Plumbers are one of the most regulated professions in the United States. And if you’ve ever watched a DIY home improvement show on TV, you know there’s a good reason for that.
Similar to electricians, plumbing professionals have to meet certain criteria, and most states require plumbers to be licensed. But the requirements aren’t the same across the board; each state has its own licensing requirements and exams and the agency that issues the license varies by state.
In most states, getting a plumber’s license starts with an apprenticeship program supervised by a registered master plumber. Getting a journeyman plumber’s license typically requires at least four years of experience, followed by another few years of work experience to get a master plumber’s license.
Of course, a plumbing license is just as necessary as insurance for your plumbing business. In fact, having a valid license means the plumber also carries mandated insurance policies and is bonded. Whether you’re a business owner or contractor, having insurance policies that meet your needs will help protect you financially from unexpected risks.
And that means you can focus on reaping the benefits and opportunities that come with working in the plumbing industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, the median plumbing salary in the U.S. was $59,880, more than $14,000 higher than the median annual wage for all occupations. Plus, the industry is forecasted to add 23,400 jobs by 2030.
Interested in getting involved with the plumbing industry? We don’t blame you! To help get your plumbing business heading on the right (and legal) track, here’s everything you need to know about insurance and licensing for plumbers.
What Insurance Policies Should Plumbers Have?
Having insurance is a key requirement for many plumbing licenses. After all, there’s no question that being a plumber comes with some significant risks. There’s the risk of bodily injuries and damage to property, not to mention liability claims. Fortunately, having the right insurance policies can make all the difference in protecting your business from potentially devastating financial consequences.
Here’s a look at the key insurance policies that plumbing contractors should have.
General Liability Insurance
General liability insurance is must-have coverage for any plumbing contracting business. It protects your company against various claims, including property damage or third-party bodily injury. It also covers damages caused by slander, libel, and copyright infringement.
For example, you may be diligent about maintaining a clean and safe worksite, but perhaps you don’t notice a puddle on the floor one day after working on a drain. Along comes another contractor working at the same worksite who slips on the floor and breaks an ankle. Aside from feeling horrible about the accident, you could be on the hook for the person’s medical costs. With general liability insurance, your insurer would cover any related medical expenses and your legal fees if the individual decides to sue.
Professional Liability Insurance
We all make mistakes at some point, and plumbers are no exception. What’s more, a plumber’s mistake can have costly consequences. For example, suppose you’re installing plumbing in a new home’s basement. The job goes smoothly until you realize that you forgot to double-check the plans, and the pipes were installed lower than the client wanted, so they don’t have enough headroom to finish the basement as planned. The only way to finish the basement properly is for the client to remove the plumbing and have it installed all over again. That’s an expensive mistake, and the client could sue you for compensation to cover the damages.
Another scenario could see clients suing you for failing to complete work by the date stipulated in the signed contract.
A professional liability insurance policy, also known as errors and omissions (or E&O), can help protect you against claims of negligence, common mistakes, and misrepresentation, among others. If you already have general liability insurance, you may think you don’t need another liability policy. But there’s a distinct difference between the two policies. While general liability protects your business against physical damages, E&O insurance provides coverage for financial damages.
You’ll need to have workers compensation as soon as you have employees. And that’s not just a recommendation – workers comp is mandatory for most employers in every state except Texas. Workers comp will cover the short and long-term costs of an employee’s work-related injury or illness, including hospital fees, medication, physical therapy, and even lost wages.
In case of a disastrous event with a fatal outcome, workers compensation would pay out the death benefits to the employee’s family.
Commercial Auto Insurance
We’re willing to bet you’re not hauling your plumbing gear from site to site on a bike. So you’ll want commercial auto insurance to cover any vehicles your business uses. Already have personal auto insurance, so you don’t plan on getting a commercial auto policy? We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but most personal auto policies won’t cover business-related incidents.
Commercial auto insurance protects your business from the costly consequences of accidents, damages, and injuries that occur while you or your employees are driving for work. Plus, it also covers losses resulting from theft, vandalism, or severe weather.
What’s more, while commercial auto insurance protects you and your assets as the business owner, it also protects your employees and any other drivers you hire for business reasons.
Is a Plumbing License Required in Every State?
Now, you may wonder, ‘But do I really need a plumbing license?’
We mentioned that most states have licensing requirements for plumbers, but not all do. Currently, a few states don’t require plumbers to have a license: Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.
However, keep in mind that even if a state-issued license isn’t required to work as a plumber, local municipalities may have their own requirements and regulations. In fact, even where state licensing is required, individual cities and counties may have their own rules, regulations, and fees for plumbers. And absolutely no one likes paying fines, especially easily avoidable ones. That means before you jump head first into launching your plumbing business, double-check regulations in your local area.
