Plumbing is a rapidly growing field with various opportunities. Apart from healthy salaries and benefits, the field embraces the new generation with modern techniques and methods. The industry is among the most regulated and certification is essential.
Demand for plumbers is expected to grow as skilled workers retire, allowing young workers to take their place. The career has various opportunities for advancement, from an apprentice plumber to a master plumber.
Before you understand how to get plumbing certified, it pays to know the components for a successful plumbing career. These include:
You need a strong understanding of plumbing systems’ most common causes of leaks and clogs. This includes diagnosing the problem source and determining the best solution to fix them. Other skills you’ll need include:
- Good physical skills
- Safety skills
- Interpersonal communication skills
- Problem-solving skills
Use of appropriate technology
You’ll have to become familiar with the appropriate technology in the industry. Be prepared to work on all plumbing fixtures, materials, and problem patterns. Some of the trending plumbing technology you must be aware of include:
- Touchless faucets
- Leak detectors
- Smart irrigation
- Greywater systems
The COVID-19 pandemic increased the popularity of touchless technology and remote working in all industries. Anyone aspiring to become a plumber must be ready to handle all plumbing tech they meet at clients’ locations, such as smart leak detectors, motion sensor faucets, and smart toilets.
Equally important is for a plumbing business owner to have field management software for managing field workers remotely.
The plumbing career is high-paying but has various potential hazards and accidents. Some prominent risks for plumbers are exposed to toxins, eye hazards, electric shocks and burns, slips, trips, and falls. Whether a simple pipe repair or unclogging a kitchen sink, safety should be compromised for plumbers.
Some tips for plumbers to limit accidents while working include:
- Wearing rubber or leather gloves
- Boots with nonslip soles
- Durable headpiece
- Safety goggles
- Wearing earpieces
You’ll have to use various plumbing tools to handle various tasks, including fixing loose or leaky pipes and electronic devices for evaluating various plumbing systems.
Read more about plumbing tools here.
The plumbing industry is heavily regulated and requires having a license in most states. There are various plumbing licenses and credentials for plumbers, including:
- Plumbing contractor
- Master plumber
- Journeyman plumber
- Restricted master plumber
- Restricted journeyman plumber
Here’s our guide on how to get certified in plumbing.
Plumbers install, service, and repair water and gas systems in homes, industrial facilities, and commercial establishments. The tradesmen begin as apprentices for four to five years to learn the appropriate skills and techniques available through contractors and plumbers’ unions. Plumbers gain skills through classroom study or on the job.
After completing training, plumbers must obtain relevant licenses in most states after taking an exam. Becoming a plumber requires a high school diploma apart from joining an apprenticeship program. Taking a vocational course helps you prepare to become a certified plumber.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), plumbers must join apprenticeship programs because they offer the most comprehensive training in the field. You can find apprenticeship programs through a local branch of the contractor or unions such as the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry and the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors.
The programs usually last four to five years, combined with classroom instruction and on-job paid training.
How To Finance Plumbing Education
You can get financial assistance to finance your certified plumbing training. Scholarships are available from companies and nonprofits such as the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Careers Foundation. You can use it to finance your plumbing certification.
Alternatively, there are various federal grants for plumbing programs, including the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. It’s available for low-income students who apply to accredited programs.
Training And Hands-On Experience
How long does it take to get certified in plumbing depends on the kind of training? Becoming a plumber requires attending about 500 to 750 hours of training. The coursework starts with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety training course. Requirements during the first year may include completing training in first aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
Other courses for apprentice plumbers may include:
- Blueprint reading
- Understanding instructions on pipes, valves, and fittings
Any intermediate course must cover various topics, including bathtubs and gas lines.
Most apprenticeships for plumbers require between 7,500 to 8,000 hours of on-job training. You must work with a journeyman or master plumber to learn how to cut holes in walls, studs, floors, and install fixtures and piping.
