HVAC Training Schools in Tennessee – Programs & Certifications

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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 providing 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 above $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 2020) anticipates a 5 percent explosion in HVAC positions nationwide between 2020 and 2030, slightly slower than the 8 percent average growth projected for all occupations during that period.

Interestingly, Projections Central (2021)—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 15.2 percent increase in HVAC positions across Tennessee between 2018 and 2028 (an additional 1,360 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 ten to 15 years, not to mention the 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 2020) reported that 9 percent of HVAC mechanics and installers were self-employed in 2020, and 66 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 that 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 the 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. Common job posting sites are filled with opportunities. For example, Indeed (Dec. 2021) had links to 550 relevant HVAC worker openings in TN, including positions at Cargill, McKee Foods, Southern Tennessee Regional Health System, and Charles Stone Mechanical Heating & Cooling. Additionally, Monster (Dec. 2021) advertised HVAC jobs in TN at places such as Roscoe Brown Inc, Honeywell, and Johnson Controls.

Tennessee HVAC Salaries – How Much Do TN HVAC Workers Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020), 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 344,020 HVAC workers around the US, the BLS (May 2020) found an average annual salary (annual mean wage) of $53,410. In Tennessee, the 8,740 HVAC professionals working there earned an average of $44,000. 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 344,020 8,740
Annual mean wage $53,410 $44,000
10th percentile $31,910 $27,300
25th percentile $39,320 $32,690
50th percentile (median) $50,590 $41,180
75th percentile $64,350 $53,360
90th percentile $80,820 $64,840

Salary figures do vary slightly by the source of data. PayScale (2021)—an aggregator of self-reported salaries—found the following percentiles among its HVAC respondents nationwide:

  • 10th percentile: $32,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,322
  • 90th percentile: $79,000

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 2021) found that TN was the sixth 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 $50,250, while North Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area workers had the lowest average salary at $37,040.

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 December 2021, 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/R technician diploma program for aspiring commercial refrigeration and air conditioning technicians. It comprises 1,728 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 technician (1,296 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 $6,549 total.

Courses at CSCC include refrigeration fundamentals, electricity and controls, tools and equipment, basic automatic controls, troubleshooting & typical operating conditions, electric motors, general safety, evaporators & condensers, indoor air quality, 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 80 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: $6,549

Remington College

Remington College (Memphis College campus) offers a heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) diploma program and an HVAC 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 & 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: Diploma ($21,520); degree ($29,425)

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 the HVAC equipment. The program also provides instruction in industrial safety and electrical applications.

The program is made up of 30 credits 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

William Moore College of Technology

Moore Tech, a private vocational school offers HVAC programs for day or night attendees. Day students can earn an associate’s degree in applied technology (AAT) or a diploma in HVAC. Night class students receive a certificate. All programs will require students to attend classroom lectures combined with hands-on practice in labs furnished with modern equipment.

The AAT degree or diploma comprises 72 credits, while the certificate consists of 18 credits. The curriculum features courses in electricity for HVAC, basic domestic heating, commercial heating, commercial refrigeration, air conditioning, and introduction to air conditioning and heating.

The program aims to provide students with working knowledge about the principles of air conditioning, refrigeration, and heating mechanisms, their operation, maintenance, service, and repair. Graduates have a working knowledge of equipment and systems and may be qualified to enter the job market.

  • Location: Memphis, TN
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of the Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Full-time students per trimester ($2,070); part-time students per trimester ($1,235); nighttime students per trimester ($900)

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

Before 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

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 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 credentials before beginning work, so HVAC workers in TN are strongly encouraged to check with municipal governments for all licensing details.

Jocelyn Blore

Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.