A Simple Guide on How to Become a Plumber

Are you interested in learning how to become a plumber?

If so, you’re on the right path toward building your own lucrative business. According to US News, “plumber” is listed as the second-best construction job and the #6 highest-paying job without a college degree.

Ready to learn the step-by-step process on how to become a plumber?

Good — because in this guide, we’ll show you exactly what you need to know on how to become a plumber, from eligibility requirements to how to decide if trade school or an apprenticeship (or both!) is right for you.

Eligibility Requirements for Plumbers

As you’ll find out throughout this guide, every state has a different set of eligibility requirements for someone who wants to learn how to become a plumber.

However, there are a few general eligibility requirements for plumbers across the board, which include:

  • Having your high school diploma or GED
  • Getting your plumbing license (more on this in a bit)
  • Completing a training or vocational program
  • Completing an apprenticeship

Additionally, many states require plumbers to have trained a set number of hours in order to qualify as a journeyman or master plumber.

Plumber Apprenticeships or Trade School: What to Expect

Plumbing is unique in that it’s one of the few contractor trades that require you to go through an apprenticeship with a master plumber or at a trade school in order to become a certified plumber.

That means that if you want to become a plumber, you have to go through either of those two routes to get the training you need to start your own plumbing business.

Let’s explore both training options, including how to tell which path may be the right one for you.

Plumber apprenticeships

A plumber apprenticeship is a training program that allows you to pair up with a master plumber to learn the plumbing trade.

An apprenticeship is a great way to get the on-the-job skills you need, plus you can learn other aspects of running a plumbing business that you wouldn’t otherwise get in trade school, like:

  • Interacting with customers
  • Planning out projects
  • Dealing with plumbing emergencies
  • And more

Some plumber apprenticeships can be competitive, especially if you’re applying for one in a plumbers union. With that in mind, it may be a good idea to apply for more than one apprenticeship program, especially if the one you want is considered extremely competitive.

Want to apply for an apprenticeship in your state? Check out Explore the Trade’s interactive apprenticeship map. Just click on the state where you want to train, and you’ll be presented with dozens of apprenticeship opportunities.

Trade school

Another option for learning how to become a plumber is to get your training through a trade school.

While trade schools can offer multiple paths toward becoming a licensed plumber, for the most part, trade school students can select either of these two options:

  1. Take a selection of courses, earn a plumbers license, and then enter a shortened apprenticeship program; OR
  2. Take a selection of courses while taking an apprenticeship, then earning the license upon completion of the apprenticeship.

In the first option, you have more control over the apprenticeship you enter. That means if there’s an apprenticeship you have your heart set on, the first option may offer you more flexibility.

With the second option, you can enter an approved apprenticeship via the school, which can make it easier for you if you’re not particular about the apprenticeship program you’re going to be enrolled in.

The time it takes to complete the course may be longer, but by the time you graduate, you will already have most of the training you need to become a plumber.

But all this information leads us to our next question: How long does it actually take to become a plumber?

How Long Does It Take to Become a Plumber?

The answer varies, as the length of time it takes to become a plumber depends on which of the above tracks you take to get trained and licensed.

Plus, the state you live in can influence how long it takes to become a licensed plumber. For example, in Texas, you’re required to have at least 8,000 hours in the plumbing trade to become a journeyman plumber, while in Washington, at least 4,000 hours must be spent in commercial or industrial plumbing.

Each state equates 1,000 hours to be about six months, meaning it could typically take anywhere from two to four years to become a certified plumber.

Some states allow you to meet their requirements via a mix of trade school and apprenticeship training, while others may require additional training, depending on what type of plumber you want to be.

Bottom line: It’s going to take a few years to become a plumber. But once you’re licensed by your state, the pay-off may be worth it (more on that later!).

How to Get a Plumbing License

1. Find your state’s plumbing license requirements.

Each state has its own licensing requirements, so you’ll need to do a little digging to find out what your state requires.

