One essential occupation that always remains in demand no matter where you live is that of a plumber. If you decide to start your own plumbing business, it’s important to realize that you’re going to need professional licensing. It doesn’t matter if you plan on specializing in residential or commercial plumbing work — you’ll need to have a license to do so.
Why Do Plumbers Need a License?
The main reason that there is a license requirement for plumbers is to ensure that they have the appropriate knowledge, work experience, and training to safely construct and work on plumbing systems. Since the safety of homeowners and business owners alike relies on the expertise of a plumber, it’s imperative that each plumber can demonstrate extensive knowledge of the trade. This knowledge can be showcased via a master plumber license or other state licenses.
Licensing can be set at a local and/or state level by a licensing board, depending on where you live. Most often, there are statewide requirements to obtain a plumbing license, and they vary by state. Some municipalities may choose to add classification requirements for licensing. You’ll need to adequately satisfy both state and local requirements in order to obtain your journeyman license or master plumber license.
The Process of Qualifying for a Plumbing License
According to the Department of Labor, most people who become plumbers learn the trade through on-the-job training as apprentices. Some attend a vocational-technical school first. Then they must apply to the appropriate licensing agency and meet its requirements. Getting a license requires years of good performance on the job, followed by proving extensive industry knowledge in a licensing exam.
All applicants must undergo an apprenticeship where they will learn hands-on plumbing trade skills and see the Uniform Plumbing Code in action. Once they complete the required hours as a plumbing apprentice, they’ll need to pass an open book plumbing exam to showcase their plumbing knowledge and work experience. After passing the trade exam, a license will be provided upon timely payment of an annual or biannual licensing fee.
The specific educational requirements in your state will vary. However, most certifications require that the applicant hold a high school or GED diploma to start any plumbing apprenticeship. In some states, you may be required to obtain an associate degree at a vocational or trade school. Many of these schools will help to set up your apprenticeship so that you can work while you’re still in school.
Training and Experience Eligibility
A typical apprenticeship of four to five years of experience is usually required to obtain a journeyman plumber license. During this time, you’ll work under the supervision of a master plumber. To become a licensed master plumber, you’ll need an additional two to four years of experience as a journeyman.
Passing Your State Licensing Exam
All plumbing industry professionals need to pass a journeyman exam or master plumber exam for licensing. While each state offers its own unique examination, they all focus on testing your knowledge in key areas of plumbing, including trade, codes, law, and business. You’ll be responsible for paying an exam fee whether you pass or fail. Most states offer exams at least once or twice a month.
Completing the Licensing Application Requirements
All plumbing licensures will require you to submit an application along with a fee. Even if your state doesn’t require licensing, the city or municipality you desire to work in might. Most states offer licensing on both journeyman and master plumber levels.
Journeymen are typically certified to handle services like pipe repairs, fixture installation, and piping modification. Master plumbers, on the other hand, are approved to install, construct, design, and modify all plumbing fixtures and pipes. Master general contractor plumbers are authorized to oversee plumbing apprentices.
Apply for a Plumbing License
In most states, you’ll need to submit the following criteria as part of your plumbing license application:
- Name and address of the plumbing company’s owner
- Affidavit of your apprenticeship period
- Professional recommendations
- Registration of your business entity
- Surety plumbing bond
- Proof of insurance (general liability, workers’ comp, and property damage)
It’s important to note that after submitting your initial application licensing fee, you’ll need to submit a renewal fee every one to two years, depending on the state that you’re licensed in.
Cost of Obtaining a Plumbing License
Obtaining a plumbing contractor license can’t be done for free. The price that you will pay to obtain a license will highly depend on the area in which you’re looking to be certified. Prices will range depending on the specific state and local area where you’ll be doing business.
As a general rule of thumb, states that require more formal in-class training and certifications will charge more than states that have less strict licensing requirements. States with formal training usually charge between $800 and $3,000 for licensing. Some states may require that you obtain an associate degree, which can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $23,000.
Some states will require you to complete an apprentice program where you’re working under the supervision of a more educated plumbing professional. You will have to pay to complete this apprenticeship program, and it can cost up to $1,000.
Apart from obtaining your initial plumbing license, it’s important to note that you’ll need to renew it on an annual or biannual basis. The specific cost of renewing your license will depend on the state that you’re in, the municipality that you’re in, and your plumbing skill level. Journeyman plumbers can expect to pay less than master plumbers to renew their licenses. Licensing renewal fees run anywhere from $20 to $500.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Licensed Plumber?
In general, it will take you between four and five years to become a licensed journeyman plumber in your area. To become a master plumber, expect to invest an additional two to four years of your time. Only then you’ll be able to acquire a plumber master license.
This time frame will vary slightly depending on state and municipality certification requirements.
How Much Does a Plumber Earn?
Plumbing can be a lucrative career when you’re ready to invest the time and commitment to obtain a license. Most journeymen earn an average of $26 per hour or about $54,000 a year. You can expect to earn more if you invest the additional two to four years to become a master plumber. Master plumbers average around $32 per hour or $66,500 per year.
It’s important to note that these earning figures are just averages. What you can earn will highly vary depending on the state that you work in and the type of license that you have.
Some master plumbers are making as much as $100,000 per year, almost twice the average earnings in the United States. Plumbing can be a great career choice for men and women looking to gain specialized knowledge and earn above-average incomes. It also provides the satisfaction of knowing that you provide essential services to keep homes and businesses running smoothly.