The process for becoming a licensed plumber will be similar to becoming a licensed electrician in Tennessee — mainly, that if you are operating as a business entity (and therefore acting as a contractor), you will need to first apply as a subcontractor through the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Board for Licensing Contractors. To perform plumbing work in Tennessee, you will likely need to be licensed for one of two classifications:
Contractor (CMC-A): This license is recognized statewide, and city/county exams will not be required once you obtain a CMC-A or related licenses, such as a CMC (however, you will have to take an exam to obtain the license). For plumbing projects exceeding $25,000, you must obtain this license — which falls under the “subcontractor” classification when applying to be a general contractor in Tennessee. Since this license falls under the category of a Tennessee general contractor, applicants will be required to take the Tennessee Business and Law exam. Those who hold a CMC-A are exempt from having to obtain an LLP in Tennessee.
Limited Licensed Plumber (LLP): For projects under $25,000, a plumber may get an LLP. An LLP is issued to an individual, rather than a business entity and will include a smaller exam than what is required for a CMC-A. Tennessee plumbers may also need to obtain licenses from the city/county they are aiming to perform work in and may not advertise themselves as a contractor.
Both the above licenses will be issued through the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Board for Licensing Contractors. Proof of experience, exams, and various insurance documents will all be necessary to obtain these licenses. No matter which license you acquire, you should plan to check with the city/county/municipality you are working in for local permit and inspection requirements.
Tennessee Plumbing License Reciprocity
Eight states offer a reciprocal agreement with a Tennessee contractors license. It should be noted that Tennessee’s reciprocity agreement with these states — with the exception of Ohio — does not include plumbing. An LLP license has no reciprocity with these states, but Ohio does offer a reciprocal agreement to waive the trade exam if you have the CMC-A plumbing license in Tennessee.
It should also be understood that reciprocity for the states only waives the trade exam and that you may have to fulfill all the necessary requirements to obtain a plumbing license in Tennessee even though you already hold one in one of the eight states below.
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Additionally, if you are licensed in one of these states (and have taken the trade exam), you will not have to take it when getting your Tennessee contractors license. Visit the State of Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Board for License Contractors for more details on their Trade Exam Waiver Agreements.
Tennessee Journeyman Plumbing License Requirements
The CMC-A license is the nearest thing to a traditional journeyman plumber’s license in Tennessee, as an LLP cannot advertise as a contractor without a contractors license. In many cases, local codes may require their own local plumbing/journeyman/master license requirements that are not met by holding an LLP license — but are covered if you obtain a CMC-A.
As stated above, a Tennessee contractors license is required to obtain a CMC-A plumbing license. The successful completion of a Tennessee contractors license (and CMC-A plumbing license) will include:
- Identifying a business structure. An applicant may operate as a sole proprietor, corporation, partnership, or LLC. Those operating as a corporation, partnership, or LLC must register with the Tennessee Secretary of State.
- Passing the required exam(s). The Tennessee Business and Law exam is a prerequisite for all Tennessee contractors licenses, as well as any trade exam deemed necessary for a CMC-A license (or complete the trade exam waiver). Each exam (Business and Law, and trade exams) will cost $55 and can be taken through the PSI exams vendor website.
- Designating a qualifying agent. It is the qualifying agent’s responsibility to pass all exams or have the necessary experience for non-tested trades. A qualified agent must verify at least three years of plumbing experience to take the Tennessee CMC-A mechanical plumbing exam and must fill out a Tennessee Plumbing Exam Pre-Approval Request form. The qualifying agent may be an owner or a full-time employee.
- Determining your license classification. For plumbing — and specifically, a CMC-A license — an applicant will apply for a mechanical contracting license. Additionally, a plumber may apply to be a prime (general) contractor — in which they will be contracting directly with the owner of a project — or, a subcontractor — In which the applicant will be contracting directly under a prime contractor (and not the owner).
- Supplying a financial statement. A financial report may be reviewed or audited by a Certified Public Accountant or a licensed Public Accountant.
- Demonstrating proof of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Since holders of a CMC-A license will be working as a business entity, proof of insurance will be needed to cover themselves and employees.
- Paying all licensing and application fees. The application fee will be $250 for a license that is valid for two years.
- Submitting your application. Applications should be submitted by the 20th of each month, and an applicant can expect their license to be approved in 4 to 6 weeks.
The application process to become a limited licensed plumber (LLP) will be less complicated than obtaining a Tennessee general contractors license. To get an LLP license in Tennessee, you must complete the following steps:
- Disclose any convictions;
- Have and provide proof of at least one year of experience;
- Take the LLP plumber exam and receive a passing score (the exam will cost $55) through PSI exams;
- Submit a notarized LLP application — including a $75 license application fee.
Journeyman Plumbing Exam
Any exam associated with becoming a plumber in Tennessee will cost $55. However, it is worth knowing what exams are required for each plumbing license. All exams will be taken through the PSI exams online portal. Payment for exams will be processed through the online portal as well.
Exams to obtain a CMC-A license:
- Tennessee Business and Law Exam.
- CMC-A Mechanical Plumbing Exam.
Exams to obtain an LLP License:
- Limited License Plumbing Exam.
For more details, including the number of questions, the time allowed, passing scores, and materials allowed for each exam, visit the PSI Tennessee Contractors Candidate Information Bulletin.
Plumbing Apprenticeship Requirements
An aspiring plumber in Tennessee will need at least one year of experience to acquire an LLP license, and three years experience for a CMC-A mechanical plumber’s license. For this experience, enrollment in an apprenticeship program is recommended.
Generally, a high school education or GED is required for a plumbing apprenticeship. Additionally, a plumbing resume or CV can be built to show any industry-related qualifications. This may make the application process easier when applying to apprenticeships.
Tennessee Plumbing Apprentice Jobs
Plumbing Trade Schools in Tennessee
There is no shortage of trade schools for plumbing in Tennessee. The major trade schools in the three most populated cities in Tennessee are:
Total Tech – Public, For-profit
909 Murfreesboro Pike
Nashville, TN, 37217
Moore Tech – Private, Non-profit
1200 Poplar Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104
Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Public, For-profit
1100 Liberty Street
Knoxville, TN 37919
Tennessee Professional License Search
To look up and verify a license by the company or personal name, city, zip code, and/or license number, visit the Department of Commerce and Insurance license search database.
For More License and Career Guides
To find out how to become a Plumbing Contractor in another state, start here.
For information on other trades in Tennessee, click on a link below to learn more about the licensing requirements: