It's a well-known fact that plumbers are always in demand, and their overall job prospects are expected to be good through 2029 (and most likely beyond!), according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Getting started in this field is a smart business endeavor. You can work as a plumber without a license under the guidance of a master plumber, but a plumbing license will open new doors for your professional development and success.
So how do you get your plumbing license? Read on to find out how to do that, and to become a working plumber.
The Plumber’s Job
Plumbing contractors handle different types of plumbing work for residential and commercial buildings. Plumbers work on the design, installation, modification, and repair of pipes and fixtures. You can consider specializing in certain areas of plumbing systems to stand out from the competition.
Salaries in Plumbing
How much you earn as a plumber depends on several factors, such as your education and training, experience in the field, and any areas you specialize in.
Yearly plumber salaries in the United States can range from $43,461 to $73,786. The median salary in the industry is $57,862, which is about $26 per hour.
The Training and Licensing Process
The time it takes to get the necessary training, certification, and licensing varies from state to state.
The usual timeline can look like this:
- Four years of high school or GED to start a plumbing training program
- Four to five years of an apprenticeship to get a license as a journeyman plumber (during and/or after completing the training program)
- Two to four years of journeyman experience to become a master plumber
#1. Get the Required Education
To become a licensed plumber, you’ll have to meet some basic education requirements. The minimum you’ll need for a plumber license is a high school diploma or GED. The subjects that will help you the most in your plumbing work are Algebra, Geometry, and Physics.
The next step is to get a specialized education in plumbing. This is how you can learn the technical and theoretical aspects of the job. The most common options include a technical college or a trade school with approved courses. Vocational training is essential because it prepares you for handling the day-to-day tasks and business aspects of your profession.
#2. Get Training and Hands-On Experience
In addition to studying at a technical college or a trade school, you’ll have to get practical experience as well. You’ll need to complete an apprenticeship to fulfill the requirements of your study program.
In some cases, your educational institution may arrange your apprenticeship program. Often, though, you’ll have to find such an opportunity yourself. The length of an apprenticeship program is around four years. You can start while still taking classes, and you’ll get paid for your work too.
As a plumbing apprentice, you’ll work under a licensed contractor. This is how you learn all the practical aspects of the plumbing job. It’s important to choose a master plumber with whom you have a good relationship because you’ll be spending a couple of years under their guidance. The apprenticeship hours you’ll need for a journeyman license vary between 4,000 and 12,000, depending on where you live.
#3. Pass your State Licensing Exam
In most states, completing a licensing exam is one of the main requirements for a plumbing license. The content varies, but typically covers the basics on the plumbing trade, plumbing codes, business, and law.
It’s a good idea to prepare for the test, even if you are just out of plumbing trade school. The Plumbers Training Institute, for example, offers plumbing exam preparation. Be sure to get to know the type of questions and the areas of knowledge that the exam focuses on.
There is a license exam fee that you need to pay. Every state has a different exam schedule, but you can expect the exam to take place once or twice per month.
#4. Complete the Licensing Application Requirements
In most states, you’ll need a plumbing license to open your own company and operate independently. The license types vary, but typically include a journeyman and a master license. Usually, there is a specific state board that handles the professional licensing of plumbers.
You don’t need a plumber license on the state level in Missouri, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Wyoming. You may need city or municipal licenses in these states.
While the criteria vary across the U.S., some of the common license requirements include:
- State registration of your business entity
- Names and addresses of company owners
- Proof of an apprenticeship period
- Professional recommendations
- Surety bond
- Insurance: general liability insurance, property damage insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance (if you’re hiring staff)
You can find more information on state plumbing boards and requirements via the USA Plumbing portal.
Here are the licensing details about a few of the states:
You need a C36 Plumbing Contractor license from the California Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB).
The Illinois Department of Public Health regulates the work of plumbers in the state. You have to pass an exam for your Illinois plumbing license.
You need licensure from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. You have to demonstrate at least 6,000 hours as an apprentice plumber.
#5. Apply for Your Plumbing License
Once you have completed all the requirements, you can apply for your journeyman plumber license. You’ll have to complete the license application form and pay an application or yearly license fee as well. Your plumbing license will be active for a period of one or two years. If you want to continue your work without interruption, you’ll have to renew it before it expires.
After you’ve worked for some time as a journeyman, you can make the next step and get a master plumber license. As a licensed master plumber, you’ll be able to teach aspiring plumbers and earn a prominent place in the plumbing industry. You can expect a significant pay increase too. The hourly rates for master plumbers are above $40, or around twice the rates of journeyman plumbers, and yearly earnings can get up to $100,000.
To become a master plumber, you’ll need to pass another exam. You’ll also have to demonstrate between 2,000 and 6,000 hours of journeyman work.
Time Tracking and Payroll for Your Plumbing Business
Among the myriad of tasks you’ll need to tackle as a plumbing contractor, one of the most important ones is admin.
With Hourly, a large chunk of your administrative work gets easier. It helps you with employee time tracking and payroll management to make sure that your staff’s time is properly logged and paid for. Hourly connects your payroll system to workers’ comp as well. You can also manage your employee costs and payroll deductions with ease.
Ready to get started with Hourly? Just download the payroll app on your mobile device.