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How to Get Your Plumbing License

A plumbing license will open up doors for a long and lucrative career.

With water and gas pipes serving as essential components of every building we live, work, and play in, workers in the plumbing industry can expect a stable future. If you need another reason to think about becoming a plumber, consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average salary of over $53,000 per year for plumbers, equivalent to more than $25 an hour. This trade represents a perfect option for people who enjoy variety in their workday and who don’t like the idea of sitting behind a desk all day, every day.

Of course, you won’t enjoy the full benefits of working as a plumber unless you obtain your plumbing license. Without one, you will always have to perform work under the supervision of a licensed plumber. This means you can’t branch out and own your own plumbing business unless you have a license. You also cannot expect to earn on the higher end of the pay spectrum as an apprentice. 

In this article, we’ll take you through the steps you need to take to get your Journeyman Plumber’s license. After working as a Journeyman Plumber for a few years, you will qualify to take the state Master Plumber’s exam, which allows you to hire plumbers to work under your supervision. Whether you aim to become a Master Plumber or simply remain a Journeyman, it all starts with your education.

Getting the Prerequisite Education

Before you can join an apprenticeship or a trade school program, you need to demonstrate a basic educational foundation. Your high school diploma or GED will suffice. If you want to get into a particularly competitive technical college or apprentice program, it’s a good idea to gain some additional experience through coursework at your community college. This shows that you’ve really committed to plumbing as a career choice.

Finding a Plumber’s Apprenticeship

You cannot qualify for a state license exam without participating in an apprenticeship program for a certain number of years (typically 4-5, depending on the state). The good news? You’ll at least earn money as an apprentice plumber. The bad news? You may need to complete your apprenticeship alongside a full schedule of trade school classes. Be prepared to work hard. 

Your trade school may assist you in finding an apprenticeship, but some schools expect you to put in the legwork to find an apprenticeship on your own. Either way, you should work under the tutelage of a Master Plumber who you respect, trust, and get along with. Your apprenticeship is all about learning on the job, and some Master Plumbers will be better at teaching and providing opportunities for advancement than others. Ask around for recommendations.

Your state may require you to register as an Apprentice Plumber. Ask the state’s Professional Licensing Agency if you are unsure whether this step is required in your area.

Qualifying for the Plumber’s License Exam

Each state has its own license requirements for plumbers. This means you should think ahead about where you would like to live and work as a plumber before going too far down the path. Look up the requirements for sitting for your chosen state’s plumber’s license exam, and make sure you check all the boxes. 

For example, some states require proof of insurance, character testimonies, and professional recommendations alongside school transcripts and proof of an apprenticeship. You’ll also need to submit a fee for the test administration and processing.

For future reference, an out-of-state plumbing license qualifies you to sit the plumber’s license exam in another state. This can be helpful if you end up moving to another state or want to pick up clients across a state line.

Taking the State License Exam

First, you need to apply to take the state plumber’s license exam. If the state verifies that you meet all of the requirements, you’ll be contacted and invited to schedule a time to take the exam. Exams are typically scheduled on a monthly or bi-monthly basis in different locations around the state. Sign up for one that is convenient to you.

Follow good test-taking practices by getting a good night’s sleep beforehand, eating a nutritious breakfast, and allowing for plenty of time to arrive at the test location. If you have already studied hard and prepared during your apprenticeship, you will find the test relatively straightforward. You’ll have a limited amount of time to complete the exam, but don’t rush through the questions. Take your time.

After Passing the Exam

Once you receive notification that you have successfully passed the Journeyman Plumber’s exam, you’ll be issued with a unique license ID. You can now enjoy more expansive opportunities in your career.

But the licensing process doesn’t quite end there. Next, you need to renew your license annually. If you have an interest in becoming a Master Plumber, check the qualifications and apply to sit this exam as soon as you meet the criteria.