A Complete, Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Licensed Plumber

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Oct 4, 2018

Oct 4, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

Feel like jumpstarting a construction career, but you aren't sure which field is right for you? The construction industry is full of trained professionals who turn two-dimensional blueprints into the structures that house us where we work, pray or learn. One of these professional job categories belongs to plumbers.

The Occupational Handbook from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that plumbers earned a median salary of $52, 590 in 2017. Jobs are projected to grow by 16 percent from 2016 to 2026. If these stats pique your interest and you want to learn more about how to become a plumber, then this article is for you!

What Does a Plumber Do

Plumbers troubleshoot common household plumbing issues, including everything from water pipes to appliances. They also repair existing pipe systems and install plumbing fixtures found in most residential and commercial buildings. Read more at https://www.benfranklinclt.com/ to see what kinds of common plumbing issues plumbers can solve for you.

There are other career paths that have similar duties to plumbers. Pipefitters and steamfitters are specialized occupations trained to install and repair pipe systems as well. The differences between each of these jobs pertain to the materials that the pipe systems carry.

Plumbers concentrate on water or sanitation pipe systems. Pipefitters and steamfitters work on systems that carry hazardous chemicals within industrial properties. Pipefitters work on low-pressure systems used in heating and cooling units while steam fitters specialize in high-pressure systems.

How to Become a Plumber

Over 80 percent of the states in the US require plumbers to pass a state licensing exam before they can launch their career. The journey to becoming a plumber is no overnight effort. Read further on the steps necessary to become a licensed plumber.

Get Your High School Diploma or GED

The first step to becoming a plumber is to complete your high school diploma or GED. That's where plumbers first learn basic math competencies to measure pipe length or how to connect two pieces of pipe using a 45-degree formula. These skills also help plumbers measure the area and output of water tanks as well.

High school or GED programs also give plumbers the skills they need to master computer-aided drafting and blueprint reading as well.

Vocational Training

The good news is that training to become a plumber doesn't mean racking up a huge debt like the kind that comes with four-year college degree programs. There are trade school programs for plumbers that can give you the training you need while keeping your costs manageable.

Most plumbers complete classroom training through community colleges or other vocational school programs. Some states require a minimum number of classroom hours to show you how to become a licensed plumber. Check your state's requirements where you plan to launch your plumbing career so you'll know how much class time you'll need.

These vocational training programs teach students the fundamentals of plumbing technology. Topics like water supply and drainage systems are covered in depth. Other coursework ranges from installing and repairing piping systems to mastering heating systems.


To become eligible to take your state's plumbing license exam, you'll first need to complete an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships usually last between two to six years and include another 200 classroom hours as well. Apprenticeships include about 2,000 hours of valuable on-the-job training in the field.

The good news is that apprentice plumbers receive a living wage during this training period. These apprenticeships can be found through a local plumbers' union or through the United Association. The United Association is a national organization that represents over 300,000 plumbing professionals across North America.

Journeyman and Master Plumber Levels

When your apprenticeship is over, you will be qualified to be a journeyman level plumber. Journeyman plumbers are required to take a journeyman plumber license exam before they can practice their trade. Some states may limit the types of work journeyman can do to repairs and not installation.

Once you've worked for two years at the journeyman level you can take additional testing to become a licensed master plumber. Master plumbers plan and design plumbing systems and serve in supervisory roles over journeyman or apprentice plumbers.

Some states may require both master and journeyman plumbers to complete continuing education to update their professional licenses. Sometimes these license renewals are required on a yearly basis. Other states may only require renewals every three to five years.

State License Exam

The licensing exam is that all-important, final milestone in the journey on how to become a licensed plumber. Before you can take the exam, you will be asked to show your proof of completed apprenticeship. You'll also need to show your proof of completed classroom hours if your state has this requirement.

The journeyman plumbers' license exam covers topics like repairing plumbing systems as well as job site safety. The master plumbers test covers people management skills as well as federal and applicable state-level plumbing codes where you plan to pursue your career.

Other Certifications

There are additional specialty certifications plumbers may want to take to make them more competitive. Some states offer certifications in specialty areas like well drilling or backflow prevention. Many plumbers' professional groups provide more learning opportunities to members who want to expand their expertise.

Green Plumbers USA have certification programs to learn about water and energy efficient systems. The United Association offers certifications for expertise in specialties like industrial rigging or valve repair. The National Inspection Testing Certification (NITC) provides training to receive Medical Gas Certifications to install and maintain medical gas equipment.

Next Steps

If you're ready to make a plumbing career a reality for you, then you can start today.

Research the community colleges or other vocational training schools in your area to see how they can prepare you on how to become a plumber. You can check here to see a list of each state's plumbing license requirements. Connect with the United Association to see where the apprenticeships are in the area where you want to launch your business.

If you want to know more about how to become a plumber, read this helpful post from the National Jobs Career Blog at the Washington Post. Let us help you find that dream career you've always wanted.