, charity events, and discounts on various services such as insurance.

HVAC workers in Tennessee (TN) must have state licensure through the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors to complete projects in excess of $25,000, and all installers require an electrical contracting license to do their work; local credentialing also varies by city, although the job responsibilities are similar for HVAC professionals in TN and beyond.

These workers visit service sites to fulfill contractual or warranty-related obligations; read blueprints and mechanical diagrams; calculate heat loads & losses of systems; recover and safely handle refrigerants; repair, install, and maintain HVAC systems and components (e.g., motors, wiring, intake & exhaust fans, refrigeration circuit, water pumps, relays, thermostats, hermetic compressors, humidifiers); keep on top of developments in the industry; maintain detailed service records; work in compliance with all legislation; travel to job sites; and make efficiency recommendations to customers.

It’s important to note that all HVAC-R workers in TN and across the country who handle refrigerants must achieve a national credential: the EPA Section 608 certification, which is discussed in the licensing section below.

This guide covers accredited HVAC schools in Tennessee, as well as the occupational growth, salary prospects, and licensing procedures in the state.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Professionals in Tennessee

As mentioned in the introduction, HVAC is a high-growth industry. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) anticipates a 13 percent explosion in HVAC positions nationwide between 2018 and 2028, much more robust than the 5 percent average growth projected for all occupations during that period. Interestingly, CareerOneStop —a data organization partnered with the US Department of Labor—found that for HVAC work in TN specifically, massive growth is expected. It reported that there would be a 22 percent increase in HVAC positions across Tennessee between 2016 and 2026 (an additional 1,080 openings).

So what are the factors contributing to the healthy, thriving demand for qualified HVAC professionals in Tennessee? First, these systems generally need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years, not to mention required retrofitting of old systems to make them compatible with new structures or technologies. Secondly, the rise of regular service and maintenance contracts that accompanies the installation of modern systems may ensure regular work throughout the year, even during the typically low seasons (spring and fall). Maintenance and repair work is especially stable while specializing in HVAC installation may thrive more in cities with high rates of construction.

The BLS (May 2019) reported that 9 percent of HVAC mechanics and installers were self-employed in 2018, and 64 percent worked for plumbing, heating, and A/C contracting companies. Some of these skilled professionals in TN work normal business hours, while others may be called upon to service equipment on evenings, weekends, or holidays, particularly during the high summer season.

Also, HVAC workers incur a relatively high risk of injury and illness compared to other US occupations. They lift heavy equipment, deal with electrical wiring, and handle refrigerants—three activities which increase one’s risk of muscle strains, electrical shock, burns, and frostbite, among other maladies. That said, these problems can generally be kept to a minimum with proper training and use of safety equipment.

Despite the physical challenges within the profession, there is further evidence that the employment climate is thriving for HVAC workers in TN. In fact, common job posting sites are filled with opportunities. For example, Indeed (Sept. 2020) had links to 445 relevant HVAC worker openings in TN, including positions at Johnson Controls, Reddy Ice, Perfection Group, and Lipscomb University. Additionally, Monster (Sept. 2020) advertised 283 HVAC jobs in TN at places such as Aramark, Nashville Medical, and Novolex.

Tennessee HVAC Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019), HVAC mechanics and installers enjoy good wages around the country, particularly in an occupation that generally requires just six months to two years of postsecondary education.

Among the 342,040 HVAC workers around the US, the BLS (May 2019) found an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $51,420. In Tennessee, the 8,330 HVAC professionals working there earned an average of $42,510. In more detailed terms, here were the salary percentiles in this occupation in the US and Tennessee specifically:

United States Tennessee
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 8,330
Annual mean wage $51,420 $42,510
10th percentile $30,610 $26,360
25th percentile $37,660 $31,750
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $40,120
75th percentile $62,070 $52,430
90th percentile $77,920 $62,640

Salary figures do vary slightly by the source of data. Payscale—an aggregator of self-reported salaries—found the following percentiles among its HVAC respondents nationwide in September 2020:

  • 10th percentile: $30,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,868
  • 90th percentile: $74,000

As noted above, the average salary for HVAC workers in Tennessee is somewhat lower than that of the rest of the nation. As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2020) found that TN was the 11th most affordable state. For HVAC technicians this means even lower than average salaries will go a bit further than they would in some costlier nearby states.

The BLS designated 14 regions within Tennessee for which employment data is available. The 1,590 HVAC workers in the Memphis, TN area earned the highest average salary in the state at $47,280, while Jackson, TN workers had the lowest average salary at $33,590.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Tennessee

There’s fantastic news for aspiring HVAC professionals in Tennessee: this state boasts an impressive 18 programs accredited by HVAC Excellence, one of two accrediting organizations for HVAC programs in the US. The other accreditation agency is the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). As of September 2020, there were no PAHRA-accredited programs in TN. More information about the accreditation process and criteria is available on those programs’ websites or the HVAC programs homepage.

The Tennessee College of Applied Technology is the single institution with HVAC Excellence accreditation and boasts campuses in Covington, Memphis, Morristown, Nashville, Whiteville, Jackson, Surgoinsville, Clarksville, Crump, Crossville, Dickson, Elizabethton, Knoxville, Newbern, Pulaski, Shelbyville, Chattanooga, and Mckenzie.

Tennessee College of Applied Technology

At the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (Knoxville campus), there is a 16-month HVAC technician diploma program for aspiring commercial refrigeration and air conditioning technicians. It comprises 1,296 clock hours of instruction and experience in dealing with residential and commercial air conditioning systems, refrigeration, heat pumps, electric and gas heating, solar and hydronic heating, ice machines, and humidifiers.

