Interested in becoming a licensed plumber? It’s not a bad idea, considering that over the past 5 years, plumbing has seen a continuous growth rate of 3.2%. As demand continues to rise, employment is expected to grow by 5% within the next 10 years.

Tennessee is an excellent place to start your plumbing career. With some training and testing, you’ll be able to earn your license in no time.

Not sure where to start? We’ll cover everything you need to know

Make sure to bookmark this page for an easy reference for all things Tennessee plumbing license related. 

Do you need a plumbing license in Tennessee?

Yes, you’ll need a plumbing license to perform any plumbing work in Tennessee. This requirement is also true for DIY work at home. If the project has a total cost of over $3,000, you’ll need a license in order to complete the work.

Plumbing licenses are issued by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance or the local jurisdiction.  The type of license you’re applying for dictates who will issue your license. State-level licenses, like the Limited Licensed Plumber (LLP) and Contractor licenses, are issued by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. In contrast, other license types like journeyman and master contractor licenses are issued locally. Check with your local jurisdiction or municipality for specific licenses.  

Types of plumbing licenses in Tennessee

The plumbing licenses available in Tennessee vary based on the type of plumbing work you’ll be doing. The specific type of plumbing license you earn dictates what projects you are allowed to work on.

The following plumbing licenses are issued in Tennessee:

  • Limited Licensed Plumber (LLP): to bid or negotiate a price on projects that total less than $25,000.
  • Contractor’s license: to bid or negotiate a price on projects that total $25,000 or more (including the cost of materials and your time). Plumbers can get a CMC-A Mechanical Plumbing Contractor License or a CMC Full Mechanical Contractor License.

Within the  plumbing contractor’s license, there are two plumbing contractor classifications you’ll need to choose from: 

  • CMC-A Mechanical Plumbing: permitted to complete work related to installing, repairing, remodeling, and maintaining various plumbing systems that include water supply, waste, storm drainage, and non-medical gas piping.
  • CMC Full Mechanical Contractor: permits work on plumbing and gas piping systems and other systems such as HVAC, Refrigeration, Process Piping, Sprinklers and Fire Protection, Boiler Construction, Pollution Control, and Pneumatic Temperature and Tube systems. 

Each classification has different exams and license requirements to fulfill. You can look at the different classifications with this online license verification tool.

Tennessee plumbing license requirements

To be eligible to receive your contractors’ plumbing license in Tennessee, you’ll first need to meet a few requirements: 

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Obtain a high school diploma or GED
  • Complete the required training
  • Successfully pass the exam for your desired license
    • For projects under $25,000: take the state-level LLP
    • For projects over $25,000: take the statewide plumbing license exam and Business and Law exam  (for the CMC-A license you must be pre-approved by the board before taking the exam) 
  • Complete the Contractor’s License Application Package
    • Include a financial statement that has been reviewed by a certified public accountant or proof of general liability and worker’s compensation insurance

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How do I get a plumbing license in Tennessee?

There are a few steps you’ll need to complete to get your plumbing license. The time it takes to receive your license varies based on the type of license you’re applying for and the education path you choose. 

  1. Get the necessary experience: Before applying for a state or local plumbing license, you must first work as an apprentice or entry-level worker. The specific amount of training you need depends on your local jurisdiction, but in general, journeyman licenses tend to require 500-900 hours of in-class training and 8,000 hours of work experience. You’ll need at least three years of verifiable work experience for state-level licenses. If you’re interested in receiving a state-wide license, you can skip step 2 and go on to step 3.
  2. Take the local plumbing license exam and pay any fees (local licenses only): After completing the necessary education and training requirements, your next step is to take your local plumbing license exam. Depending on your local jurisdiction, you may need to provide additional documentation with your application. Check with your local board to see the specific requirements and fees needed to take your exam. You will receive either a journeyman or master plumbing license after successfully passing your exam. 
  3. Apply for a state contractor license (statewide license only): For projects under $25,000, you would apply to be a Limited Licensed Plumber, pay the fees and take the LLP trade exam. If you work on projects over $25,000, you’ll need to apply for your contractor’s license. For this license, you’ll need to be pre-approved by the board to be eligible to take the exam and pay the application fee.

The board meets every other month, and applications are due by the 20th of a month before a board meeting. Along with your application, you’ll also need to provide a financial statement prepared by an independent accounting firm. 

Applications for the LLP license can be sent to

Contractor’s Board – LLP
500 James Robertson Pkwy.
Nashville, TN 37243-1150

Applications for the contractor license can be sent to

Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors
500 James Robertson Pkwy, 1st Floor
Nashville, TN 37243-1150

Tennessee plumbing license exams

To receive your plumbing license, you’ll need to pass a series of exams successfully. All exams are hosted by PSI Exams. Testing sites and availability depend on your location, but many cities have multiple testing locations that offer tests weekly. You can check the PSI Exams online portal to find upcoming testing dates and locations for your preferred plumbing license. 

