Plumbing License Guide: How To Become A Plumber

Table of Contents

Interested in becoming a plumber? Check out our plumbing license guide and learn more about how to become a licensed plumber in your state.

What is a Plumber?

A plumber is a skilled trade worker trained and licensed in the installation and maintenance of plumbing systems. These systems are used to facilitate the flow of water, gas, solid or liquid waste, and other materials.

What types of plumbers are there?

While most plumbers posses similar skills, not all plumbers are the same. Where they work, the tools they use, and the types of jobs are some of the factors that distinguish different types of plumbers.

Here are the most common types of plumbers:

Residential Plumbers

Residential plumbers work in residential settings, such as homes and apartments. They install, maintain, and repair residential plumbing systems.

What is a Residential Plumber?

Their work involves installing pipes, setting up hot water systems, and cleaning drains. They also fix problems with residential septic or sewer systems. They also install, service, and repair water fixtures and water-using appliances.

Residential plumbers are those that are called in to inspect and repair issues within a residential home. Some common issues include a clogged sink, toilet dilemmas, and broken piping.

They’re also used to fix dilemmas in the septic and sewer systems of a home, as well as install different water fixtures that the client might request.

How to Become a Residential Plumber

First things first, you’ll need to have graduated with a high school diploma or something of equivalent education.

Next, in order to learn the proper skills for the job, you’ll need to apply to attend a technical or plumbing school. There you’ll learn things such as welding, pipefitting, and begin learning about local codes. The technical school classes should only take no more than a year to complete, then you’ll move on to an apprenticeship with a local expert.

The apprenticeship takes 4 or 5 years to complete and requires up to 2,000 hours of training each year. Luckily, that training is required to be paid, so you’ll be making a fair living while you build your career as a residential plumber!

Click here to browse residential plumbing jobs.

Commercial Plumbers

Commercial plumbers specialize in handling plumbing work for commercial structures. These include stores, office buildings, multi-family dwellings, hotels, and restaurants among others. As they work in larger structures, their work is also often more complex.

What is a Commercial Plumber?

As for the type of tasks they do, commercial plumbers handle common plumbing issues on a larger scale than their residential counterparts. This includes installing pipes, repairing leaks, and maintaining plumbing appliances.

How to Become a Commercial Plumber

Commercial plumbers are more educated when it comes to larger plumbing networks and pipes. For instance, they undertake training for swimming pools, sprinkler systems, and multi-zoned water and heating appliances.

This extensiveness in jobs is why many states differentiate them from residential plumbers. An example is Arizona, which grants separate licenses for residential and commercial contractors. The state further differentiates commercial contractors by “general contractors” and “small general contractors”.

Click here to browse commercial plumbing jobs.

Industrial Plumbers

Next up, we have the industrial plumbers who deal with humongous pipes. These pipes are those found in industrial buildings, such as factories and plants. Some industrial plumbers also need diving licenses, as they may work underwater.

Cross-Categorical or General Plumbers

These plumbers have had training for residential, commercial, and industrial plumbing work. As such, they can do most of what these other plumbers.

However, some still choose to concentrate on a specific area. For instance, they may work 75% of the time with residential consumers. They may then work on 15% commercial jobs and 10% industrial.

What is an Apprentice Plumber?

An apprentice plumber is a trainee position in the plumbing industry that includes classwork and job training. Apprentices learn the ins-and-outs of plumbing while training under the mentorship of a licensed plumber.

As an apprentice, you will work with journeyman plumbers, depending on the specific laws of your state. The journeyman teaches you the local building codes, how to use plumbing tools and equipment and how to install, maintain and repair plumbing fixtures.

How Do Plumbing Apprenticeships Work?

You start by learning to read and create plumbing blueprints. You also learn local building codes, workplace safety concepts and best practices, and some math and science — geometry, chemistry, and physics — as they apply to plumbing systems.

In general, you can expect material covering the types of pipes, tools and equipment used by plumbers. You also learn how to install, maintain and repair plumbing systems. After completing your apprenticeship, you can advance to earn the next plumbing license in your state.

Example Plumbing Apprentice Job Description

Here is an example of a plumbing apprentice job description from a previous listing of ours:

Under the supervision and direction of one of our technicians, an apprentice will be expected to assist with general plumbing, heating and air conditioning, including repairs, installations, alterations, and preventative maintenance.

  • Build plumbing, heating, and air conditioning knowledge while assisting technicians on service calls.
  • Know how to establish customer rapport to sell the right products and services.
  • Show yourself as professional and knowledgeable to win new referrals and repeat business.
  • Work alongside customer service and dispatch to ensure overall success of the business.
  • Maintain a clean, organized job site and well inventoried truck.
  • Participate actively in all training exercises and morning meetings.

How to Become an Apprentice Plumber

Here are the steps needed to complete a plumbing apprenticeship and become a licensed plumber.

