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Board for Licensing Contractors

Contracting License Step 1

 

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STEP 1- TESTING

Exam Registration with PSI Services, LLC

Exam Information - Candidate Information Bulletin [pdf]

Online Exam Registration with PSI

 

Bookstores (Code Books and Reference Manuals for Exams)

 

Who takes the exam?

Individuals, those acting as the Qualifying Agent (QA) for the entity obtaining the license, may take the exam(s) on behalf of the business.  The QA may be an owner, officer, or full time employee  (the QA does not own the license; license is issued to the entity providing the financial statement, insurance, etc.  The QA must register with PSI to take the exam. PSI has testing centers all over, including throughout Tennessee, as well as in other states. Walk-ins are not allowed and you must schedule an appointment ahead of time, but exams are offered daily. Scores are given upon completing the exam, so you know right away whether you passed. The same person taking the Business and Law is not required to take the trade exam and more than one person may take the exams for the company. PSI offers special accomodations for those with disabilities and this information is in the "Candidate Information Bulletin". The only individuals required to be approved before taking the exam are plumbers; pre-approval is required by our Board to take the plumbing (CMC-A) or full mechancial (CMC) exam. The pre-approval form is located in the "Candidate Information Bulletin" or from our website and may be faxed or emailed to the Board's office at:  Fax# (615) 532-2868; or Email Rhonda.M.Emanuelson@tn.gov   or call (615) 253-5741.

 

What contractor license exams are required?

There are two types of exams:

  • Business and Law - $55
  • Trade Exams (for various license classifications) - $55

 

The Tennessee "Business and Law" exam is required by all contractor license applicants. This exam is open book and you may obtain the "NASCLA Contractors Guide to Business, Law and Project Management" manual from one of the bookstores listed above or most professional book stores online. Books may be shipped for overnight delivery.  A "Trade" exam may also be required, depending on the type of license classification requested (see "Contractor Classifications Outline"). For example, to build houses, the "Residential (BC-A)" trade exam would be required; for one of the 34 building categories or specialty, such as: "Landscaping (BC-29)", there is not a landscaping trade exam and only the "Business and Law" exam would be required. More examples are provided in the "Contractor Classifications Outline" as well as a list of all exams in PSI's Candidate Information Bulletin. (See also the examples listed below under the "Summary")

 

Trade Exams

There are different types of contractors' license classifications requiring exams: Building (BC) - Combined for Residential, Commercial, Industrial); Residential Building (BC-A); Commercial Building (BC-B); Small Commercial (BC-b(sm); Industrial Building (BC-C); and combined building, such as BC-A,B; Electrical (CE); Mechancial (CMC); Plumbing (CMC-A); and Masonry (LMC).  The Qualifying Agent (QA) is the person who has been designated to take the exam(s) for the entity obtaining the license and they may be an owner, or a full time employee or officer (those without ownership would need to complete the Power of Attorney (POA) as part of our license application, but do not send the POA to the testing center).  

 

Trade Exam Waivers (Reciprocation)

Tennessee has a trade exam waiver (Reciprocal) agreement with several states, therefore, if you are actively licensed in one of these states, and the type of license you are requesting requires a trade exam, you may be able to obtain a trade exam waiver.  In this case, only take the "Tennessee Business and Law" exam.

 

Restricted Residential Limited License (BC-A/r)

In lieu of taking the "BC-A" residential trade exam and "Business & Law" exam, residential contractors wanting to perform work where the cost is less than $125,000 (based upon financial statement), may take a "Limited License" course with a Tennessee community college or vocational school. The contractor MUST comply with all other application requirements, as the examination, only, is waived. A contract or permit valuation cannot exceed the monetary limit assigned to the license, which includes contractor’s cost of land and profit; there is not a 10% monetary limit tolerance; and not allowed to joint venture.  In order to increase the license more than $125,000 to remove restriction, must take the exams and provide a reviewed financial statement. The classification for this license is " BC-A/r". For a list of these state community colleges, please refer to our website at: BC-A/r.

 

Registering for the Exam

The Candidate Information Bulletin has a list of all exams, outline, reference materials, books, security requirments, rules for using books for open book exams, and how to register for exams. The exam vendor is PSI Services, LLC. Out-of-state contractors may register with PSI to take exams at any of their exam centers (offered in over 26 states). The same person taking the Business and Law is not required to take the trade exam. You may register online with PSI to schedule an exam (they are set up by appointment) and offered in various locations statewide. You may also call PSI (800-733-9267), however, online is found to be quicker. See "Reciprocal" information for trade exam waivers. PSI uses your social security number to register for the exams for identity purposes and you are required to provide a photo-ID.