In Alabama, a license from the Alabama Plumbers and Gas Fitters Examining Board is required to work as a plumber. To apply for the journeyman plumber’s license, you must have two years of experience as an apprentice or complete a board-approved training program to take the certification exam. After working as a journeyman plumber, you can apply to take the exam for a master plumber’s license.
Plumbers in Alaska must have a license from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The state issues licenses for:
- Journeyman plumber: This requires 8,000 hours of experience and you can substitute up to 1,000 hours of relevant education or training for work experience.
- Plumber gas license: This license requires 4,000 hours of experience, with at least 2,000 hours involving fuel gas piping. You can substitute up to 500 hours of relevant education for work experience.
- Plumber utility license: This requires 1,000 hours of experience that must involve the installation of water, sewer, or storm lines. You can substitute up to 125 hours of education for work experience.
Every level of licensing in Alaska requires the completion of an exam. As an aside, we thought we’d mention that Alaska is the highest paying state for plumbers.
The state issues licenses for:
- Journeyman plumber
- Plumber gas
- Plumber utility
- Plumber trainee
Arizona requires a contractor license to perform plumbing work valued at more than $1,000 or if a permit is required. The Arizona Registrar of Contractors issues these licenses. Plumbers can choose between residential or commercial licenses or a dual license that permits plumbing work in both fields.
Unless working on your own home or agricultural buildings, it’s illegal to perform any plumbing work in Arkansas without a license. These licenses are issued by the Arkansas Department of Health’s Plumbing and Natural Gas Division. To take the journeyman plumber’s exam, you must have four years of work experience. After working as a journeyman plumber for one year and having five years of total work experience, you can apply for a master plumber’s license.
A state contractor license is required to do plumbing work in California. The Contractors State License Board issues these certifications. In California, to get a plumbing license, you must have four years of experience as a journeyman, foreman, or supervisor. In addition, you must be bonded for $15,000 or more and pass a couple of exams.
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies’ State Plumbing Board is responsible for issuing all plumbing licenses in the state. There are three types of plumbing licenses in Colorado:
- Residential plumber: Requires two years (3,400 hours) of experience.
- Journeyman plumber: Requires four years (6,800 hours) of experience.
- Master plumber: Requires five years (8,500 hours) of experience.
Each type of plumbing license has a separate exam.
The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, which oversees the Plumbing and Piping Work Examining Board, issues all professional licenses in the state. Connecticut has eight plumbing licenses, each with a specific code, permitted scope of work, and requirements to qualify for certification.
The state issues licenses at the contractor and journeyperson levels. To qualify for any of the journeyperson licenses, you must complete a registered apprenticeship program and pass an exam. And if you want to become a plumbing contractor in Connecticut, you must have two years of experience working as a licensed journeyperson and pass a trade exam, business exam, and law exam.
In Delaware, plumbers are licensed through the Division of Professional Regulation. Specifically, the Board of Plumbing, Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Examiners regulates the industry in Delaware. The state requires certification at the apprentice, journeyman, master plumber, and contractor levels. Each level has different requirements for work experience and training.
To be employed in the plumbing industry in Florida, you must be a licensed contractor or a technician apprentice working under a licensed contractor. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations issues these licenses.
To become a certified plumbing contractor in Florida, which allows you to work anywhere in the state, you must have four years of experience, pass an exam, and have the necessary insurance policies.
Plumbing licenses in Georgia are issued by the state’s Construction Industry Licensing Board, Division of Master and Journeyman Plumbers. To become licensed as a journeyman plumber, you must have three years of experience and pass an exam. After working as a journeyman plumber for two years, you can apply for a master plumber’s license.
Working as a plumber in Hawaii requires a state license from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Professional & Vocational Licensing Division. If you want to work at the journeyman level in Hawaii, you must have five years of experience and pass an exam. You can apply to become a master plumber after two years of work at the journeyman level.
A state license from the Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses is required to do any plumbing work in Idaho. To become a journeyman plumber, apprentices must complete a four-year board-approved apprenticeship with at least 8,000 hours of work experience and pass an exam. To become a plumbing contractor, you’ll need to work as a licensed journeyman plumber for two and a half years and pass an exam. Idaho also offers some specialty plumbing licenses that require additional training.