  1. Obtain your high school diploma or GED: As a future plumber, you need a strong foundation in math (algebra and geometry), computers (computer-aided drafting) and science (physics). If possible, take classes in blueprint reading and drafting.
  2. Consider vocational training: If you lack experience, you can receive plumbing training at a vocational school, community or technical college. The certificate earned credits your knowledge of water supply, drainage systems and piping equipment.
  3. Apply for an apprenticeship program: These programs are offered by schools, plumbing companies, or plumbing unions. You can also browse Google for apprenticeships near you.
  4. Complete the program and get licensed: After you complete the apprentice program, you can then get an apprentice license or work towards a journeyman license.

Click here to check out our plumbing apprentice jobs.

How To Get a Plumbing License

Plumbing is a profession that requires licensure and certification to protect the public. Typically, plumbing professionals need to pass an exam and complete a background investigation before they can begin work.

Attend a Plumbing School

The process to get a plumbing license typically begins with schooling. Depending on the state, this is usually a trade school or college program that can take anywhere from two years to five years.

The goal is to gain the experience and skills you need for your license exam and future career in plumbing.

Complete a Plumbing Apprenticeship

Once you’ve completed schooling, it’s time to find a plumbing apprenticeship program. These programs are available through many state departments, as well as local businesses and nonprofits.

They usually offer a mix of classroom and hands-on training. You will be given the opportunity to work with other plumbers and apprentices as you learn the trade.

Get an Apprentice Plumber License, if your state requires it

Some states require that plumbing apprentices are licensed, in which case attending a trade school can be beneficial. You may need to get your license before working as an apprentice, or you will receive your license after completing the apprenticeship program or working in an apprentice plumber job.

Prepare For The Licensing Exam

A practical exam (also known as a performance exam) simulates a work situation to test a candidate’s ability and skill in performing critical and frequently performed job duties. The exams are conducted by professional raters who are experts in the field.

While it is not easy to pass a practical examination by studying alone, the right study method can be extremely helpful in preparing for this type of exam. Besides reading and studying the material, candidates should also practice using the tools they will be using on their practical exam.

Moreover, candidates should be familiar with the plumbing codes before taking the practical exam. The codes are updated every code change cycle and provide accurate definitions for all the plumbing terms that will be used on the exam.

The practical exam consists of questions based on plumbing of one- and two-family dwellings and commercial installations. It also covers water supply protection and residential fire protection systems.

Obtain a Journeyman Plumber License

To receive your journeyman plumbing license, you must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. You will also need to demonstrate between three to five years of work experience as an apprentice or under the direct supervision of a master plumber.

Having a master plumber sign an affidavit will be very helpful in demonstrating your required experience. You will usually need to complete a journeyman plumber exam to further prove your competency for a license.

Depending on the state, the cost to get your journeyman plumbing license ranges from $25 – $250. Upon licensure, you can begin looking for journeyman plumbing jobs.

Work Towards a Master Plumber License

To become a master plumber, you must have at least two years of journeyman plumbing experience, although some states have greater experience requirements. You will also need to pass a master licensing exam and submit a notarized affidavit from a master plumber.

Once you earn your master plumbing license, you’ll be able to perform just about any plumbing job available, including master plumbing jobs. You’ll also stand to make a much higher salary at your next job.

Plumbing License FAQ

How much does a plumbing license cost?

Licensing fees for plumbing cost between $100 and $3000, depending on the state. You’ll also pay periodic renewal fees which range from $25 to $200 per year, with renewal lengths varying by state.

How long does it take to become a plumber?

In general, it takes about 10 years to become a licensed master plumber in any state. It takes about 2 years to complete plumbing school, or 3 – 5 years to complete a plumbing apprenticeship. At this point, you can become a master plumber after about two more years of journeyman experience.

Do you need a license to be a plumber?

You will need a license in order to become a plumber in just about any line of work. Unless you plan on doing handyman work, most plumbing companies will require you to get a license.

What kind of plumbing work can be done without a license?

Plumbers without a license can complete jobs that do not require a permit, such as drain cleaning, and replacements. However, working without a license limits job prospects and comes with professional risks, such as fines and penalties.

Is it illegal to do plumbing without a license?

It is illegal for unlicensed plumbers to engage in plumbing work that requires a permit. Plus, many state and local laws prohibit hiring an unlicensed plumber.

Can I transfer a plumbing license to another state? (Plumbing License Reciprocity)

Yes, some states have plumbing license reciprocity and will allow you to exchange your plumbing license for one in the another state. Other states do not have license reciprocity, but will waive licensing fees or exam requirements for those with out-of-state licenses. Make sure to check your state’s specific reciprocity rules before making a move.

What states do not require a plumbing license?

These states do not require a plumbing license: Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.

What can licensed plumbers work on?

Licensed plumbers are free to work in virtually any setting, including residential and commercial plumbing.

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