Apprentices are also trained to use soldering irons and power tools such as reciprocating saws. You also receive instructions regarding plumbing and building codes, respond to questions from inspectors, and handle clients.
State Licensing Exam
The licensing exam varies by state, and each adopts the International Plumbing Code (IPC) or UPC plumbing codes. The IPC is a comprehensive plumbing code that sets minimum requirements for plumbing systems and components to protect the health, life, and safety of buildings and their occupants.
The Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) code was adopted by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) as the American National Standard. It regulates the installation and inspection of plumbing systems to promote public health, safety, and welfare. A typical exam includes sessions such as fixtures, administrative policies, sanitary drainage systems, special wastes, and venting.
The final step on how to get certified for plumbing in states such as Washington is taking the exam. This state requires submitting an affidavit as proof of the required years, hours of experience, and completion of education requirements. After approval, you submit the exam application. The hours of experience from out-of-state plumbers and apprenticeships don’t qualify for certification in the state.
How Do I Apply For The Plumber Certification Exam?
You can apply by mail or online, including an application and a non-refundable fee of $189.80, and applications are processed on a first-come, first-serve basis. The PSI administers plumber certification exams with testing locations across the country. An application to take the exam includes the applicant’s name, phone number, and social security number,
Candidates apply for eligibility before taking the exam, and an approved application is valid for one year. After your application is approved, you receive a letter on how to contact PSI to schedule an exam. After receiving a confirmation letter from PSI, you must pay and schedule an exam with PSI.
Can I Schedule The Plumber Certification Exam?
You must pay a fee to schedule the exam, and the exam fee is not refundable or transferable. It’s valid for a year from the date of payment. If you fail to take the exam on the scheduled date, you must contact PSI to reschedule within two days before the scheduled date. You forfeit your scheduling fee if you:
Don’t cancel your appointment two days before the scheduled date
- Don’t show up for your appointment
- Not checked in by the scheduled exam start time
- Don’t show proper identification on arrival to do the exam
What Happens If I Fail The Exam?
You can submit a new application by mail or online if you fail to pass the exam for the first time. The application fee still applies, and you must wait two weeks after your first exam to reapply.
Licensing Application Requirements
The process of getting a plumbing license varies by state. However, a few, such as Pennsylvania, New York, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Wyoming, don’t require a license to operate.
Even if your state doesn’t require a license, getting one is highly recommended to earn customers’ trust, and the local communities may require one. Therefore, check the local and state licensing requirements in your area of operation.
Here’s a guide to the licensing application requirement in the 10 best states with employment for plumbers in 2022.
Master plumbers need a license from the Department of Consumer Affairs, whose requirements include the following:
- Over 21 years old
- Completion of an apprenticeship for four years
- One year of journeyman plumber experience
- Pass various exams
- Or possession of a relevant engineering degree
The state requires plumbers to be licensed at three levels:
- Apprentice plumbers who must be over 16 years and registered in an approved program
- Journeyman plumbers who complete an apprenticeship and pass a state exam
- Master plumbers who complete six months as apprentices and pass an exam
Plumbers need a state license from the Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board. The requirements include the following:
- Four years of experience as a journeyman plumber, foreman, or plumbing supervisor
- A bond worth $15,000 or more
- Pass a law and business exam
- Pass a trade exam
You need a different license to handle hazardous material and take an additional exam.
You need a license from the Department of Public Health. There are two licenses with unique licensing requirements.
A license for apprentice plumbers requires proof of supervision by a state-licensed plumber. Alternatively, you must prove enrolment in an approved apprenticeship program for a minimum of six years. You must also pass a state exam.
Plumbing contractors’ licenses require possessing an apprentice license for four years and completing at least two years of high school. You must also pass a state license exam.
The Plumbing Commission of the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency awards licenses to plumbers, and requirements for different plumbers include:
- Apprentice plumbers don’t need a license but must be registered.
- Journeyman plumbers must complete four years of apprenticeship to apply and pass a practical exam. You can also transfer a license from another state.