The state Department of Health awards plumbing licenses in Illinois, which are mandatory to work in the industry. Apprentice plumbers must be sponsored by a licensed plumber or be in an approved apprenticeship program. The maximum duration for an apprenticeship is six years, and apprentices must pass a licensing exam in this time period. For those who want to work as a plumbing contractor, you’ll need to hold an apprentice license for four years, complete two years of high school and approved courses, and pass an exam.
A license is required to work as a plumber in Indiana. The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency oversees the Indiana Plumbing Commission, which issues plumbing licenses. To qualify for a journeyman plumber license, you must have four years of experience in an approved apprenticeship program. There are also options for transferring out-of-state certification. The qualifications are similar for becoming licensed as a plumbing contractor.
Iowa licenses every level of the plumbing industry, including apprentices, technicians, journeymen, master plumbers, and contractors. However, the requirements vary significantly for each license level. The state’s Department of Public Health, Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board, handles the licensing and regulations for the state’s plumbing workforce.
You don’t need a state license to work as a plumber in Kansas. But most municipalities have their own standards, so make sure to check the requirements in your area.
Plumbers in Kentucky must have a license to perform any plumbing work. The Department of Housing, Buildings, and Construction – Division of Plumbing issues these licenses. Those interested in obtaining a journeyman plumber license must demonstrate two years of experience and pass an exam. To become a licensed master plumber, you must have a valid journeyman license and pass an exam.
The State Plumbing Board of Louisiana issues two kinds of plumber licenses in the state (journeyman and master plumber) and requires all plumbing apprentices to register. Those who want to become a licensed journeyman plumber must complete an approved apprenticeship program and pass an exam. To get a master plumber license, you must have a journeyman plumber license from Louisiana and pass an exam. For both levels, the state requires continuing education to renew licenses, which must be done annually.
A commercial plumber license is also required for work valued at more than $10,000 and is issued by the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors.
To get into the plumbing business in Maine, you must have a license from the Plumbers’ Examining Board. Becoming a licensed plumber in Maine requires the following:
- Journeyman plumber: You must have at least two years with 4,000 hours of work experience as a licensed trainee plumber under the supervision of a licensed master plumber. Alternatively, you may prove 2,000 hours of work in a licensed journeyman-in-training program.
- Master plumber: You’ll need at least one year with 2,000 hours of work experience as a licensed journeyman plumber. Or, you can prove four years and 8,000 hours of experience as a licensed trainee plumber.
Individuals who want to become a plumbing professional in Maryland must start by registering as an apprentice. Then, after four years of work under a licensed plumber, you can apply to obtain your journeyman license. Finally, after two years of working as a licensed journeyman, you can apply to become a master plumber. The Maryland Board of Plumbing issues these licenses.
It’s important to note that Maryland has severe penalties if you don’t follow the state’s plumbing licensing and insurance laws.
In Massachusetts, a state license is required to work as a plumber. The Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters handles these licenses. The requirements in Massachusetts include:
- Apprentice plumber: Must be at least 16 years old.
- Journeyman plumber: Complete 8,500 hours as an apprentice while supervised by a licensed master plumber. Must complete 500 hours of plumbing theory and pass an exam.
- Master plumber: You must hold a valid journeyman license for one year, complete 100 hours of advanced plumbing theory, and pass an exam.
All plumbing professionals must be licensed to work in Michigan. To qualify to become a journey plumber, you must be 18 years old, have at least 6,000 hours of experience in three years, and pass an exam. And for a master plumber license, you must be 18 years old, have 4,000 hours of experience as a journey plumber in two years, and pass an exam.
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs oversees all professional licensing in the state. The Bureau of Construction Codes handles all of the skill trades licensing.
Statewide regulations, including licensing, for plumbers in Minnesota are the responsibility of the state’s Department of Labor and Industry. But Minnesota has specific requirements to qualify for licensing:
- Journeyworker plumber: You must have at least 7,000 hours of work, including 2,000 hours in drain, vent, and waste installation, 1,000 hours in fixture installation, and 2,000 hours in water distribution installation. You’ll also need to pass an exam.
- Master plumber: Those looking to get a master plumber license must work as a journeyworker for at least one year with 1,750 hours of experience and pass an exam.
In Mississippi, you’ll only need a license for projects that exceed a specific amount of money. The Mississippi State Board of Contractors issues these licenses.
A contractor license is required for all commercial jobs over $50,000. And for residential work, contractors need to have one for projects valued at more than $10,000. But even if projects don’t meet these cost thresholds, local licensing requirements may still exist.
No state license is required to work as a plumber in Missouri. But before you start any work, double-check local requirements.
