Becoming a Plumber in California

Plumbers do far more than unclogging toilets—a plumber is a skilled, technical tradesperson who does everything from designing and installing heating, water and gas systems to troubleshooting dangerous problems. Simply put, without plumbing our civilization couldn’t function, and plumbers are truly in-demand, essential workers throughout the world.

Requirements for Becoming a Plumber in California

Plumbers in California require an in-depth training process, beginning with an apprenticeship, progressing through to journeyman and then to master plumber. In California, this process is overseen by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). You’ll need to be at least 18 and have a high school diploma or a passing grade on the General Educational Development (GED) exam.

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Apprentices need four years of practical experience working for a licensed master plumber to qualify to become a journeyman, demonstrating this by sharing a certificate of work experience with the CSLB. You must also pass examinations in trade and in applicable law and business. Journeymen can find work with licensed professional plumbers and can independently undertake jobs for $500 or less.

Master plumbers work for four years as a journeyman and then take a written exam covering business and legal skills and a practical demonstration of skills arranged with a CSLV proctor. A master plumber must be professionally insured for $10,000 and have $2,500 in working capital.

Training Courses and Educational Programs in California

Reputable trade organizations are the best way to train. Each organization has local employers and training schools that it works with throughout the state.

The California chapter of the Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors Association offers programs where apprentices can train on private, state and federal projects. Apprentices are paid while learning on the job, and applicants must have a valid driver’s license. They also must pass an oral interview and an exam demonstrating basic reading comprehension and math skills. Alongside learning on the job, apprentices spend two weeks per year at the Sacramento-based training school.

The California Apprenticeship Coordinators Association maintains a list of training programs across the state. Apprenticeships take five years and entail 9,000 hours of paid work experience plus 1,800 hours of classroom training. Applications are taken on a rolling basis, and applicants must be 18 or over, physically fit to do the work and have a driver’s license. They must also pass an exam demonstrating basic reading and math skills.

The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry has a robust apprenticeship program, administered by local branches from Bakersfield to Ventura. After learning basic aspects of the curriculum, apprentices can specialize in areas such as pipefitting and refrigeration. Like other training programs, this one lasts for five years and is paid.

Certification and Licensing for Becoming a Plumber in California

To become a plumbing journeyman, one must apprentice for four years and have someone who’s familiar with your work affirm that you’re familiar with the trade at the journeyman level of skill. You and this person need to complete a form attesting to this skill and send it to the Contractors’ State License Board. You can then bid on projects up to $500.

To become a licensed master plumber, one must apply for a C-36 license—this requires $300, four years of journeyman experience and the passing of written exams and a proctored test of your skills. You can then bid on all levels of plumbing jobs. Licenses must be renewed every two years.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of plumbing jobs in the US is predicted to grow 14 percent by 2028, much faster than average job growth.

The median hourly wage is about $27 per hour, with a highly paid plumber receiving $55 per hour. Annual median salary is about $57,000 per year.

Working as a Plumber in California

Whether you’re interested in working for a large contractor or being self-employed, plumbing is always in demand. Because of the rigorous process of becoming a licensed plumber, the employment pool is limited, and reliable and qualified applicants will find it fairly easy to get work.

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