HVAC Training Schools in Tennessee

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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 four areas: Chattanooga, 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, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) anticipates a 15 percent explosion in HVAC positions nationwide between 2016 and 2026, much more robust than the 7 percent average growth projected for all occupations during that period. Interestingly, Projections Central (2017) found that for HVAC work in TN specifically, massive growth is expected, with 22.1 percent growth projected, meaning an additional 1,080 openings between 2016 and 2026.

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 which 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 (2017) reported that nine percent HVAC mechanics and installers were self-employed in 2017, 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 post sites are bursting at the seams with opportunities. For example, Indeed (Dec. 2018) had links to 655 relevant HVAC worker openings in TN, including positions at Brentwood Climate Control, Hometown Comfort, CaptiveAire Systems, and Ingersoll Rand. Additionally, Monster (Dec. 2018) advertised 41 HVAC jobs in TN at places such as Randstad, Westgate Resorts, and Diversicare Healthcare Services.

Tennessee HVAC Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), 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 307,060 HVAC workers around the US, the BLS (2017) found an average annual salary of $49,530. In Tennessee, the 7,760 HVAC professionals working there earned an average of $44,170, putting them a bit below average for the country. In more detailed terms, here were the salary percentiles in this occupation in the US and Tennessee specifically:

Annual salary Hourly salary
United States Tennessee United States Tennessee
Average $49,530 $44,170 $23.81 $21.24
10th percentile $29,120 $28,190 $14.00 $13.55
25th percentile $36,150 $34,220 $17.38 $16.45
50th percentile $47,080 $42,160 $22.64 $20.27
75th percentile $60,270 $54,440 $28.98 $26.17
90th percentile $75,330 $62,880 $36.22 $30.23

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (Dec. 2018), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States: 881 HVAC workers responding

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,606
  • 90th percentile: $72,000

An additional 4,892 HVAC workers gave Payscale their hourly salary figures, resulting in these percentile wages:

  • 10th percentile: $12.94/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.33/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.55/hr.

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 2018) found that TN was the 6th most affordable state, with notable savings in housing, groceries and healthcare. For HVAC technicians this means even lower than average salaries will go a bit further than they would in some costlier nearby states like South Carolina and Illinois.

The BLS designated 14 regions within Tennessee for which employment data is available. The 2770 HVAC workers in the Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN area earned the highest average salary in the state at $47,010 Johnson City, TN workers had the lowest average salary at $31,010. Following are the detailed salary data for the state of Tennessee:

Chattanooga, TN-GA (620 HVAC workers): $45,720 annual average salary

Chattanooga, TN-GA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $45,720 $21.98
10th percentile $27,680 $13.31
25th percentile $34,750 $16.71
50th percentile $46,670 $22.44
75th percentile $57,370 $27.58
90th percentile $62,800 $30.19

Clarksville, TN-KY (240 HVAC workers): $40,310 annual average salary

Clarksville, TN-KY
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $40,310 $19.38
10th percentile $26,150 $12.57
25th percentile $32,980 $15.86
50th percentile $39,840 $19.15
75th percentile $47,830 $22.99
90th percentile $55,800 $26.83

Cleveland, TN (110 HVAC workers): $40,310 annual average salary

Cleveland, TN
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $40,310 $19.38
10th percentile $23,830 $11.46
25th percentile $30,130 $14.49
50th percentile $38,750 $18.63
75th percentile $51,170 $24.60
90th percentile $60,070 $28.88

East Tennessee nonmetropolitan area (number of HVAC workers unreported): $31,380 annual average salary

East Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $31,380 $15.09
10th percentile $26,250 $12.62
25th percentile $27,880 $13.40
50th percentile $30,590 $14.71
75th percentile $34,640 $16.65
90th percentile $40,190 $19.32

Jackson, TN (200 HVAC workers): $36,600 annual average salary

Jackson, TN
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $36,600 $17.60
10th percentile $30,550 $14.69
25th percentile $33,230 $15.98
50th percentile $35,970 $17.29
75th percentile $38,710 $18.61
90th percentile $40,740 $19.59

