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.
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.
Plumbing Apprenticeship Opportunities in Illinois
Plumbers are some of the most essential workers we have, designing, installing and maintaining the systems that safely bring us reliable, clean water and carry away our wastewater. The state of Illinois closely regulates the profession, requiring plumbers to carry a license. Licensed plumbers need to pass a tough exam and need to have successfully completed an approved training course. They also need to demonstrate four years of work as a plumbing apprentice.
An apprenticeship is an excellent opportunity to learn on the job while earning a decent wage. You’ll be assisting and supporting experienced plumbers with their work, and they will support you as you take on more and more challenging tasks within the environment. You’ll also gain a good understanding of the various types of job sites and clients within the industry, and will forge professional connections that can benefit you throughout your plumbing career.
In Illinois, plumbing apprentices must also register with the state. They must be at least 16 years old and be sponsored by a licensed plumber. Registration costs $100. Apprenticeship programs can be very competitive, and are offered by individual private plumbers as well as by plumbing unions. As an example, the Joint Apprenticeship Committee of the United Association of Plumbers Local 130—a Chicago plumbers union—takes on apprentices every year. For a private apprenticeship, job websites like Monster or Indeed are good places to search. Contractors that employ a number of plumbers often offer apprenticeships. The Illinois chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors organizes this throughout the state.
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.