Courses include technology foundations, refrigeration fundamentals, an introduction to system service, basic automatic controls, carbon monoxide, commercial refrigeration, electricity and controls I and II, introduction to system service, and green awareness.

Other programs include certificates in HVAC mechanic assistance (432 clock hours) and domestic unit repair (864 clock hours), as well as a diploma in HVAC/R technician (1,728 clock hours).

Students in these programs are prepared for entry-level employment in the HVAC/R industry. They learn to install or repair HVAC/R systems, including hot-air furnaces, heating stoves, and oil burners. Program graduates will be well-equipped to install and braze refrigeration tubing, detect electrical problems, install duct systems, repair light commercial equipment, locate leaks and repair them, and recover air conditioning and refrigerants.

  • Location: Knoxville, TN
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education; HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: 16 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $5,273

Chattanooga State Community College

For HVAC professionals in TN seeking slightly cheaper and more accelerated training, Chattanooga State Community College provides a one-year diploma program which costs $4,705 total.

Courses at CSCC include refrigeration fundamentals, tools and equipment, electricity and controls, basic automatic controls, domestic appliances, heating units, general safety, all-weather systems, electric motors, and preparation for the EPA Section 608 and HVAC Excellence Gas/Heat Pump certifications.

The program provides a combination of practical learning experiences and classroom learning, including topics such as mechanical theory application, maintenance, and operation of basic and advanced HVAC/R systems. Students also learn about varying gas, heating, oil, solar, electric, and heat pump systems.

Impressively, this program has 88 percent job placement. Graduates of the program can take up roles such as HVAC/R industrial maintenance technician, HVAC/R commercial service technician, HVAC/R residential service technician, and HVAC/R technicians helper.

  • Location: Chattanooga, TN
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $4,705

Remington College

Remington College (Memphis College campus) offers a heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) diploma program and a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning associate degree program.

These programs provide training in HVAC systems, demonstrating hands-on skills needed to successfully maintain and troubleshoot complex HVAC/R systems.

The diploma consists of 59 quarter-credits. It includes courses such as career development fundamentals, career development principles, basic refrigeration theory, basic electricity, motors and motor control, residential heating, introduction to air conditioning and major components, commercial refrigeration systems, and fundamentals of HVAC maintenance, among others.

The degree program is made up of 95 quarter-credits. It includes all courses from the diploma, with additional coursework in business applications, small business principles, small business basics, recordkeeping and financial statement basics, introduction to psychology, oral communication, college algebra, and English composition.

The objective of these programs is to prepare graduates for entry-level positions in the HVAC industry, such as in residential heating and cooling, commercial or industrial heating and cooling, and residential, commercial, or industrial refrigeration and freezers, and to introduce them to the basic concepts of starting and/or managing a small business.

Upon completion, students can look for career opportunities at contracting companies, refrigeration appliance installation and repair, manufacturers, residential and commercial HVAC, residential/light commercial heating, cooling, and refrigeration, and commercial freight and air conditioning.

  • Location: Memphis, TN
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (12 months); degree (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: $21,520 per year

Northeast State Community College

Northeast State Community College offers a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) certificate program preparing students for a career in the HVAC industry. Students in this program learn to maintain, troubleshoot, and install HVAC equipment. The program also provides instruction in industrial safety and electrical applications.

The program is made up of 30 credit-hours and includes courses such as an introduction to electricity, mechanical transmissions, hydraulics and pneumatics I, refrigeration and air conditioning I, II, and III, safety in the workplace, and millwright principles.

  • Location: Blountville, TN
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 30 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $5,232

Lastly, for TN’s rural residents or those with unbreakable time commitments, there are various distance-based programs available. To discover all of the e-learning open to residents of this state, please visit the online HVAC programs page.

HVAC Licensing & Certification in Tennessee

Prior to seeking work, all HVAC workers in Tennessee must ensure that they have proper credentialing. As mentioned above, there’s one nationally mandatory certification for all people who work with refrigerants: the EPA Section 608 certification. There are four categories:

  • Type 1 (small appliance)
  • Type 2 (high-pressure appliances)
  • Type 3 (low-pressure appliances)
  • Type 4 (universal)

Please note that preparation for this credentialing exam is usually included in accredited HVAC training programs.

Other national entities of note and sample certifications offered include:

  • HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology [HEAT], HEAT Plus, heat oil combustion, systems diagnostics, green awareness, etc.)
  • North American Technician Excellence or NATE (e.g., air conditioning, air distribution, heat pump, hydronic oil, commercial refrigeration, etc.)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society or RSES (e.g., commercial air conditioning, domestic service, dynamic compression, etc.)

To discover in detail how to achieve any of these credentials, check out the HVAC certifications page.

As mentioned in the introduction, all HVAC workers performing $25,000 or more in work on systems must have a mechanical contractor’s license (CMC-C) issued by the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors. To qualify, candidates must:

  • Complete a CMC-C application
  • Pass two exams (TN Business & Law Management Exam and a Trade Exam)
  • Offer proof of insurance
  • Submit a financial statement
  • Pay an application fee ($250)

These licenses may require a candidate interview as well and are valid for two years.

The TN Department of Commerce & Insurance adds that all HVAC workers in TN performing repair or maintenance services under $25,000 don’t need state licensure, although it is important to note that the installation of all HVAC systems requires a TN-issued electrician’s license (LLE). Many cities and regions have their own specific requirements for HVAC credentialing. A list of each regional authority is available on the TN State website.

Above all, it is crucial to ensure that one has all necessary credentialing prior to beginning work, so HVAC workers in TN are strongly encouraged to check with municipal governments for all licensing details.