The process for the license examination is as follows:

  • Submit a pre-approval request: For the CMC and CMC-A plumbing exam, you must submit a pre-approval request. This pre-approval request requires that you provide proof of at least 3 years of work experience. You won’t be able to register for a PSI examination until you submit this pre-approval request, which is then approved by the board.
  • Take the business and law exam: All contractor exams require you to take a Business and Law examination. This open book exam covers information from the NASCLA Contractors Guide to Business, Law and Project Management manual. 
  • Take the trade exam: In addition to the Business and Law exam, you’ll also need to take a trade exam. The specific trade exam you take will depend on what kind of classification contractor license you’re applying for. The CMC-A Mechanical Plumbing trade exam is 110 questions long, and you’ll have 295 minutes to complete this exam. For the CMC Full Mechanical Contractor trade exam, you’ll need to complete 120 questions within 325 minutes. Both trade exams require you to receive a 73% or higher score to pass the test.

For more information on Tennessee contractor examination regulations, check out the PSI Candidate Information Bulletin.

Plumbing license reciprocity agreements with other states

When it comes to plumbing licenses, some states have reciprocity agreements that allow one state’s license to be valid in another state. Tennessee has plumbing license reciprocity agreements with some states that allow applicants to be exempt from the trade exam. These applicants must submit  a waiver to be excused from the trade portion of the licensing exam. Individuals will still be required to take the Business and Law exam. 

The following states and license types are eligible for a trade exam waiver in the state of Tennessee:

  • Alabama 
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana 
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia

How much does it cost to get a plumbing license in Tennessee?

You’ll have to pay a few fees associated with the education and application process to get your license.

EDUCATION

The total cost of your education depends on the route you choose to take. Apprenticeship programs vary based on the program, but generally, you can expect a cost of $2,000-$2,500 per year for a 4-year program. If you choose to attend a technical school, tuition falls more in the range of $4,000-$5,000 per year. Some employers will cover your apprenticeship tuition if you maintain a B or higher. 

EXAMINATION

The fees for the examination portion are much lighter. 

  • LLP license exam: $57 
  • Trade exam (for CMC or CMC-A license): $57
  • Business and Law exam: $55

APPLICATION

Your application cost varies based on the type of license you’re applying for. 

  • Journeyman application: $30 
  • LLP: $75
  • Contractor license: $250

Application fees can vary at the local level, so check with your local jurisdiction for exact costs.

Do I need to renew my plumbing license? 

Yes, to keep your Tennessee plumbing license active, you will need to renew it. Every license type, regardless of type/level, must be renewed every 2 years. The exact expiration date is 2 years from the issue date. You’re required to submit your renewal application 30 days before the expiration date, so make a note of it so you don’t miss the deadline. 

The renewal cost depends on your specific license:

  • LLP license renewal: $50
  • Contractor’s license renewal: $200

To be eligible to renew your license, you must not have any delinquent payments in either student loans or child support payments. Licenses can be renewed using the CORE online renewal portal. You can follow these instructions for guidance on setting up your CORE account.

What happens if my plumbing license expires? 

To maintain an active license, it’s important that you keep note of your license’s expiration date. You can use the  Plumber License Verification Site to check if your license has expired. If your license expires, you must immediately stop any plumbing work and pay any late fees. If your license exceeds an expiration date by 90 days, you’ll need to re-apply for your license.

Requirements for business owners

If you’re looking to start your own plumbing business, there are a few additional steps you’ll need to take. Only those with a licensed contractor license can operate a plumbing business in Tennessee. 

When starting a business, you’ll need to establish how you’ll operate. Will you be running an LLC, or will you be acting as a sole proprietor? Once you decide on your business structure, you’ll need to choose a name and register your business. 

You’ll need to meet the following requirements to start up your business:

    • Get the necessary insurance: Business owners are required to obtain general liability, worker’s compensation, and commercial automobile insurance. The minimum coverage amount required depends on the monetary limit of your contractor’s license. This monetary amount is based on your financial statement.
  • Obtain the necessary permits: The specific permits you need will depend on the local jurisdiction of the location where the project will take place. Check with your local Building and Codes office for what specific permits you’ll need.

On average, it costs around $10,000 to get all the tools, equipment, and insurance needed to start a plumbing business. If needed, you can apply for a small business loan to help cover the initial costs. You can also check with your local government to see if any small business grants are available. 

Does a plumbing license in Tennessee increase your earning potential? 

Yes, a plumbing license opens up many opportunities and increases your earning potential. Any plumbing license will help increase your earnings, but your salary potential grows as you achieve higher plumbing licenses. With a plumbing contractor license, you can take on larger projects, allowing you to earn a higher wage than someone at an apprentice level.

Our Essential Plumber Salary Guide features up-to-date salary data based on national averages, geographic location, years of experience, and job titles – all bundled up in an interactive, easy-to-use format so you know how much to pay your employees or how much you can expect to earn as you head into your plumbing career.

On average, plumbers in Tennessee earn $45,413 per year. As you gain more experience, your earning potential increases: plumbers with at least 3 years of experience make about 24% more per year than those starting out. That’s $8,116 more per year in your pocket. Not bad for three years’ work!

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