About Plumbing Licenses
Most states require plumbers to obtain a license before performing plumbing work. Some states, like Florida and New York, do not have state-level licenses but defer licensing responsibilities to county and city governments.
Plumber licensing follows a progression based on education, experience, and the passage of exams. Most states have three stages of plumber licensing: apprentice, journeyman, and master.
Apprenticeships generally include a classroom component as well as substantial on-the-job training. Although relatively few states require plumber apprentices to hold a license, prerequisites must be met before a candidate is considered for an apprenticeship. In most cases candidates must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED.
After obtaining an apprentice license or being accepted into an apprentice program, individuals can perform limited duties under the supervision of a journeyman or master plumber.
Before getting a journeyman license, candidates must meet education and experience requirements and then pass an exam. Prerequisites vary by state, but candidates will typically need 4 years of work experience as an apprentice to sit for the journeyman exam. Some states allow classroom hours to be substituted for a portion of the experience requirement.
A journeyman license generally allows a licensee to work independently, and journeymen are often called upon to supervise the work of apprentices.
In order to become a master plumber, candidates in most states are required to meet additional experience and exam requirements. Many states require candidates to have at least two years of experience as a journeyman before applying for a master license.
Licensed master plumbers are able to supervise the work of junior plumbers, pull permits for projects, and operate plumbing businesses.
Specialty License Types
Many states offer specialty license classifications in addition to the apprentice, journeyman, and master designations. In Washington, plumbers can become licensed in the following specialties: residential, pump and irrigation, domestic well, and backflow. Specialty licenses typically require less experience than full journeyman or master licenses.
Getting a License
After meeting the education and experience prerequisites for a license, candidates should file an application for licensure with the state board of plumbing. Application requirements vary by state and license type, but common requirements include:
- Proof of experience
- Application fee
- Employment record
- Certificate of completion of apprenticeship
- Verification of licensure if licensed in other states
- Photo of applicant
Once a license application is approved by the board, applicants should follow board instructions on how to schedule the relevant exam. After passing the exam, candidates will receive their license in the mail.
Plumbers with projects in multiple states may need to obtain a license from each state in which they intend to work. Many states, however, have reciprocal agreements that allow for the use of licenses issued by states with substantially similar requirements.
Reciprocal license application requirements vary by license type and state. In some cases licensees need to submit proof of experience and take an exam, while in other cases, licensees will simply need to submit an application and fee.
Plumber licenses typically expire annually or biennially. In addition to filing a renewal application, plumbers are required to demonstrate ongoing professional development by completing continuing education (CE) hours. CE requirements vary by state and license type, but between 4 and 8 hours of CE are typically required. Individuals who fail to renew their license may face enforcement actions including license suspension or revocation.
Click on a link below to view licensing information in your state.
Associated General Contractors of America
Professional association providing advocacy and organization for construction firms and workers.
National Association of Home Builders
National association for the promotion of the housing industry.
National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies
National organization that represents and promotes the interests of state level contractor licensing agencies.