 

What if the QA leaves?

The license is obtained in the name of the entity providing the financial statement.  Therefore, it may be a sole proprietor, corporation, partnership, or LLC. The license belongs to the owner of the entity providing the financial statement, therefore, it does not necessarily belong to the Qualifying Agent (QA), unless they are also the owner. If the QA leaves the licensed entity, the license remains with the owner and they have 90 days to replace the QA and supply the revision form, "QA - Notice of Change" before the license becomes invalid or the classification is removed (TCA 62-6-115; Rule 0680-1-.23) See the "Revision" forms for changing, adding, and removing a QA. A contractor’s license is issued with a classification and monetary limit in the name of the entity on the financial statement. The QA leaving needs to be reported to the Board within 10 days and this may be done by completing the revision form, "QA - Leaving Notification". All these forms are available from the "Forms and Downloads" section of our website.

 

 

Special Accomodations

Please note, the exam center offers special accommodations for those with disabilities, or for those wanting to take a Tennessee exam in another state. Review their "special accomodations" in their "Candidate Information Bulletin")

 

 

Exam Scores and Retesting

The person taking the exam will know immediately whether they have passed or failed the exam. PSI offers "Exam Review" for a fee to review areas for your strength and weaknesses. Exam scores are generally accepted for two (2) years by the Board. However, if the contractor fails to apply for a license within this time period and remains active in the construction industry, such as performing projects where a license is not required (under $25,000), or working for another licensed contractor, or in another state, etc., then the Board may accept the scores after the two year period.  This would also be the case for a contractor wanting to reinstate an expired contractor's license. This is decided by the Board and the staff cannot make this determination.  Therefore, a written request would need to be submitted with your contractor's license application to be reviewed by the Board at their next regularly scheduled board meeting. A Contractor or Qualifying Agent who has taken the exam and not been inactive more than two years, is typically not required to retest when obtaining an additional license (Note: must have majority ownership to be listed on more than one license).

 

 

Exam Guidelines and Security Procedures for Books

Be sure to review important guidelines in PSI's "Candidate Information Bulletin" as to the reference materials (code books, etc.). The testing center does not allow using books which have notes written inside and you may not write in the books during the examination. Doing so may be considered as a security breach of the confidential exam questions. Permanent tabs are allowed, however, post-it notes cannot be used. In addition, only silent, non-programmable calculators may be used when taking the exam. You will be required to show two (2) forms of identification. One must be a valid form of government issued identification(driver's license, state ID, passport) which bears your signature and pre-prited legal name. (Note: If you have a suffix, such as: Jr., Sr., III, etc., this must be included!)

 

 

Exam Prep Courses

For contractors wanting to take a exam preparation course, the Board requires these providers to be licensed.  A list of these course providers are available from our website at:  http://www.tn.gov/regboards/contractors/documents/ListofApprovedProviders.pd

 

 

Summary

All applicants must take the Tennessee "Business and Law" exam which is open book and based upon NASCLA's Tennessee "Contractors Guide to Business, Law and Project Management" reference manual which may be purchased by the publisher, exam vender or professional book stores. Some applicants may be required to take a trade exam (see list of trade exams below). If you do not see a trade exam which falls within your profession, a trade exam probably is not required, but feel free to contact our office by fax at: (615) 532-2868 or by email at: Contractor Exam Information or you may call the office at 800-544-7693 or direct at (615) 532-3983. If you experience problems with PSI, the exam vendor, you may report these complaints to our staff by email at: Contractors.Home-Improvement@TN.Gov

 

Reciprocity is a trade exam waiver, only. The following states have agreed to accept many exams with Tennessee, therefore, if you are actively licensed without disciplinary action, we will accept their trade exam score from: Alabama (Building, HVAC and Electrical Boards); Arkansas; Georgia (Commercial); Louisiana; Mississippi; North Carolina (Residential and Commercial, only); Ohio (Electrical, HVAC and Refrigeration - eff. 1/1/2012); and South Carolina. These are the only states in which Tennessee has a trade exam waiver agreement. More information is available on the "Reciprocation" section on our website. Note: If you have been disciplined or convicted of a felony, the Board will not accept.

 

License classifications and monetary limits are based on experience, equipment, as well as a trade exam in some cases. A list of classifications may be reviewed from the web at:  "Classification Outlines" or review an outline of license classifications, which is from the published Rules with the Tennessee Secretary of State, Section 0680-1-16. The exam vendor, PSI Services, LLC, administers the exams. Fees, reference books and online registration are available at PSI's Website or you may review the CIB (Candidate Information Bulletin (pdf) on their website.