Johnson City, TN (80 HVAC workers): $31,010 annual average salary

Johnson City, TN
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $31,010 $14.91
10th percentile $21,040 $10.12
25th percentile $25,600 $12.31
50th percentile $29,890 $14.37
75th percentile $35,930 $17.28
90th percentile $41,180 $19.80

Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA (210 HVAC workers): $38,750 annual average salary

Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $38,750 $18.63
10th percentile $25,840 $12.42
25th percentile $31,140 $14.97
50th percentile $37,780 $18.16
75th percentile $46,780 $22.49
90th percentile $55,760 $26.81

Knoxville, TN (1190 HVAC workers): $45,150 annual average salary

Knoxville, TN
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $45,150 $21.71
10th percentile $29,730 $14.29
25th percentile $34,910 $16.78
50th percentile $42,430 $20.40
75th percentile $54,060 $25.99
90th percentile $63,700 $30.62

Memphis, TN-MS-AR (1510 HVAC workers): $45,650 annual average salary

Memphis, TN-MS-AR
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $45,650 $21.95
10th percentile $28,520 $13.71
25th percentile $34,390 $16.53
50th percentile $44,140 $21.22
75th percentile $57,310 $27.55
90th percentile $63,980 $30.76

Morristown, TN (60 HVAC workers): $38,870 annual average salary

Morristown, TN
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $38,870 $18.69
10th percentile $26,660 $12.82
25th percentile $30,270 $14.55
50th percentile $37,180 $17.87
75th percentile $46,630 $22.42
90th percentile $55,200 $26.54

Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN (2770 HVAC workers): $47,010 annual average salary

Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $47,010 $22.60
10th percentile $31,160 $14.98
25th percentile $37,410 $17.99
50th percentile $46,480 $22.35
75th percentile $56,910 $27.36
90th percentile $64,730 $31.12

North Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area (340 HVAC workers): $36,880 annual average salary

North Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $36,880 $17.73
10th percentile $23,110 $11.11
25th percentile $28,300 $13.61
50th percentile $34,650 $16.66
75th percentile $42,010 $20.20
90th percentile $57,430 $27.61

South Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area (240 HVAC workers): $37,820 annual average salary

South Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $37,820 $18.18
10th percentile $26,690 $12.83
25th percentile $29,320 $14.10
50th percentile $35,150 $16.90
75th percentile $41,740 $20.07
90th percentile $57,350 $27.57

West Tennessee nonmetropolitan area (400 HVAC workers): $38,660 annual average salary

West Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
Percentile Annual salary Hourly salary
Average $38,660 $18.59
10th percentile $27,900 $13.41
25th percentile $33,380 $16.05
50th percentile $37,310 $17.94
75th percentile $42,980 $20.67
90th percentile $54,450 $26.18

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), and as of December 2018, there were no PAHRA-accredited programs in TN. More about the accreditation process and criteria is avialable 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 Chattanooga, Clarksville, Covington, Crossville, Crump, Dixon, Jackson, Knoxville, Mckenzie, Memphis, Morristown, Murfreesboro, Nashville, Newbern, Pulaski, Shelbyville, Surgoinsville, and Whiteville.

For example, at TCAT’s Memphis campus, there is a 20-month diploma program for aspiring commercial refrigeration & air conditioning technicians, comprising 2,160 clock hours of instruction and experience in dealing with residential & commercial air conditioning systems; refrigeration; heat pumps; electric & gas heating; solar & hydronic heating; ice machines; and humidifiers. As of 2018, the program costs $6,230 for tuition and an additional $2,609.35 for textbooks and supplies. Other programs include certificates in HVAC mechanic assistance and domestic unit repair, as well as diplomas in refrigeration technology and HVAC.

The TCAT in Nashville offers fewer training options, but has a unique environmental control systems HVAC-R technology diploma program. Interested applicants can visit any of the other TCAT program websites to learn more about certificate and diploma offerings and pricing.

For HVAC professionals in TN who seek 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 & equipment; electricity & 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. Impressively, this program has 88 percent job placement.

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:

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 encourage to check with municipal governments for all licensing details.