Becoming a Plumber in Illinois

If you’ve owned a home or business, chances are you’ve relied on the services of a plumber. The same holds true for anyone who has ever constructed a new building. Without help from a trained plumber, you can’t really rely on the quality of a sewer, water or gas installation. You also can’t rely on the quality of any repair work done on these vital systems.

Interested in becoming a plumbing professional? There are plenty of reasons to pursue this career in Illinois. Since plumbers’ services are always in demand, you can usually look forward to ample opportunities for work and career advancement. In addition, the typical plumber earns an income large enough to meet the many needs of everyday life. For details on how to get started in the plumbing field, just keep reading this informative guide.

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Licensing Requirements for Illinois Plumbers

In Illinois, plumber licensing is handled by the state’s Department of Public Health, or IDPH. The IDPH maintains four separate licensing categories:

  • Apprentice Plumber
  • Plumbing Contractor
  • Irrigation Contractor
  • Retired Plumber

Apprentices are newcomers to the plumbing field. To work as an apprentice, you must be 16 or older. In addition, to get your license you must do one of two things:

  • Show proof that you’re working for a plumber already licensed by the state
  • Demonstrate that you’re enrolled in an apprentice program that meets state requirements

Once you receive your apprentice license, you have six years to take a contractor’s exam.

In Illinois, plumbing contractors are plumbers who take on customers directly. To get a contractor’s license, you must have a plumbing work history of four years or longer. You must also pass the state’s contractor exam. In addition, Illinois requires all contractors to carry several forms of insurance.

Irrigation contractors are responsible for installing various kinds of outdoor sprinkler systems. Many states do not include these contractors in the plumber category. However, Illinois does. To legally work as an irrigation contractor, you must register with the IDPH each year. You must also register your employees.

In Illinois, a retired plumber is a plumber who intends to quit working in the profession in the near future. Retired plumbers can carry out most of the functions of a plumbing contractor. However, they can’t work with apprentices or conduct plumbing inspections.

Plumber Training in Illinois

If you have a sponsoring employer in Illinois, you don’t need to join an apprenticeship program. However, many people do choose to enroll in such a program. If this option is for you, your list of potential providers includes:

  • The Building and Fire Code Academy – Elgin-based BFCA provides a well-rounded education for anyone starting out in the plumbing field. Classes cover a variety of topics including plumbing practice and theory. It will take you 15 weeks to complete this program.
  • Plumber and Tech Engineers Local 130 – Chicago-based Local 130 offers a comprehensive, five-year plumbing apprenticeship program. For three of those years, you’ll split your time between classroom instruction and firsthand work experience. In the last two years, you’ll devote more of your day to working on plumbing jobs.
  • Illinois Plumbing Consultants – Based in Rockford and McHenry, IPC also offers an apprenticeship program split between classroom work and practical job experience. In addition, the organization offers a license preparation program.

Income Prospects for Illinois Plumbers

The average annual salary for an Illinois plumber is $59,000. Ten percent of plumbers working in the state make $44,000 or less. Top-earning plumbers make $75,000 or more. Cities with the highest pay for plumbers include Arlington Heights, Northbrook and Lombard.

The Future for Plumbing Employment

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks the U.S. plumber market along with the markets for steamfitters and pipefitters. In 2018, there were 500,300 Americans working in these three areas. By 2028, the BLS projects there will be 568,500 jobs for plumbers, steamfitters and pipefitters. This robust 14 percent increase probably means good things for plumbers working in Illinois.

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