 

 

EXAMS (Cost $55)

  • Business & Law (required for all new applicants; does not have to be taken by the same person taking the trade exam) and a trade exam may also be required.


The following is a list of trade exams for contractors (building, electrical and mechanical) offered and includes combined exams:

  • Residential (BC-A)
  • Commercial (BC-B)
  • Industrial (BC-C)
  • Res/Com/Ind (BC)
  • Res/SmCom (BC-A,b(sm) - (Projects less than $750,000)
  • Com/Ind (BC-B,C)
  • Electrical (CE)
  • *Full Mechanical -Plumbing & HVAC (CMC) Must be pre-approved
  • *Plumbing (CMC-A) - Must be pre-approved
  • HVAC (CMC-C)
  • **Fire Sprinkler (CMC-D)
  • Licensed Masonry Contractor (LMC) - Projects $100,000 or more


*Effective May 24, 2007, must be preapproved to take the CMC-A plumbing contractors exam by providing evidence to the Board of three (3) years' experience.

 

**Fire Sprinkler contractors must also obtain licenses with the Division of Fire Protection, as a Firm and RME (Registered Managing Employee).

 

 

Examples for trade exams needed for classifications:

  • Build residential houses only, take the BC-A exam.
  • Construction Manager is required to take the full BC exam.
  • Residential, commercial and industrial building, take the BC exam. (NOTE: Do not take the BC exam unless you can show experience on your application or may be limited to specific class.)
  • Build homes and commercial projects, (such as a doctor’s office, less than $750,000), need the BC-A and BC- b(sm) exams OR may take the combined BC-A,b(sm).
  • Commercial building in excess of $750,000, BC-B exam.
  • A BC-B or BC is needed to build a water/sewer plants or to get a MU classification.
  • Communication/cell towers; no trade exam.
  • Electrical wiring contracts in excess of $25,000, need the CE exam
  • Work on electrical transmission lines/sub-stations, needs CE-A,H (high voltage), only.
  • Plumbing, HVAC, Refrigeration, and Process Piping; needs full CMC (mechanical).
  • Process Piping - covers welding of the piping system; NO test, (CMC-B) classification.
  • Gas piping: A contractor with CMC, CMC-A or CMC-C may perform gas piping to everything, such as water heaters, laundry equipment, kitchen equipment, and to appliances, gas grills, swimming pool heaters, or gas logs. (Always check with local codes for their requirements.)
  • Fire Protection/Sprinkler contractors must pass the contractor's CMC-D exam. Also, must obtain licenses with the Department of Fire Prevention (615) 741-7190 or their website at: http:www.tn.gov/commerce/sfm/index.shtml
  • Geothermal System requires a CMC-C (HVAC) exam. The "Well Driller" needs to be licensed with Department of Environment and Conservation (800-523-4873) or their website at: http://www.tn.gov/environment/dws/
  • Electrical wiring, in excess of $25,000, must take the CE (electrical exam). To obtain a license to only perform projects less than $25,000, check with the local government office to obtain their license. In some cases, may need our state LLE (Limited Licensed Electrician) license for permits and inspections. For an LLE license application, call our office at (615) 253-2144 or download from the LLE Section Website.
  • Solar Panel Installation - No trade exam; apply for a specialty license, but cannot make electrical connections without a CE (electrical) license or would need to hire a licensed electrician.
  • Landscaping - No trade exam; apply for a BC-29 classification.
  • Audio and low voltage equipment - No trade exam; specialty license or CE-D.
  • Solar Panel - Must state you will hire an electrical subcontractor or an electrical trade exam will be required.
  • Alarm systems - Check with the "Alarm Systems Contractors Board" for their license and requirements (these licensees are exempt from a contractor's license, pursuant T.C.A. 62-6-135).
  • Plumbers performing projects less than $25,000, may need the state’s LLP (Limited Licensed Plumber) license. Check with the local government to see if accepted. This is a separate license within the Board. For an LLP application, call (615) 532-3994 or download from our website at: LLP Application
  • Contractors, with a CMC-A license are exempt from the LLP requirements
  • Masonry projects $100,000 or more require the LMC (Lcensed Masonry Contractor) exam

 

Be sure to check in the county you plan to work. (electrical (CE) contractors are exempt from OBTAINING AN ADDITIONAL LICENSE AS AN LLE; CMC and CMC-A Plumbing/mechanical are exempt from the ADDITiONAL LICENSE AS AN LLP.   Must follow local license requirements and pay fees.