Don’t feel like digging? We don’t blame you.

That’s why we created a state-based contractor licensing hub, which includes exact details for the licensing process in each state. Just click on the state where you want to become a plumber, read the article, and follow the instructions.

It’s really that simple!

By the way, if you’re wondering why we’re recommending a “contractor license” hub versus a plumbers license hub, it’s because most states have a central license for what they consider to be contractor trades, including:

  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • HVAC technicians
  • General contractors
  • And more

2. Check your trade school or apprenticeship for licensing and training opportunities.

In many apprenticeship or trade school programs, you’ll be provided with steps to apply for a plumbers license in your state.

This is especially common in trade schools, where many students graduate with a plumbing certification, and only need a set amount of apprenticeship hours to become a journeyman or master plumber.

Either way, if you’re part of an apprenticeship program or trade school, you can access support to help you learn how to apply for your plumbing license.

However, before you can get that plumbing license, there’s one more thing you need…

3. Get your plumbers insurance policy.

As you research how to get a plumbing license, you may notice this requirement pop up time and time again: having a business insurance policy.

Business insurance is coverage that can help protect you and your business from financial harm if you’re hit with claims involving:

  • Property damage
  • Accidents to third parties
  • Negligence
  • Medical bills
  • And more

Additionally, business insurance can potentially help cover the costs associated with hiring a lawyer to defend you against these types of claims.

So if a customer sues you or insists you pay for property damage that your work caused, your insurance may be able to foot the bill — and you’d only have to pay the deductible (some insurance policies come without a deductible!)

There are many types of business insurance coverages out there, but for plumbers, it’s best to start with one foundational policy: General liability insurance.

In many states, you need to show proof of carrying a certain level of general liability insurance coverage to get your plumbing license. This type of policy provides your customers with some guarantee of recouping financial losses if:

  • You or one of your employees damage their property while performing your work
  • Your customer gets hurt as a result of your work
  • You cause your customer reputational harm (e.g., slander)

So why the insurance requirement?

Easy: Plumbers work in a risky trade, especially with regard to the potential for water damage. One minor mistake or accident could potentially cause thousands of dollars in damages to a customer’s home, and it may be up to you and your business to pay for those damages.

That is, of course, unless you have general liability insurance for plumbers.

Not sure where to find a policy? No worries — we got you!

Just answer a few quick questions and use our free quote comparison tool to find the right insurance policy options for you. If you see one you like, just click to buy and get instantly insured.

And if you need a little extra help finding the right policy, just give one of our licensed insurance agents a call at 844-654-7272.

Get Insured in Under 10 Minutes

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4. Meet any other eligibility requirements.

Each state will have its own set of eligibility requirements for getting a plumbing license. That’s why it’s important to carefully follow your state’s licensure process, as it will help you determine what you need to do to become an officially licensed plumber.

How Much Do Plumbers Make?

Let’s get to the good stuff: How much you can expect to make once you’re a plumber.

The good news is that plumbers command a sizable salary, even just out of trade school or fresh from an apprenticeship. According to US News, the average plumber earned about $55,160 in 2019, with the highest-paid plumbers earning north of $73K.

If you live in or near a major metropolitan area, your earnings can get even higher. For example, plumbers in Chicago can expect a median salary of $89,470, while plumbers in San Francisco see an average salary hovering around $87,230.

If major cities aren’t for you, no problem: US News ranks Alaska as the second-best state to be a plumber, thanks to a median salary of $79,610.

Must be all those frozen pipes!

Ready to Become a Plumber?

There you have it — your guide on how to become a plumber!

We hope this information is helpful in giving you an idea of what to expect from the process. And while it does take some time to become a plumber, the outcome is more than worth it.

Don’t forget to check out our blog when you’re ready for advice on how to start your business.

Mariah Bliss

I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner – I’ve had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!
Mariah writes on a number of topics such as small business planning, contractor insurance, and business licenses.