- Plumbing contractors must apply through an apprentice program and prove four years of training. You must pass a state exam or transfer a license from another state.
Plumbers need two types of licenses with different requirements in this state. Journeyman plumbers must complete an approved apprenticeship program and pass an exam. Applicants from another state may fulfill other requirements.
Master plumbers need 1,000 hours working as journeyman plumbers, including at least three years in the field. Having a relevant engineering degree may help you bypass some of the requirements. However, passing a state exam is mandatory.
You need a license to be a plumber in this state. Journeyman plumbers need a high school diploma or its equivalent. You may be a tradesman or an apprentice when not applying from another state. About 8,000 work hours are mandatory, and have proof of having completed 48 hours of approved training with an exam.
Becoming a master plumber requires possessing a high school diploma or equivalent. You must have been a licensed journeyman plumber in the state. Alternatively, you must have a license from another state. Passing an approved training course with an exam is mandatory.
The Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters issues licenses for plumbers in the state, and the requirements include the following:
- Over 16 years as an apprentice plumber
- A journeyman plumber needs 8,500 work hours as an apprentice supervised by a licensed master plumber. You also need 500 classroom hours to pass an exam.
- Master plumbers need a one-year journeyman license and completion of an accredited journeyman plumbing course totaling 100 hours. You must also pass an exam.
Plumbers need a state license from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. You need proof of four years of work experience or a combination of work experience and relevant education. Various types of insurance are necessary for property damage, workers’ compensation, public liability, and property damage. You must also pass an exam.
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development regulates plumbers in the state. Becoming a journeyman plumber requires 8,000 hours of residential or commercial experience. Alternatively, you need about 1,000 hours of relevant training or education.
A gas plumber license requires 4 000 hours of experience, with at least half of the hours involved in gas piping. Alternatively, you must have 500 hours of appropriate education.
You can also get a plumber utility license requiring 1,000 hours of experience in water installations, storm, or sewer lines. Alternatively, you must have 125 hours of relevant training.
You must also pass an exam to get any of those licenses.
Apply For Plumbing License
When preparing to apply for a plumbing license, research the requirements in your state. However, there’s a chance of transferring a license across states, but regulations vary. You can talk to an experienced plumber who has gone through the process to give you first-hand information.
After completing an apprenticeship and understanding how to get certified to do plumbing, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with appropriate regulations and codes. Then you must prepare documents to submit for your license application. The paperwork will prove your identity, employment records, and currency licenses.
You’ll have to prepare these before submitting them to the relevant state authority handling issuance of plumbing licenses.
What Happens When I Do Plumbing Without A License?
Undertaking plumbing without a license may make your work not pass inspection. Errors in plumbing work may contribute to severe issues such as burst pipes. Failed inspection is also costly, and you’re prone to fines and penalties when caught.
You’re likely to be fined when caught working without a license in a jurisdiction where it’s required. Unlicensed plumbing work is also prone to poor installation of plumbing systems which may encourage mold and mildew. These cause breathing problems such as asthma and infections in the breathing system.
Do I Need A Plumbing Permit?
A permit is different from a license. A license certifies that you’re knowledgeable in plumbing, can execute repairs and installation safely, and meet local codes. The permit authorizes you to work on a plumbing system at a client’s site. A permit is issued by a local office of the Local Codes Division after paying a fee and filling out a form. It’s usually issued in a day.
Some minor plumbing tasks, such as replacing sewer parts, exterior drains, and maintaining fixtures and fittings, don’t require a permit. Intensive work requires a permit, including emergency repairs, replacing piping, and installing new water lines.
Summing It All Up
Certified plumbing contractors have an edge over uncertified plumbers and have higher chances of getting more clients and income. Certification varies by state, although some, including New York, don’t require a license. Apart from getting certified, you need to be aware of market trends, such as new touchless technology and plumbing software, to build a credible career as a professional plumber.