Plumbers are licensed at the state level in Montana through the Board of Plumbers
To become a journeyman plumber, you must complete an apprenticeship program, have five years of experience, and pass an exam. However, the requirements to become a master plumber are more stringent than in many other states. To qualify to take the master plumber licensing exam, you must have four years of experience at the journeyman level, with three years working as a supervisor or under the supervision of a master plumber, for a total of nine years of experience that must be notarized.
While a license isn’t required to work as a plumber in Nebraska, you must register with the Nebraska Department of Labor if you’re a contractor. You’ll also want to check local licensing requirements.
Plumbers in Nevada must have a license from the Nevada Board of Plumbing Examiners. Licensing as a journeyman plumber in Nevada requires four years (or 8,000 hours) of on-the-job experience and successfully passing an exam. After one year (or 2,000 hours) working as a journeyman, you can apply to take the master plumber licensing exam.
Additionally, plumbing professionals who pull permits or own a business must have a contractor license from the Nevada State Contractors Board.
All plumbers must be licensed in New Hampshire by the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification. The different levels of licensing are:
- Apprentice: Must be 16 years or older and registered in an approved apprentice program.
- Journeyman: You must be at least 18 years old, complete a four-year plumbing apprenticeship, and pass an exam. You can also demonstrate proof of plumbing licensure from another state.
- Master plumber: Must be 18 years or older, hold a journeyman plumber’s license for a minimum of six months, and pass the examination.
Only master plumbers must be licensed in New Jersey, which is handled by the Department of Consumer Affairs – State Board of Examiners of Master Plumbers. The qualifications to become a licensed master plumber in New Jersey include:
- Be 21 or older
- Complete a four-year apprentice program
- One year of experience at the journeyman level
- Pass multiple exams
You can bypass some of the requirements if you have an engineering degree.
You need to be licensed before working as a plumbing professional in New Mexico. The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department issues these licenses. However, the state doesn’t offer a master plumber license. To get a plumbing license in New Mexico, you must have two years (4,000 hours) of experience and pass an exam.
New York doesn’t license plumbers at the state level. Instead, cities and counties in the state have oversight of plumbing licensing. The requirements vary a lot between municipalities, so check with local officials before starting any plumbing work.
While North Carolina doesn’t license plumbers at the journeyman or master plumber levels, to work in the plumbing industry, you must be a licensed contractor or work under someone who is a licensed contractor. This licensing process is overseen by the State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinkler Contractors. To qualify for a license, you’ll need a couple of years of experience and pass exams.
According to the North Dakota State Plumbing Board, any individual performing plumbing in the state must be licensed. North Dakota has three levels of licensing:
- Apprentice: Must be at least 18 years old and register within 30 days of starting employment.
- Journeyman: Applicants need to have four years with 7,600 hours of experience as an apprentice working under a licensed master plumber and must pass an exam.
- Master plumber: Applicants must be at least 21 years of age, have two years of experience with 3,400 hours as a licensed, and pass an exam.
Plumbers must also have a general contractor license issued by the North Dakota Secretary of State’s Office.
Ohio does not offer statewide licenses for journeymen or master plumbers. However, the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board issues licenses for plumbing contractors who perform commercial work. In addition, many localities in the state have their own requirements for plumbers.
Oklahoma requires licenses for journeyman plumbers and plumbing contractors, while apprentices must register and work under the supervision of a licensed plumber. The Oklahoma Construction Industries Board issues licenses.
Those interested in becoming a plumbing contractor in Oklahoma must meet the same requirements as a journeyman, plus one additional year of plumbing experience. To become a journeyman, applicants must be at least 18 years old, have three years of experience working with a plumbing contractor, or have a valid out-of-state plumbing license. Some of the requirements can be substituted for certain education experiences. Applicants for both journeyman and plumbing contractor licenses must pass an exam.
According to the Oregon Construction Contractors Board, state law requires anyone who works for compensation in any construction activity involving improvements to real property to be licensed. Oregon offers four types of plumbing licenses, plus a plumbing business contractor license, and several other contractor licenses that combine plumbing with other trades. Each license has specific requirements. For example, for a journeyman license, you must complete a four-year accredited apprentice program or have 576 hours in training, 3,850 hours of commercial experience, and 3,850 hours of residential experience. An exam is also required.
There is no state licensing requirement for plumbers in Pennsylvania. However, local municipalities have their own licensing and registration requirements.
Rhode Island requires licenses for individuals looking to get into the plumbing business. You’ll need to have four years of experience and 576 hours of approved education to get a journeyman license. In comparison, a master plumber license requires five years of experience, with at least one year working as a licensed journeyman. Both levels include an exam. In addition to these licenses, individuals who work on underground utility lines must have an underground utility contractor’s license. The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training’s Plumbers and Irrigators branch issues these licenses.
