Imagine what would happen if everyone could do their own plumbing or hire an inexperienced handyman to do their plumbing for them. Before long, every house, apartment and office building in the country would be springing leaks and raw sewage would be running down our roads. That’s why plumbers need to be licensed. Plumbing requires skill and plumber’s licenses are not issued until the applicant is able to prove they have the necessary skills.
Educational Requirements for Plumbers
There are two ways to prepare for getting a plumber’s license:
- You can take plumbing technology classes and obtain an associate degree in two years.
- Larger plumbing businesses offer apprenticeship programs. They usually consist of formal class work and paid on-the-job experience with licensed plumbers.
It can take longer to qualify for a license if you choose an apprenticeship program, but after you have obtained your license, you usually can continue working at the same company at a higher pay rate. Aspiring plumbers usually enter the field through an apprenticeship program and may combine it with part-time study.
Types of Plumber’s Licenses
In general, there are two types of plumber’s licenses: journeyman and master plumber:
- Becoming a journeyman plumber requires both training and on-the-job experience. In most states, you can take the journeyman’s exam after you have completed your studies or apprenticeship and had a total of four or five years experience. Your experience during training is included, so within two or three years of completing your apprenticeship program, you usually qualify to take the exam.
- Requirements for a master plumber’s license vary significantly. In one state, you may be able to take the exam after just a year or two of working as a journeyman plumber. In other states or territories, four or five years experience might be needed. No master plumber license is available in California.
Why a Plumber’s License is Important
In most states and territories, a plumber’s license is required by law to perform all types of plumbing work. In some states, only a certificate is required for small jobs, but even then, proof of competence is required. Certificates are usually given for a limited scope of work, such as residential plumbing or irrigation work. In order to receive a certificate, the applicant must pass a test and receive a professional endorsement. While having a certificate may allow you to work without supervision, it is not enough of a qualification for you to work independently or obtain a business license.
If you want to make plumbing your career, having a plumber’s license entitles you to run your own business and take on bigger jobs. For example, in West Virginia, you need to be a master plumber to accept work valued at $2,500 or more. Other states and territories have similar requirements.
As a business operator, you will also need to have a contractor’s and/or business license, permits and insurance. Requirements vary from state to state and your county or even city may have additional requirements. To find specific information related to your area, go to the Small Business Administration (SBA) State Licenses & Permits website and click the link to your state or territory. From the page you are directed to, you can find even more specific information for your local area.