This is an excerpt of the "Classifications Outline" and the following trades do not require a trade exam; based upon equipment and experience, unless, obtaining more than five subcategories under one major classification (or as indicated below):

 

Building Subcategories such as: "Acoustical Treatments" (BC-1;) through "Irrigation" (BC-33;) Full "BC" exam would cover all; BC-A would cover all for residential, only. Obtaining more than five (5) subcategories would require a trade exam. (Refer to T.C.A. Section 62-6-112 and Rule 0680-1-.16 of the Tennessee law for a complete listing, or review in the application; and also a "Classification Outline" is on the website's "Valuable Resources").

 

Examples of the 34 building subcategories: BC- 7 (Institutional and Recreational Equipment); *BC-17 (Elevators, Escalators, and Dumbwaiters); BC-27 (Outdoor Advertising); BC-29 (Landscaping); BC-28-Excavation; BC-31 (Demolition); etc.

*Note: Check with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development for other requirements for Elevators and Boilers.

 

Masonry - Licensed Masonry Contractor (LMC) exam is required to perform masonry where the total project, including materials and labor, is $100,000 or more.  This applies to prime and subcontractors.  For masonry less than $100,000, the BC-9 is acceptable for a prime.  See the defintion of masonry in the law in T.C.A. 62-6-102(4)(A) and (E)(5).

 

Low Voltage (less than 70 volts) : Sound, Intercom, Fire Detection; Telephone Lines (CE-F); and Cabling (CE-G);  or *Alarm Systems (CE-D) - No exam with our Board for a low voltage CE-D; however, must obtain license with the "Alarm Systems Contractors Licensing Board" for their separate licensing and examination requirements.  More information at: (615) 741-9771 or their website at: http://www.tn.gov/regboards/asc/

 

*Note: Alarm System licensees are exempt from obtaining an additional license as a contractor, pursuant T.C.A. 62-6-135. A contractor licensee with a CE or CMC-C must register with the Alarm Systems Contractors Board in order to install alarm security systems.

 

Heavy Construction (HC) such as: Marine (Docks, Harbor Improvements) HC-A; Dams, Dikes, Levees and Canals (HC-D); Structural Steel Erection (HC-1); Clearing, Grubbing, Snagging and Rip Rap (HC-5); Storm Damage Restoration.

 

Well Drillers need to be certified with the Department of Environment and Conservation).

 

*Highway, Railroad and Airport (HRA) such as: Grading and Drainage (HRA-A); Base and Paving (HRA-B); Bridges and Culverts (HRA-C); **Well Drilling (HRA-E.4).

*Note: Highway contractors bidding to the Tennessee Department of Transporation (TDOT) would need to pre-qualify with this department and a license from our Board may not be required.

Municipal Utility (MU) such as: Underground Piping (MU-A); Grading and Drainage (MU-C); Gas Distribution and Transmission Lines (MU-A,1). (Water Well Drillers must be certified with the Department of Environment and Conservation and may be contacted at 800-523-4873.) Full "MU" requires a BC or BC-B trade exam; however, a contractor with a MU or BC or BC-B is considered acceptable to bid water treatment plants.

 

Environmental Specialties : Asbestos Handling (S-A); Underground Storage Tanks (S-B); Lead Based Paint Abatement (S-C); Hazardous Waste Removal (S-D); and Air, Water or Soil Remediation (S-E). (Must attach designated qualifying agent’s (QA) training certifications and resum'e in these areas.) These contractors may need to check with the Department of Environment for further state requirements at 888-891-8332 or their website at: http://www.tn.gov/environment/

 

Specialties : Cell/Communication Towers; Equipment Installation; Vinyl/Wood Siding; Fabrication of Above-Ground Storage Tanks/Vessels; Glass Installation; etc. Note: Specialty license classifications are for unique types of contracting where there is not a standard classification provided in the Rules. The Board specifies the exact type of work you perform, such as "S-Installation of Paint Finishing Equipment", "S-Solar Panel (must have a CE electrical license to perform electrical wiring or hire an electrical subcontractor); S-Meter Installation (must have a CE electrical license to perform electrical hook-ups).

 

Medical Gas certification is required by the American Medical Gas Institute (AMGI) or the Piping Industry Progress and Education Trust Fund (PIPE), with a minimum of 32 hours of training, with eight (8) of these hours in brazing. You may also check with the National Inspection Testing Certification (NITC) for local certification locations at 877-457-6482.

 

Note: Contractors with non-tested trades or "specialty" license classifications, cannot perform any electrical, mechanical or plumbing in excess of $25,000, and would be required to subcontract to properly licensed contractors. Example: A contractor with classification "S-Food Service Equipment" would be required to hire a licensed mechanical contractor to perform refrigeration portions in excess of $25,000.

 

 

 

 

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