South Carolina does require plumbers to have a license, but the requirements are pretty lax compared to other states. You just need to have one year of work experience for a residential license or two years for a commercial one and pass an exam. The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation oversees the Contractor’s Licensing Board (which licenses commercial contractors) and the Residential Builders Commission (which licenses residential plumbers).
South Dakota requires a license for apprentices, journeymen, and plumbing contractors. The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulations, Plumbing Commission is responsible for issuing plumbing licenses in the state.
- Apprentice: Apprentice plumbers with two years (3,800 hours) of experience working under a licensed plumber may be able to work unsupervised in the third and fourth year, but only on single-family dwellings and only after passing a state-administered exam.
- Journeyman: To become a journeyman, you must have four years of experience as an apprentice plumber, with at least 1,900 hours of experience per year, and pass an exam.
- Plumbing contractor: Taking the step to become a plumbing contractor requires six years of experience, with 1,900 hours per year, and to pass an exam.
The licensing requirements for plumbers in Tennessee are a bit complicated. That’s because licenses are issued at the state and local levels. Municipalities across the state handle journeyman and master contractor local licenses. Meanwhile, the state awards a plumbing contractor license (CMC or CMC-A classification) and a Limited Licensed Plumber (LLP) certification. An LLP license is for projects valued at less than $25,000. A plumbing contractor license is for projects exceeding $25,000 and requires three years of experience.
State-level licenses in Tennessee are issued by the Department of Commerce and Insurance, Board for Licensing Contractors.
The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners takes care of licensing plumbers across the state. Texas offers several different plumbing licenses: tradesman plumber-limited, journeyman plumber, master plumber, responsible master plumber, and plumbing inspector.
In Texas, to get a journeyman plumber’s license, you must be registered as a plumbing apprentice or tradesman, have at least 8,000 hours of work experience, complete an approved training course, and pass an exam. And in order to take the exam for a master plumber license, you must have been a journeyman plumber in the state for four years or were licensed in another state.
In Utah, you must be licensed to do any plumbing work in the state. Plumbing licenses in Utah are the responsibility of the Department of Commerce, Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. The state has four different levels of licensing – journeyman, residential journeyman, master plumber, and residential master plumber – and each has specific requirements for qualification.
State-issued licenses are required in Vermont for journeymen and master plumbers. The Department of Public Safety, Division of Fire Safety is responsible for issuing plumbing licenses in Vermont. To become a journeyman, you’ll need to have a certificate of completion from the Vermont State Apprenticeship Council or 12,000 hours of training and experience. If you want to get a master plumber’s license in Vermont, you’ll need to have either a journeyman license for 12 months, relevant out-of-state licensing, or 14,000 hours of experience.
You’ll need to be licensed by the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation to work as a plumber in Virginia. Virginia plumbing licenses are available for the journeyman, master plumber, or contractor level. To qualify for the journeyman exam, you’ll need practical experience, and there are multiple options for satisfying this requirement. And to become a master plumber, you must have one year of experience as a journeyman or 10 years of experience in total.
To work in the plumbing trade in Washington, you’ll need to be certified by the State Department of Labor and Industries, Plumber Certification Program. To become a certified plumber in Washington, you must typically begin as a plumber trainee. In July 2021, Washington introduced significant changes to its plumbing laws to expand industry training opportunities, address certified plumber shortages, and increase consumer protection. These changes saw the creation of a new plumber contracting license. Be sure to carefully review the details of the state’s new licensing requirements if you want to join the plumbing workforce in Washington.
If you want to work as a plumber in Washington, D.C., you’ll need to acquire the necessary experience and pass the state licensing exams set by the Board of Industrial Trades. For those who want to be a journeyman plumber, you’ll need at least 8,000 hours as an apprentice over four years and education. Once you’ve worked as a journeyman for four years, you can apply to take the master plumber exam.
While plumbers in West Virginia must be licensed, the requirements are pretty straightforward. Journeyman plumbers must have 8,000 hours of experience, and master plumbers need 12,000 hours. Both levels include an exam. The West Virginia Division of Labor issues licenses.
Wisconsin requires that all plumbers have a license, which the state refers to as credentials. These credentials are issued by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. To begin a plumbing career in Wisconsin, you must complete an approved apprentice program, and from there, you can apply to become a journeyman plumber. Once you get additional experience as a journeyman, you can apply to sit for the master plumber exam.
Wyoming does not have a state licensing requirement for plumbers. Instead, licensing standards are handled at the local level.